April 22nd is Earth Day. As we were poking about in the garden I thought about posting a bunch of activities for Earth Day like making stuff out of other stuff or coloring pictures of earth and discussing pollution but then I asked myself what would that accomplish. I mean we would be creating yet another craft out of materials that will not last and I will eventually will end up having to secretly throw out because the copious amounts of glue/glitter/whatever junk we put together is not recyclable and I am not spending my limited free time pulling out all of the recyclable pieces from the project. Coloring pages are great but there are so many other ways to educate kids about reducing waste, recycling and “saving the planet” than printing out a new sheet of (bleached) white paper with a few lines that my kid may or may not actually color all the way and will eventually will end up in the recycling bin. It seems like that would defeat the purpose. Isn’t Earth Day all about finding ways to make the earth a better place and to reduce our waste?
Then I thought well maybe I can somehow reuse some materials that most people would not have thought of in a new way like instead of going and buying grass seed to make grass for my kids to cut I could just pull some of the many, many, many (did I say many?) freeloading grass seedlings out of my garden beds and kill two birds with one stone. But why on earth would I bring a bucket of grass (which I am HIGHLY allergic to BTW) into my house so that my three year old can cut it once and get bored. Guess what? She could easily do this activity outside with our actual grass. She just needs to take her scissors out there, cut away and there will be no mess to clean up, my edges will be trimmed and we will all benefit from being outdoors for a bit.
So I really thought about it and guess what? Our family celebrates Earth Day every day in many little ways that add up to big changes over a lifetime and that has more impact overall than gluing leaves/twigs/flowers on a piece of paper or any other crafty type activity once a year that will eventually end up in the trash. Yes, planting trees, picking up garbage, volunteering for restoration projects on Earth Day are excellent ways to bring awareness to how we can contribute but to truly have an impact we need to incorporate Earth Day type principles into everyday life. We are by no means the spitting image of a family that does everything they can to reduce, reuse and recycle but we do what we can. My kids love to play with found materials such as rocks and old garden containers outside but they also love to play with their toys so after writing this post I am going to think up some more ways we can change our ways for the better.
Here are 5 ways our family reduces waste:
- We take advantage of our local Buy Nothing group for as many items as possible. I was really nervous about this at first but we have gotten some really great items out of it like most of my son’s 2t clothes for next fall and a large chunk of my daughter’s summer clothes for this year. I also absolutely love that what I give to people they actually need and I am not contributing to the inequality that Goodwill practices with it’s pay scale for disabled workers. Other groups to try are Freecycle or local mom’s groups. I found some on Facebook in my area by searching for my city.
- When our Buy Nothing group doesn’t have what I need for the kids I turn to my local thrift shops (Not Goodwill! truly local, one owner shops) or attend one of the periodic used kids consignment sales. Some of the ones in our area are Jack and Jill, Just Between Friends and Moms of Multiples. If you google “Jack and Jill sale” of “Moms of Multiples sale” and your city it will pop up with ones in your area. If you are going to the sales you need to go early, leave the kids at home and be prepared for crowds. People get a little crazy sometimes but I have found some great bargains and some of the items have ended up being our favorite clothes.
- The number one best way to reduce waste is to simply buy less stuff. We really ask ourselves “Do we need this item or can something else work instead” and then we sit on the decision for a while. Sometimes we wait a few days, sometimes a few weeks and other times we are still waiting a few years later. Many times you can find something in your house that will make do. This spring I needed extra containers to plant my seeds but instead of going out and buying flimsy seed trays that would only last a season or two I rummaged in the garage and found two plastic tubs I have told myself I needed to throw out a million times because they are ancient and were taking up space but guess what? They work perfectly for my seed starts and I will be using them for many more years to come.
- Buy quality items that will last. Quality does not always mean expensive either. We bought our dishes from IKEA and they were something like $10 on clearance for a set of six but they were a good solid weight ceramic in a basic color we could live with for many years. We bought two sets about 6 or 7 years ago and they are still going strong. Don’t give in to the temptation of buying a new set of dishes in every few years because you want a new color! My mother-in-law just replaced the basic white dishes she bought when my husband was little. I am pretty amazed at her ability to resist temptation!
- Avoid buying processed food at all cost and reduce your food waste as much as possible. We used to be much better about not buying processed food but then we had our third child and suddenly everything was thrown out of balance. I am trying to get back into the swing of things and cook 90% of our own food. It has been hard though because the baby will only eat fruit from a pouch and cooking with him around is nearly impossible, let alone canning stuff on the stove with a one year old walking around. I have been making my own pear sauce though and freezing it in reusable food pouches which has greatly reduced our waste. Another way to reduce your food waste is to buy your ingredients in bulk and use them in several different recipes throughout the week. This will save you money up front and exercise your creative muscle when it comes to leftovers. This week we bought Brussels sprouts from Costco and we ate on three different days, shaved Brussels sprouts salad (princess salad), roasted sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts, and more princess salad. The one 4 pound bag of Brussels sprouts lasted for 3 dinners and a few lunches and cost only about $5.00 so not only did we save money, we ate healthier and there was very little waste.
My goal this year is to continue to find ways to reduce waste. We were doing tulip art today and I was thinking of what I was going to write and I realized that yes, we were reusing items but I probably could do better and buy those multi purpose trays instead of using up extra paper plates from parties. I will have to be more conscious of how we are using items in our home.
Those are some ways we make Earth Day every day in our home by reducing our waste. What are some ways you make Earth Day every day in your house?