If you’ve attended Earth Day celebrations at your local school you’ll know that “being green” is a big part of your child’s vocabulary. Most children know more than adults about how to live on earth with a smaller “carbon footprint.” Do you know how big your family’s carbon footprint is? It can be challenging to live with a constant eye to the environment. Your kids may be able to point you to reasonable family goals. Why not engage your family in a Let’s Go Green conversation?

What Does it Mean to “Go Green”?

The basic concepts of a green lifestyle include using fewer of the earth’s resources and causing less “mess.” Simply put, it’s taking good care of our earth. That means we make daily choices about what to purchase, what to eat, how to travel, how to stay warm, how to clean and how to dispose of waste. Related issues in the green conversation are ones such as buying locally grown organic products, making some of your own products and growing some of your own food. Living a simpler life means buying less, owning less, traveling less (in fueled vehicles), riding a bike rather than driving a car, and hundreds of other small choices that make a huge difference when practiced by many.

We Can Do Better

You’re probably already doing many things right. You avoid excess packaging when you buy groceries and you’re buying more fresh and bulk items. You recycle and minimize water usage. You may even bike to work or grow a garden for your veggie needs. But there are always more good choices to make. As you talk about your family’s green quotient, go through this list to get your “green score.” 

Do You:

  • Recycle as many plastics, cans, bottles and paper items as you can?
  • Purchase fewer items in plastic or glass containers. Choose to carry reusable shopping bags, buy fewer processed and heavily packaged products?
  • Use less electricity by turning off lights, unplugging appliances, and using energy-efficient light bulbs? 
  • Avoid wasting water? Wash your clothes in cold water? Turn the water off while brushing your teeth?
  • Inform yourself about toxins, poisons and pollutants found all around us in man-made items and avoid them?
  • Use Biodegradable products?
  • Focus on reusables. Use a stainless steel water bottle, clean with rags rather than paper towels? 
  • Reduce paper waste? Use both sides before recycling?
  • Carpool, walk, use mass transit, ride your bike rather than driving?
  • How did you do? What goals can you set as a family to improve your carbon footprint?

A Simpler Lifestyle? Why?

Part of living in harmony with the environment is seeking a simpler lifestyle. Look around your home, garage and attic and ask why you own a particular item. Is it valuable? Useful? Does it have sentimental value? Most of us own a very large pile of stuff and we’d be happy to part with quite a lot of it. If you’ve traveled to less-developed countries you’re aware that most of the world doesn’t amass quantities of non-essentials as we do in the West. There’s a price to pay for owning too much—our stress levels are part of that price. Can we return to a simpler lifestyle based on friendships and family rather than one based on bigger homes and more possessions?

There are trends among green-minded families to intentionally live a simpler lifestyle. These families swap items such as clothing, books and toys. They take part in planting their family plot in neighborhood gardens. They buy food locally and teach the entire family to reduce, reuse and recycle. Maybe this green movement isn’t such a new idea. Maybe it’s just a return to basic values and lifestyles familiar to our parents and grandparents when life was simpler. What do you think? Are you and your family ready to take the challenge and “go green?”

Jan Pierce, M.Ed., is a retired teacher and freelance writer. She lives in the lush Pacific Northwest where farm-fresh food is readily available and where garden plots are the rule rather than the exception.

Going Green for Kids

The Internet is full of fun interactive websites on the subject of going green. Kids can learn more about any aspect of being green with a few clicks of the mouse and have a ton of fun at the same time. Check out the following:

Recycle City: Visit Dumptown. Here your kids will become the city manager and learn how to clean up the city by reducing waste and using less energy. www.epa.gov/recyclecity

Energy Kids: What is energy? Your kids will find out here and learn a lot more about energy saving practices. Find Energy Kids at www.eia.gov/kids

Water Sense Kids: Learn the whys and hows of saving water in this interactive game. www.epa.gov/watersense/kids

You may also like:

University of Florida IFAS Extension
Kim Weeks, Media Specialist, Old Kings Elementary FCSD
Linda Cuthbert, Volusia County School Board Chair
Barbara C. Holley
Jeanne Coates