Hot Topics     Home and Family    

Recognizing Earth Day

20 ways to help your family go green!

20 ways to help your family go green

It’s hard to escape the “green” buzz growing around us. There are more recycling containers available in public spaces. Companies claiming that their products are eco-conscious bombard us with messages. Even schools have programs that educate our kids about the importance of recycling.

But if kids go home and don’t see their parents caring about the environment, especially with Earth Day being this month (April 22), those lessons will go to waste. The messages are out there with good reason: What we can’t see can hurt us! So while parents acclimate themselves to a more eco-friendly world, how can they get their kids on board?

“The very first and most important step is finding ways to get children connected with nature,” says Judy Onufer, Education Coordinator at the Hudson Highlands Nature Museum in Cornwall. “Get them outdoors. Show them all the amazing wildlife we share the world with, from the tiniest insects to birds and mammals. They won’t want to protect something unless they care about it. Developing that connection starts with personal experience. And a day in the woods has no admission fee!”

Sometimes change can seem like an effort and, at times, even a challenge to the budget. But living a green lifestyle is more attainable than one might think and sometimes can even save you money!

“Being green does not have to mean spending a lot of green,” says Julie Noble, Environmental Educator at the Forsyth Nature Center in Kingston.

“There are many simple and inexpensive ways to make your home and lifestyle more eco-friendly.”

Even the smallest members of the family can participate in many of the suggestions in Hudson Valley Parent’s ‘Going Green’ list!

READ MORE: Teach kids to care for the Earth

20 Tips to Go Green!

1. Turn off the water when you aren’t using it. Even a younger child can turn off the tap while brushing teeth. “Water is a precious resource that we take for granted,” Onufer says. “Look for simple ways to conserve water because every drop counts. Don’t let the water run when brushing teeth, install low-flow shower heads, and fix leaking outdoor hoses.”
2. Recycle whatever you cannot re-use. “Check the bottoms of plastic bottles for the recycling triangle,” says Noble. “Most plastics can be recycled once they are cleaned of any food waste. By diverting waste from your trash, you are saving on trash removal fees and saving the landfills.” Make recycling easy. Even younger kids can help:  Have color-coded containers available in your home for glass, metals, plastics and paper.

3. Be a green shopper. Consider buying products that can be recycled or reused. Thrift stores often have items that will save you a substantial amount of money on furniture and clothing, and will give these items a new life instead of ending up in a landfill. Online local classified ad sites can be another treasure trove.

4. Use rainwater for plants.

5. Wear it well: Wash your clothes in cold water, and when the weather cooperates, dry clothes on the line, not in the dryer.

6. Return bottles and cans. It’s surprising how many people will still simply throw a soda can in the trash!

READ MORE: Make a big environmental difference with a small garden

7. Dig in the dirt. Plant a tree. Start a vegetable garden. “This teaches children where their food comes from and how we depend on the earth’s soil,” says Onufer.

8. Get a re-usable water bottle for each family member. “Bottled water is an enormous waste of resources,” says Onufer. “Tap water is as good, or better, than most bottled water.”

9. Recycle old books and magazines. Pass them around to your friends. Donate to libraries or charitable organizations, which leads to...

10. Use the library. It reduces material consumption, and saves money on reading and entertainment materials.

11. Start a compost bin. Put your kitchen scraps in here and soon enough you will have some nutritious dirt for your plants.

12. Compost kitchen waste.  Noble says, “Most of the weight in our trash is from organic materials, food waste. By setting up a backyard compost, you can divert that heavy matter from ending up in a landfill and you'll be saving money in landscaping by creating your own rich compost for gardening.”

13. Switch off lights when you leave a room and unplug what you’re not turning on. “Small efforts such as unplugging charging devices when not in use, and turning your computer and game stations off rather than letting them “sleep” can reduce your carbon footprint and energy bill,” says Onufer.

14. Use natural cleaners. Baking soda can be mixed with water and used like soft scrub – and won’t scratch. Vinegar diluted with water (a few drops of essential oils can be added to tone down the smell, which dissipates anyway) can be used as a multi-purpose cleaner all over the house. “Recipes” for home-made cleaners are an internet search away, and will save money.

READ MORE: Green cleaning solutions

15. Use glass containers instead of disposable plastic.

16. Use cloth napkins instead of paper at the dinner table. Stack them in a pretty basket, and grabbing one will become second nature.

17. Invest in energy efficient appliances. If you replace your old gas range or cooktop, replace it with a newer eco-friendly electric induction model. Bonus, the cooktop never gets hot and food never burns on it.

18. Challenge your kids to have a “no trash” lunch. “There’s no need to throw away a brown bag every day,” says Noble. “Re-using a good sturdy bag, that can be washed when soiled, saves trees and money.” For snacks, re-use those zip top bags or, better yet, use a storage container. “Pack their lunch in re-usable containers,” agrees Onufer, “drinks and snacks included. It’s good for the environment and it will save you money.”

19. Become an eco-conscious consumer. Buy in bulk to cut down on packaging waste and shopping trips. “Think ahead when going shopping,” says Noble. “Instead of buying a case of juice boxes, buy a large jug of juice and send it to school or work in a re-usable thermos. Buying in bulk is often times cheaper than the alternative!”

20. Buy locally. Support farmers’ markets and your downtown shops. “The closer to home your goods and services come from,” notes Onufer, “the less fuel that has been used to get them to you.  That means less carbon pumped into our atmosphere. And that means supporting your neighbors and community members.”

Incorporating changes one step at a time will make it easy for your family to acclimate to their new eco-conscious lifestyle. “The key to being green is to make it second nature,” says Noble. “Always think about the impact that your actions will have on the earth now and for the future. Small steps make a big difference!”

Rani Alden Long is a Cold Spring mother of one, and getting greener every day!