With Earth Day a couple of weeks away, thinking green seems to be on everyone's mind. Sure, powering down for an hour is great, but what about the rest of the year? Fortunately, we found a few easy ways to protect the environment without breaking the bank. Your wallet and the trees will thank you!
1. Pack a lunch with reusable containers.
2. Vinegar and baking soda have endless possibilities. One use: non-toxic homemade cleaning products to clean the kids' toys.
3. Let the sunshine in. During the day, use natural sunlight to light your home. At night, be sure to turn off the lights in any unoccupied rooms.
4. Tote a travel mug to your favourite java spot for your daily caffeine fix. Not only will you save the paper cup and plastic lid, but most coffee shops will also offer a discount to those who bring their own cups.
5. Switch to online billing where possible. If you have to print, try to use recycled/refilled printer cartridges instead of buying brand new.
6. Make small changes to your laundry routine. Try washing items in cold water and adding tennis balls to your dryer to speed up the cycle. Or you can use a clothesline in warmer weather.
7. The five-minute shower. Although it sounds impossible, it can be done! Try it on a day when legs are already shaved and hair doesn't need to be washed. Use a single tub of bathwater for the young kids. Even one day a week can make a difference.
8. Try to schedule errands together and hit stores that aren't far apart in distance. This will save you gas, time, money and your sanity.
9. Shop for your children's clothes from consignment stores or second-hand from Value Village, Goodwill, Craigslist or Freecycle. You can find great brands and good quality items that will last until your tot grows out of them.
10. Use your car less and find a different way to get to work, such as public transit, walking, cycling or carpooling. For the children, start a "walking school bus" with other kids in your area for getting to and from school.
11. Support your local farmers' market or plant your own garden. There are some easy vegetables that those with "brown" thumbs can even make come to life. And kids love gardening and eating the fruits (or vegetables) of their labour.
12. Use paper and tissue products that are 100 per cent recycled. Save the rolls for a family art project like fabulous shakers, musical instruments or even little caterpillars.
13. Farming livestock takes a lot of energy and is a cause of greenhouse gases. Cut back on the meat in your diet by eating vegetarian for a day or two each week. Meatless Mondays is a great way to start the week. Plan your menu using online resources that show you how to make menu boards and reuse recipes.
14. Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs.
15. Use a power bar to completely turn off home electronics. There are some funkier and trendier designs now available.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, April 2012.Related articles on ParentsCanada:It's not easy being a green parentTop 10 nature films