Raising a Green Family

As parents we’re torn.  We want the best future for our kids but in the midst of our jam-packed lives we have little extra time for change.  We know our wasteful ways of living is degrading our quality of life but as busy parents it can be hard to know where to start.

Making change requires time and effort, something in short supply when you’re just worried about getting dinner on the table before bedtime.  Quite frankly, I rely on some not-so-environmentally friendly shortcuts.  I sometimes pop a frozen lasagna in the oven, even though I’m left with a depressing amount of plastic and paper waste.  I drive to get the mail even though it’s far better for me, and for the air quality, to walk.  In fact I sometimes feel like I live in my carbon spewing vehicle.

The good news is change doesn’t have to take a lot of time.  Starting small is often the best way to go says Heather McKibbon of Halifax’s Ecology Action Centre.

“A lot of the changes we encourage are simple,” says McKibbon.  “Commit to what you are capable of committing to.”

Halifaxmother of three Théa Matheson says packaging has a big impact on her buying choices.

“I love cherry tomatoes but, if I flip over the package and I see I can’t recycle the container, that week I won’t buy them.”

Matheson also looks closely at where the food is coming from and chooses to buy local or at least North American produce over things from South America.  That’s something that can make a big difference in the long run says McKibbon.

“There’s so much to take into account with food miles and how far your food has traveled.”

McKibbon says people are often scared off from making environmentally friendly choices because of a misconception that it’s more expensive.  She says that doesn’t have to be true.  Choosing local and seasonal fruits and vegetables is often easier on your budget.  That’s true with recycling too.

“There’s so much that we can share with each other,” says Pat Millar, aDartmouthmother of three.

She shares clothing and toys, not only among her own kids, but among friends.  They pass along boots and jackets and other expensive items that still have lots of wear.  Second hand clothing stores like Frenchy’s and kids consignment stores are also great reasonably priced ways to keep your kids in fashion.

Millar also tries to keep the use of her vehicle to a minimum.  She walks or bikes where ever she can and says car pooling is a great way to cut emissions and to get a break once in a while.

“As parents we’ll all get together and my car can hold five teenagers…  that saves five different parents all getting in their cars and driving.”

For Millar it’s also about the global choices.

“One of the things that I think is environmentally responsible is buying an older house instead of pushing further out into suburbia,” she says.

“Sometimes when my kids want plastic toys or they want ready made food that comes in more packaging than what I would like, it helps to remind myself of one decision that I’m quite proud of, that we reduced out footprint by taking someone’s house and living close to things.”

Whether it’s changing your light bulbs for more energy efficient ones or giving up your second car, doing your part for the environment is about making smart choices for your kids.

“I feel a large responsibility because we have chosen to bring three children into the world,” says Matheson, “that how we live has to be as simply as possible to minimize our footprint on the planet.”

The Ecology Action Centre says people need to learn to make sustainable choices.

“I think It’s really about people realizing they’re raising the next generation so what kind of environment is going to be left for their children and what kind of lifestyle is going to be left for their kids.”

No matter what you decide, Millar says what’s important to take that first step and make the choice to live consciously.

“I guess for me, I feel like I can’t do everything that I would like to do, so I try to do a few things that are more manageable.”  Her advice is to just “try things and may be that will encourage you.”


Going Green:  Small Changes that Make a Big Difference

Use cloth napkins: it’s not much extra laundry and it could be a fun craft project for your kids to make their own napkins rings or use fabric crayons to decorate their own napkins.

Line Dry:  This saves energy and goes easy on your budget by sparing the use of you energy sucking dryer.

Use Phosphate Free laundry detergent:  it’s gentler on your kids’ sensitive skin and won’t pollute the waterways.

Avoid plastic toys:  admittedly this is not an easy one but plastic sits in landfills for years before degrading.  Wooden toy, books and cotton and wool stuffed animals and dolls make great gifts.

Walk or ride:  Try going vehicle free for a day or even a week. Take your kids to school on their bikes or walk to the park.

Use cloth bags:  Take your own bags to the grocery store, they hold a lot more and you’ll cut down on the endless supply of plastics bags that always seem to be around.

Replace Your Light Bulbs:  Change to Compact Florescent light bulbs, it saves waste and money