April 21, 2013

This Mama’s Earth Day Resolutions

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There's a feeling of continuity, when you have kids, that wasn't there before.  Once I looked into Raines' face for the first time, everything changed.  I realized that I would never be able to look at anyone again without – at some level – acknowledging that they too came from someone.  They have a mother, and a father and a grandmother and a great-grandfather and we are, ultimately, connected to all of our ancestors and to each other. Once upon a time, we all opened our eyes and stared at the world with wonder

So it's hard, I think, not to care about the environment once you have children.  Once your kids have spent their tummy time staring intently at a blade of grass, or cooing happily at the wind blowing through the trees, or eating their fair share of sand, mud and – ugh – lake water….these things suddenly become so much more precious than they ever were before.  

The whole concept of "saving" the environment is a tough one.  Each time I take one of those quizzes to calculate my environmental footprint, I'm often discouraged by the fact that the low-ish use of my car is offset by all of the flying we do.  Or my recycling isn't enough once you consider the length of my showers.  And I'd love to compost, but I can't seem to figure it out.  (Although, my mother-in-law just throws all food scraps outside of her door.  No fancy equipment, no turning things over, no reading endless blogs about it, just BAM.  Out the door, in a pile.)

But I do believe in doing something.  Something beats nothing every time.  And a big part of my something is simply making sure that my kids grow up loving the outdoors.  Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, talks about how the most passionate environmentalists are simply the ones who've spent lots of happy time outdoors.  (Hunters are high on this list, by the way.)  

So in honor of Earth Day, I've come up with a few resolutions for the year that will help me to celebrate, honor, and hopefully preserve this amazing world we live in.

1.  Let Them Be Bored….Outside

Once of the best tips I read about getting kids to really connect with nature had to do with boredom.  They* recommended that you start with a small hike.  But rather than being goal oriented (get to the top, get back down)…at some point along the trail you take a break.  And just sit.  The kids may whine, they may want to go back or keep going, but no: the goal is to just hang out.  Let them be bored.  Tell your kids, "We're just going to hang here for a while".  And then do it.  Eventually, they'll start amusing themselves.  They'll look under rocks, go try and find a frog, or just lay back and listen to the wind in the trees.  It's all good stuff.  (And here are more great ideas.)

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*I cannot remember where I read this amazing tip.  If you know, please tell me.  I'd love to give credit AND read more tips from them.

 

2.  Grow Some Bugs

The Easter Bunny brought Raines and Pax a Live Butterfly Garden
and a Ladybug habitat, along with a few books on each species.  As soon as it gets a little warmer, we'll send for the larvae, and watch them grow.  That Easter Bunny.  So smart.

 

3. Grow Some Food

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I finally got over my fear of gardening (so many books!  so many tips!!) last summer by just doing it.  Bought some pots, got some dirt, threw in some seeds, read nothing about it.  And YES:  my cucumbers were mushy, only one tiiiny carrot made it, and the pumpkins took over my backyard like some kind of mosquito-breeding monster….but the lettuce?  The lettuce rocked.  So this year?  PLANT MORE LETTUCE.  

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But best of all?  The boys dug and dug and dug and dug and dug and planted and re-planted and ate what they grew and talked about roots and thick stems and prickers and took both watering and harvesting very seriously.  

ps.  See the wilderness above?  That was the grass in my backyard.  Pumpkins = never again

 

4.  Picnic in a Natural Play House

Treehouse

While I love the Pinterest-style inspiration above, what I'm actually going to do is let the kids figure this one out on their own.  We'll all go hiking…and I'll let them forage for large branches and sticks, and see what they can come up with.  Heck, even finding a big 'ol evergreen with low-hanging branches would work.  I'll bring food.  (If all else fails, I'm going to drape sheets in the trees, like this.)

 

5. Use Amazon Subscribe and Save To Afford Earth-Friendlier Products

As a member of Amazon Prime and Amazon Mom, I save 20% on household products (including diapers and wipes) if I sign up to have them regularly delivered to the house.  Now, it's a bit complicated  - the 20% only applies if I can get five different products on the same schedule….but the low cost allows me to afford the pricier, earth-friendly products.  

Amazon

Amazon allows you to easily change delivery schedules, and sends email reminders before they ship anything out.   I can't say enough about this service – it has saved us money, time and gas, not to mention the environmental impact by switching to earth-friendly products.

 

6. Go Vegan a Few Times Per Week (And Only Eat 'Happy' Meat)

I'm a pretty staunch carnivore – not only do I feel better when eating meat, but I fundamentally don't have a problem with killing animals for food.  I abhore, however, the inhumane treatment of animals happening in factories these days.  So this carnivore is fighting back by eating less meat and dairy, and choosing only locally-sourced or 'happy' meat from farms with high ethical standards for both raising and killing the animals.  Over the last year or so I've found some ah-mazing vegan recipes and products, and have come up with a few tips/tricks for reducing meat and dairy (without anyone missing it).  For example, this tub of "butter" tastes so much better than butter – we spread it on toast, melt it down for popcorn, and cook with it.  I also have a recipe for vegan chocolate cake that – try as I might – I can't find a better one (including recipes with dairy) anywhere.  Anyone else interested in this topic?  I'm happy to share my best vegan/vegetarian finds…

 

7.  Embrace Used Clothing With ThredUp

If we really want to conserve our Earth's resources, we need to take a harder look at our consumption.  (And by "we" I mean "me".)  I'm hardly the world's best thrifter, but I can do my part by choosing carefully what I do buy, and by taking the time to mend and reuse, rather than just throw away.  

Also?  ThredUp.  The best (best BEST) way for someone like me to thrift children's clothes.  It's all online, and you can narrow down items by category, size, and brand.  Genius!

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You can also order (free!) a huge, pre-paid bag that they'll send to your house.  Stuff it with clothes, and send it back in.  But be warned:  Their online selection is so good because they are really, really picky.  Meaning:  they won't take most of your stuff.  There's no doubt that you'll make more money if you diligently sell each item on your own, then pack it and ship it off to each….yeah.  Not gonna happen.  So in summary:  ThredUP is easy. (And they donate all of the clothes they don't choose.)

Also?  They'll have women's clothing soon.

 

8.  Norwex

Heard of Norwex?  They make microfiber cloths (and other cleaning supplies).  Norwex cloths do a serious job cleaning…with only water.  Talk about reducing chemicals in the home!  I was able to get (most) of the black crayon out of a cream-colored rug with Norwex + water, and Norwex clothes saved my hardwood floors, Mike's favorite pan (and therefore my marriage) when my last Pinterest project went wrong.

The only downside is that the Norwex company is one of those "Host a Party!" home-based buying companies.  Happily, you can find a consultant online, and just buy directly from them without a party.  

 

Mamas, how do you reduce your environmental impact, or get your kids to appreciate the planet?  I'm always looking for more inspiration, so I'd love to hear your thoughts….

Happy Earth Day!!!

xo,

S

 

 

 

By April 21, 2013 21 No tags Permalink
21 Comments
  • Mom
    April 21, 2013

    The top photo of Bapa and Pax is amazing. I can’t wait to show that one to your dad; he will love it! xxoo

  • Jen
    April 22, 2013

    Love this!!! Thank you!

  • Carrie
    April 22, 2013

    I definitely want the vegan chocolate cake recipe!

  • SS
    April 22, 2013

    Vegan/veggie food = yes please!

  • Sarah
    April 22, 2013

    Great suggestions, Shana! As for composting, attack it like you did gardening. I read a bunch, got overwhelmed, and then my husband and I just figured it out as we went along.

  • anon
    April 22, 2013

    thred up is only for kids their website says and with a womens section coming soon. How about clothes made out of organic cotton and hemp. Drying clothes outside instead of in the dryer. not using a dishwasher. these are all ways to save too

  • Shannon
    April 22, 2013

    I recently stumbled upon Twice, which works exactly like you describe ThredUp but just for women’s clothes. They’re also very picky and have a great selection. Might be worth checking out! (liketwice.com).

  • Shelle
    April 22, 2013

    Re: norwex … ecloth does the same thing, but you can buy from them directly. I don’t know how it cleans with just water, but the dirt goes away, so I can’t argue.
    http://www.ecloth.com/

  • Beth
    April 22, 2013

    Would LOVE the vegan cake recipe! We eat mostly vegan out of necessity due to food allergies. It can be expensive to eat that way- but we too, took a stab at gardening last summer and I have to say that it was fun- the boys loved being able to see their hard work pay off and have a connection to the food they ate. They even ate our kale chips!
    Love the ideas- thanks for highlighting! xo

  • Nell
    April 22, 2013

    Vegan cake recipe please!
    Also, do you have cleaning products suggestions (ie 7th generation dishwasher tabs) I’m afraid to try products without a recommendation because of the price point.
    Love love love the suggestion of going on a hike and just stopping. Just being in nature. If course MI nature happens to be my favorite :)

  • shannon
    April 22, 2013

    My husband is a farmer. Not the small, organic, hobby kind but the large farm, thousands of acres, large production kind. In our marriage I have learned since marrying him is how much he loves our land. It’s four generations of blood and tears. Its children riding in car seats sleeping on tractor floorboards, watching weather, praying, constantly learning new practices to use less fuel/fertilizer/herbicide etc… he calls it stewardship. To take good care of it while we are here and teaching our children. Love that you posted on this and I hope that I manage to attain your goal and teach these daughters to love it. I also hope that people know just how proud every farmer I’ve met is of what they do, what they produce. Our wheat/corn may not be organic, but there’s a lot of love there.

  • shannon
    April 22, 2013

    I should add that I too find composting totally freaking’ overwhelming and my husband has a degree in that stuff!

  • Jesse
    April 22, 2013

    I found the 7th gen dishwasher tabs to work well, but from an environmental standpoint, they still come in a lot more packaging than powder. I use a powdered dishwasher soap made by Biokleen. I get it at the health food store, but they sell it on Amazon, too. Works just as well as tabs, and no less convenient. :)

  • Belinda
    April 22, 2013

    Another great post….please share ANY recipes that you gave a thumbs up to! I LOVE trying new recipes…

  • Janice
    April 22, 2013

    Great suggestions! I’m trying to get my girls to be in nature and just find “stuff” out there. We are eating more and more vegan too, and trying to grow food…I’ll give lettuce a try! Cucumbers didn’t work for me last year either, but the basil was awesome.
    Janice
    Rise and Shine Mom

  • Abby B
    April 22, 2013

    I’m from Texas..so it’s a bit redundant to say that I do love meat (Steaks, fajitas, tex-mex? Yes please!) BUT I also try to eat in moderation and would LOVE LOVE LOVE any and all recipes you have to share! I’ve never tried “vegan” specifically but always love trying something new. Ummmm especially if it involves chocolate cake! (Does that mean I could eat more of it?? ;)

  • Allison
    April 23, 2013

    My best tip is to cloth diaper + EC. It was so much easier than you’d imagine (easy to the degree that I don’t get why EC is not mainstream??). Both cloth diapering and EC tend to lead to earlier potty training, so the reduction of waste compared to using disposables is huge.
    I’m with you on the flying issue… it’s so bad that it basically nullifies all our other choices (don’t own a car, buy secondhand where possible, etc). I think buying carbon offsets is the only way one can realistically address it.

  • Sara
    April 23, 2013

    Yes on the vegan recipes — it’s hard to go meat free with my kids.
    This alfredo sauce is my current winner — way lower in fat and calories, higher in protein, and easily made vegan if you want it to be:
    http://www.examiner.com/article/guilt-free-silken-tofu-alfredo-sauce-recipe-improved

  • Abi
    April 23, 2013

    backyard lettuce is amazing! we are big backyard gardeners. try swiss chard next year, you can plant it in the ground as landscaping cause it is beautiful…and then go hack some down to cook up amazingly mild green, yellow, purple veg for the kids. We already built a lady bug habitat and it is so beautiful…like art. But, I didn’t think to buy the bugs, I thought “if you build it, they will come”. (I also hear they like raisins, so I threw a few in.)

  • Briana
    April 23, 2013

    For gardening tips, nothing beats heading down to your local Master Gardner’s and asking them a few questions. They were so helpful to me when my flower garden didn’t do well last year, and they tend to stay away from chemicals because they know what organic ingredients provide the nutrition the soil needs.
    I also avoid chemicals on my lawn for many reasons–water table contamination, the link to cancer, not wanting to support the companies who make them, etc. I only use organic fertilizer and I don’t use per-emergent or any other form of weed killer. I will take dandelions growing in my yard over a sick kid any day.

  • Renae
    April 23, 2013

    My husband and I recently moved with our kids to Bavaria. I would never have considered myself very eco-friendly, health conscious yes but that was more for me and my family, not the earth. Now the life style here has really influenced us. We recycle and compost EVERYTHING. We walk and ride our bikes everywhere and for longer trips take the train. We are healthier and happier than we’ve ever been. I don’t think we’ll ever go back to our old ways!

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