A mother’s job is to protect right? To protect our kids, give them the best chances at a future, and make sure they are happy and healthy. Well, not to be a Debbie Downer, but with the way the environment is looking these days, we are failing. If our kids don’t have clean air, water or soil how well are we really protecting them? How are we ensuring their future? Don’t worry it’s not all bad news, moms literally can save the world, here’s how…
- Recycle. Duh, like I needed to tell you this. But how many times do you see someone throw a plastic water bottle in the trash? How many times do we, as busy moms, toss paper and plastic into the trash because it’s just one more thing to hold and too much effort to look for a recycling bin? It breaks my heart, but I’m guilty of this too. Not anymore, from now on I commit to holding onto one more thing so I can take it home and drop it in the recycling. This means one less piece of trash in a landfill, and one less piece of plastic in our oceans.
- Pre-cycling. Oh, I hope I just expanded your vocabulary (but if not hooray you already know what this is!). Pre-cycling is choosing to not buy something because of it’s waste. Lots of companies are being smarter and more aware of their packaging, and sadly, some aren’t. You can save yourself a recycling step if you don’t buy that thing with the extra plastic wrap. Or better yet, ask yourself where will this “thing” go when I’m done with it or when my kids are done with it. If the answer is into the trash, simply move along, because you don’t need it. Toys I can’t recycle rarely end up at my house, and clothes we don’t need and extras just don’t make it into my cart (which p.s. helps with my budget too).
- Buy Used. Lots of wonderful places sell gently used clothing, adorable clothes kids grew out of way too quickly. I personally love hissyfits but you can find clothes on poshmark, Poor Little Rich Girl and judge me if you want, but Goodwill! I love browsing used clothes searching for a secret treasure, and my kids love that they can pick out five tees instead of one. When we’re done with our clothes, we pass them down to younger kids in our family, resell back to hissyfits or donate to kids in need. If clothes aren’t quite good enough to share, I cut them up into rags and use them around the house.
- Paperless Kitchen. I’m about to dig a little deeper into the environment game… we don’t own paper towels. It’s been about six years and we’re still going strong (we have toilet paper, but you can always evaluate your needs there too!). We use rags for cleaning and reusable napkins for small spills. Those cut up shirts are great for when the dog pukes in the house, or if the kids have an accident; they’ve been well used so throwing them away doesn’t feel as destructive.
- Say goodbye to plastic utensils and paper plates! This one is still challenging to me, but say no to plastic cutlery. When I get food to go, I always hand them back the plastic ware, not only is plastic carcinogenic when hot, (think cancer), but it’s also super lazy. How difficult is it really? R E A L L Y to wash a fork? Is it harder than drilling for oil and making petroleum and making plastic? Because that’s what’s happening when you use plastic utensils. Keep a stash of silverware in your car for when you are on the go! I also have a stash of cheaper silverware from yard sales and goodwill for parties. One load of my dishwasher vs. drilling for oil, and contributing to the landfill. Please do this! Your guests will appreciate it and they will be inspired to use real forks. I forget people still use paper plates at parties because I’ve convinced all my family and friends to just reuse ceramic plates. Parties, events, and weddings produce buckets and buckets of trash, and when it’s plastic plates it’s even worse; it can take up to 500 years for the plastic to break down. How is that ensuring our children’s futures? They’re going to have to clean up our mess. We don’t like cleaning up their messes. How do you think they’re going to feel when they see how we’ve left the earth for them and their children?
- Start a Garden! Phoenix is hot and summer isn’t a great time to have a garden here, but right now is actually a great time to start indoor seeds. Herb gardens in pots can be brought inside for cooler temps; just make sure to place in a well-lit window. You might not have space for a whole garden, or even want to grow your own food. That’s okay. Baby steps. I promise if you start with a small kitchen window herb garden your food will taste better and you’ll feel better! Plants heal you guys! I always suggest starting slow so you don’t get overwhelmed. Honestly, most plants do well here in the spring and fall, and with enough water, everything grows. I’ve found lettuce and greens do well in my yard. I’ve grown carrots, tomatoes, and squash. It might seem to be counter productive to use water in the desert, but I promise it’s better for us to avoid shipping food filled with water from another place, and then storing that food at the grocery store until someone buys it. You don’t need to grow everything but a few home grown food sources are beneficial for not only the earth but also your budget. We just dump out the 500 cups my kids leave out around the house into our plants inside (so we’re actually upcycling water too!). My daughter was so excited to bring me our first ripe tomato this year. I promise this is a fun way to get kids involved in their healthy food choices too. You can even let them pick the plants you want to start growing!
- Plastic Straws are the Enemy. So I know this seems like I’m just bashing everything at this point, but can we all just stop with the straws? I love metal ones and even have a few reusable plastic straws at home for the kiddos but please, when you order your iced coffee and tea, just skip the straw. Your cup is probably recyclable and I’m sure you recycle that, but the straw? Not so much. They don’t have numbers stamped on them and often can’t be recycled. So they end up in the ocean. I know we don’t have one here in Phoenix, but think about our lakes, rivers, and streams; think about the fish the coral and the dolphins. They need clean water, and we need vacations. So, let’s not ruin our planet’s water with plastic!
- Reusable Lunch Bags and Boxes. I love packing my kids’ lunches because I know exactly what they eat (and what they don’t) but if you’re still using plastic baggies, you’re once again contributing to the landfills of our dessert and our oceans. Just pick up some adorable reusable baggies, or a lunchbox; this totally gets your kids into the routine of being responsible for their lunch boxes! Yes, it’s a pain some nights to wash out the lunch boxes, but it saves money since I’m not buying disposable baggies and I’m setting a good example for my kids. I could be lazy and not wash out their lunches, or they can learn to be responsible for their lunch boxes and clean them out with my help. This also helps me show them that we take care of what we value.
- Reusable Water Bottles. These are a neccesity in the dessert. You need them! Our favorite is the Hydro Flask because they keep things cold even in my million degree car. I know sometimes water bottles sound expensive, $30 for a water bottle is a lot, but if you’re buying plastic water bottles from the grocery store, how much are you spending monthly on water? I love this pack from Oxo for cleaning my water bottles and straws.
- Cloth Diapers. I saved this one for the end because, if you made it through my list, I know you care. This one was a bit challenging in theory but actually not difficult once we got used to it. We washed them with the kid’s laundry and they never stained anything. I know some parents are grossed out by that but as moms I feel like this is low on the gross list. Most of us have actually been pooped on so washing dirty diapers isn’t gross, it’s just cleaning something that we’re already doing. My advice for parents overwhelmed with cloth diapering is just maybe buy one or two and use them during nap time or whenever is convenient at home and just try it, because it is going to save you money. It pays for itself. You don’t need a huge stash to start. You can rotate between conventional or cloth. Just reducing your waste a bit is a huge step in the right direction.
I hope this list is inspiring and not judgmental. I know my opinions can come off harsh, but it’s because I’m so passionate about conscious consumerism and environmental parenting. We’re all in this together. Let’s work towards a common goal: a happy healthy environment, so our kids have less pollution and a better chance at a cleaning up our messes.