This planet serves as our home. The place where our kids will grow up, and then our grandkids and great-grandkids. On and on for generations. And it’s our responsibility to ensure that our planet is healthy and thriving for all those who will come after us.
It may feel like a big job or even a lost cause. But there are small things you can do as a family to help future generations enjoy all our planet offers. Here are some easy steps your family can take at home to go green and help the planet.
In the kitchen
The kitchen is a great place to start making greener choices. You can easily reduce your waste and environmental impact with greener choices for the whole family.
One of the simplest changes to make — opt-out of single-use plastic baggies and plastic wrap.
Instead, try reusable cloth or silicone baggies. One reusable baggie can replace hundreds and hundreds of plastic ones. You can use stretchy silicone bowl covers or beeswax wraps to cover dishes in the place of plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
Keep it fun for your child and invite them to pick out their favorite reusable bag designs. They’ll love eating out of their new cloth bags covered in dinosaurs or robots. Or keep it simple with wraps in their favorite colors.
Plastic container swaps
Plastic storage containers are everywhere. And even though they’re reusable, there are better choices.
Plastic containers are quick to crack or break, landing them in the trash. They can also leak microplastics into our water sources when washed in hot water.
Alternatives to plastic storage containers are glass or metal containers. Mason jars can be a pretty storage option in the fridge or pantry. And glass bowls and containers are multifunctional as they can be used to store and reheat leftovers.
Metal cups or tumblers are perfect for taking water, smoothies, or other beverages with you on the go. And there are loads of kid-friendly options, including colorful designs and practical lids to prevent spilling.
Some plastic is really difficult to avoid. Your child gets candy at school that has a plastic wrapper. The chips passed out at the soccer game come in a plastic bag. For soft plastics that can’t be recycled, ecobricking is an interesting option for giving wrappers a second life.
Ecobricking involves a medium-sized plastic bottle, a stick, and soft plastic — and it’s a great activity to do with your child! The soft plastic should be clean, dry, and cut up into small pieces. Then you’ll pack it into the bottle, using the stick to really compact it. Once the bottle is sufficiently filled, it can be used to make furniture, walls, or even whole buildings!
With the help of a kitchen tower, you can easily get your kids involved in your earth-friendly efforts. They can help pack their lunch into reusable containers, sort the recycling to decide what goes to the compost, and they can even work on their own ecobrick!
At the grocery store
Before your food even touches your kitchen counter, you can make a difference by shopping smarter.
No more plastic sacks
All of us have seen a plastic bag blowing in the breeze, too quick for us to catch. You watch it blow down the hill with a heavy heart, knowing it will end up somewhere it doesn’t belong.
Getting rid of single-use plastic bags is near the top of everyone’s save-the-planet list. Plastic bags take about 700 years to decompose, so eliminating them from our day-to-day life is essential.
Reusable cloth sacks are a simple alternative to plastic grocery bags. Or you can load your groceries back into your cart after checkout and keep large totes in your car for carrying the groceries into your house.
Shop a zero-waste store
There have been more and more zero-waste stores popping up in recent years. These stores buy their products in bulk. Then you bring your own containers to get the exact amount of product you want.
This shopping method reduces waste since you don’t have to buy a generic size you won’t use all of. And there’s no single-use packaging. This way of shopping can also be great for your wallet, leaving you paying only for the item itself and not the bulky package.
If there’s not a zero-waste store near you, try buying in bulk. Bulk stores often don’t have plastic bags available. Instead, they provide cardboard boxes or pallets for carrying home smaller items.
In your child’s room
Children have a lot of stuff. And they grow fast. The pants that fit yesterday seem to be an inch too short today. The toy that was their absolute favorite last week is buried deep in the toy box this week.
Even though everything changes so quickly, there are still ways to shop with the planet in mind and reduce your environmental impact.
Choose wooden toys over plastic
Wooden toys are a much more sustainable option than plastic toys. They’re incredibly durable and far less likely to break than cheap, plastic toys, meaning many children and multiple families can enjoy one wooden toy for years.
The manufacturing process of wooden toys is also better for the environment, so long as the wood is sourced ethically. And many wooden toys are carved and made by human hands instead of being mass-produced in a factory that emits chemicals into the air.
Ditch the batteries
Some parts of a battery, like the heavy metals found on the inside, will never decompose. Instead, they leak toxic chemicals into the environment for years to come.
Look for open-ended toys that don’t use batteries. These are better for the environment while also encouraging your child’s imagination. And with no flashing lights and annoying sounds, these toys are also better for your sanity.
If you currently have battery-powered toys that your children really love, consider buying rechargeable batteries. These can be used in one toy over and over again
or can move to the next new toy when your child’s interests change.
Thrift and upcycle
At the rate some kids grow out of their clothes, many outfits are in almost new condition when they no longer fit. Buying from someone you know secondhand or shopping at a thrift store are great ways to find clothes for your child that still have a lot of life in them.
The same can be said about toys. Wonder and excitement can light up the face of a child who gets a new-to-them toy. Quality toys can be passed on even a third, fourth, or fifth time.
In the backyard
Getting outside in the sunshine and soaking up some Vitamin D is good for you and your child. Explore these activities you can do outside together that are fun and kind to our planet.
Plant a garden
Picking out seeds, digging in the soil, and watching little green sprouts pop out of the earth — gardening is one of the most perfect childhood activities.
Not only will your budget thank you for growing some of your own fruits and veggies, but there are also lots of positive environmental impacts from gardening. You cut out all of the boat, plane, and car fuel necessary to get food from farm to store to fridge. And more plants in your yard mean more places for bees to hang out and more oxygen in the air.
And the best part — your child will always remember the sense of accomplishment they felt watching all their gardening work pay off with a colorful harvest. You may even find picky eaters more likely to try different fruits and vegetables after working hard to grow them.
Smelly… stinky… gross… that may be what some people think of when they think of composting. But there are many different ways to compost, and none of them have to be gross!
There is the no-fuss approach of having a compost pile in your backyard. A shady spot, close to a water source is the most ideal location. But if you only have sunny spots available, don’t worry. You can try an outdoor composting bin, or just add water to your backyard pile more often.
If you don’t have a backyard or other outside space to compost, there are indoor, countertop composters. An indoor composting container is a great way to help teach your child what belongs in the compost pile. Invite them to climb up their kitchen tower and help you sort your food waste as you cook.
A good compost pile consists of 3 parts brown material and 1 part green material. Brown material means things like shredded paper, cardboard, dead plants, wood chips, or straw. Green material could be fresh grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps, or coffee grounds.
Your child can help you gather materials so you can maintain a 3:1 balance. This will help your pile compost more quickly. Keep the pile somewhat moist and turn it over every once in a while with a shovel or pitchfork. If you don’t want to have to turn the pile, using a compost tumbler is also a sustainable option.
Small, eco-friendly swaps can create big change
This all may seem a bit overwhelming, but don’t worry! This isn’t a checklist that needs to be completed by next week.
Each small step that you and your child make betters our planet and your family’s life. Focus on one small change at a time, and soon you’ll realize how all those small changes have added up to a huge impact.
Thanks for making our world a better place!