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.)
*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
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.
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
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 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!
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.
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!!!