When spring rolls around each year, my sense of hope is always renewed. The birds chirp, the tulips bloom, my kids run free in the sunshine, and I am slightly giddy with love for the earth that is waking from its winter slumber and whispering to me sweetly of summer. At this time of year I am literally a tree hugger – known to embrace small saplings and grand denizens of the forest.
When I saw my youngest hugging a tree too, I decided that this year my family would make Earth Day resolutions – practical things that we can do as a family to take better care of Mama Earth. If you've been thinking about getting your green on, Earth Day is the perfect time to do it! Pick something achievable, resolve to do it, and make this the year your family goes green.
Here are some accomplishable Earth Day resolutions for families:
Pick one destination to walk, bike, bus or carpool to each week. Can you bike to work on Mondays? Walk to school on Fridays? Carpool to soccer on Saturdays? You will be amazed at the benefits your family experiences by getting out of the car. Conversation flows during a walk. You feel better when you get exercise; it's a win-win-win.
Study those recycling guidelines with your kids and involve them in figuring out where things go. Kids love to be in charge, and they will memorize the guidelines faster than you can say, "Where does this go?" Have your kids help you set up a system for composting too. It can be as simple as a large yogurt tub that you keep in the freezer. (Freezing the compost means it won't get smelly if you don't take it out right away, and it also keeps those pesky fruit flies away.) For inspiration, meet 6-year-old Owen Metzger, who took his passion for recycling to a whole new level.
Love the bees. Take the time to observe pollinators with your children and learn about what they need in order to flourish. Plant flowers that attract pollinators. Switch from Round-Up and pesticide-based yard care to natural yard care. Seattle Tilth's Garden Hotline is an amazing resource for all things pertaining to an earth-friendly yard.
Increase your consumption of organic, local foods. Shop at your local farmer's market or get produce delivered from a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Play "What's that veggie?" with your children. Involve them in food preparation and menu choices.
Meatless Mondays are all the rage right now, with everyone from celebrity chefs to entire school systems participating. Meat is a very resource-intense food, so choosing other alternatives even one day a week can make a big difference. Want to eat even more earth-friendly? Learn which fish are the most sustainable and which are in danger of being overfished. Talk with your children about the marine ecosystem and how choosing sustainable seafood helps make sure there are plenty of anchovies for the penguins and salmon for the orcas.
Grow things. Don't feel like you have to become a master gardener in one season. Start with one pot if that's what seems doable to you and your family. But take the time to nurture some plant life with the help of your children. Watch a seedling push through the dirt and unfurl in the sunshine. Eat a strawberry that's warm from the sun. All you need is a pot and some dirt.
Make this the year you finally switch out your light bulbs to CFLs or LEDs. Play "hide and seek light bulbs" with the children to find them all. Use this activity to get your family thinking about other ways you could conserve energy, and give your children the job of being the "energy police." You will be amazed at how invested they become in making sure lights are off, unused appliances are unplugged, the heater is turned down at night or when you leave, and so on. If your family takes this one seriously, you will see a reduction in your electric and gas bill. Older children can also help you hang laundry to dry this summer.
Pick a way to reduce your water consumption and stick to it. Water conservation is important even here in the Northwest, especially in years with poor snowpack like this one. If you have a lawn, water smartly – in the early morning and not every day. Replace the lawn (or part of it) with drought-tolerant plants. Taker shorter showers and shallower baths. Don't let the water run in the sink, whether it's for tooth brushing, washing dishes or water play.
Hug a tree, and then get serious about reducing the amount of paper you use. Avoid printing things out, repurpose used paper as scratch paper, and use real plates and cloth napkins instead of disposables. Take forest conservation a step further by choosing paper goods made with post-consumer recycled content, which supports paper recycling by creating demand for recycled paper. Looks for tissues, toilet paper, paper plates, baby wipes, computer paper and art paper that are all made with recycled paper instead of with new trees.
Wondering if your family will be able to follow through on your good ideas? Here are some suggestions for staying focused on and connected to your resolutions.
There are lots of environmental problems, and they are big! Don't let the bigness of the problems overwhelm your family's desire to help fix the problems. Find small projects that make your kids feel successful. Lesson one is teaching your children to care. Lesson two is the multiplier effect – if we all make small changes, they add up to big changes!
Find something that your family can connect with and focus on that. Do your kids love the ocean? Forest? Mountains? Local parks? Riding bikes? Recycling? Gardening? Build on a strength or an interest that they already have. Introduce new, deeper ideas to the mix to help them understand the problems and solutions more broadly.
Get out in nature to help your children understand why it's worth protecting! Being in an environment that you love might inspire you to figure out what you want to do to help. For example, my children love the beach. We often pick up beach trash and talk about how that not only makes the beach prettier, it keep sea animals from eating the garbage. If your family loves local parks, you can help pull out invasive plants, rebuild trails, or work on other park beautification projects. Connecting your resolution to become "greener" with a place that your children love will really help drive the message home.
Choose something tangible, meaningful and accomplishable. Make sure to write down the change you want to make and post it someplace you can all see. Recognize your accomplishment when you have established a new family habit or achieved your goal.
Still not sure where to start? Here are some family-oriented activities this week in Seattle and nearby.