Category Archives: Eco Friendly Parenting

Turning Your Kids Green

Turning Your Kids Green

One of the great challenges with trying to live a reasonably environmentally conscious life is teaching my children to do the same. Young children have very little sense of the future; for example, my daughter once decided she would be Rapunzel when she grew up. It takes time and patience to turn kids green.

Fortunately, kids also possess a strong desire to please. Things don’t always turn out the way they intend, but children generally do mean well. And this means you can teach them to be more eco friendly.

How To Start Turning Your Kids Green

Start out by talking about why you make the decisions you do in terms of helping the environment. Even a preschooler can begin to learn what gets recycled, thrown in the compost or in the trash. As they get older, these things should become habit.

A garden is a great way for kids to learn to care for plants, as well as a great way to get them interested in eating their vegetables. Start them out with organic techniques so that they really learn them and because it’s much safer for them than using chemicals. Let the kids pick vegetables they would like to grow, as well as your own choices. Carrots and tomatoes are popular choices.

Kids love it when they can pick fruit from the tree as well. If you don’t have a fruit tree in your yard already, find out what your family likes and will grow well in your area. Go to a nursery and find one you would enjoy. Fruit trees are cheaper when they are bare root.

Older kids can help you make more environmentally friendly household cleaning supplies if that’s one of the things you do. Measuring quantities and mixing them together is a bit of math practice and a way to teach them that harsh chemicals aren’t the only way to clean. They may also enjoy finding essential oil scents to make cleaners smell better.

Keep Turning Your Kids Green As They Get Older

As your kids get older, you can teach them more. Teach them about energy conservation. You can make any child old enough to reach the light switch be responsible for keeping extra lights off. As they get older, you can talk about the amount of power the various kinds of light bulbs use and have them help you make a good selection.

Have them help you to conserve water too. They can help you replace plants that need a lot of water with ones more suited to your area, for example. Discuss how to find the balance between an attractive yard, growing food, and appropriate water use in your area.

Show your kids ways to reuse all that wasteful packaging material found in children’s toys and electronics. So much of that doesn’t recycle easily in most areas, but you might be able to use some of it at home. Styrofoam packaging in large pieces combined with golf tees and a pounding implement makes for loads of fun for younger kids. Those dratted wires that hold just about every toy in its box these days can be added to the craft supplies.

Also talk to them about using only what they need. This is a really tough one for kids these days, as they are likely to want all the stuff their friends have. As a parent it’s up to you to help your children control their more acquisitive urges and to enjoy what they have.

Teach Them To Buy Used

Some of the things kids really want may be available at thrift stores. Electronic devices may be available second hand – not as new as others get, but still functional. Teach your kids that they can get just as much enjoyment from second hand items.

When each of my kids has reached an appropriate age for a smartphone, it has been purchased second hand. That’s why my son has an iPhone 4, not something newer. It does the job, allowing him to chat with friends, play games, and once in a very long while make a phone call.

Encourage Them To Help In The Community

Volunteer work is great for children. There will be many things they won’t be allowed to do due to age, but there are small things even very young children can do.

An easy start is picking up trash as you go for a family walk in your neighborhood or at a park. Bring a bag to collect all the trash. It’s a small thing, but it makes a great difference in how the area looks.

As children get older, they may be able to volunteer by visiting the elderly in retirement homes. Check with your local retirement homes to find out what the age and other requirements are.

I volunteer with my kids each week at a local animal shelter. Most don’t allow kids until they’re 12 or even older, but some will allow younger kids. Check with them to find out when your kids will qualify.

We help with laundry, as that’s something safe even for my youngest. If other work needs to be done we help with that as well. We go late in the day, so laundry is often it. When that’s done, we socialize with the cats. It’s fun yet necessary. Sometimes we help with the dogs, but they have more people who come in to socialize the dogs than for the cats.

Read

Books are great for turning kids green. You can find books for all ages about being more eco friendly.

Start with your local library. You don’t need to buy every book your child wants to read on the subject. There are times when you will want to own a particular book on the subject, but much of the time borrowing the book is enough. Librarians can be very helpful in discovering new books to read.

Whether you buy or borrow, Amazon can also be a good resource for finding books you want to consider. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what to read with your kids. If you can’t get enough ideas from your local librarian, try book reviews on Amazon.

Children don’t always take naturally to the sacrifices required to live a greener lifestyle, but it’s a great time for them to learn the skills. Have a little fun with it and let your children explore their options as they help you help the planet. Turning your kids green can be a lot of fun even when it’s challenging.

15 Eco Friendly Fundraisers For Schools

15 Eco Friendly Fundraisers For Schools

School fundraisers aren’t always particularly welcome when you’re trying to be eco friendly. Selling a bunch of wrapping paper, cookie dough and so forth doesn’t always appeal that much. It’s a bunch of money parents, extended family members, friends and coworkers can get tired of spending. Schools willing to step outside that box, however, have some interesting options for eco friendly fundraisers.

1. Electronics Recycling

My kids’ school has done an electronics recycling fundraiser two years in a row now. While I don’t know anything about the quality of the company they go through, I think this is an excellent concept. It keeps electronic waste out of the dump and allows the school to raise money, yet families don’t have to spend any extra money.

The one our school does is a one-day event, where everything is dropped off during the listed time frame, although the school can also allow pre-collection so that some stuff is there already.

There are also programs out there for ongoing fundraising by collecting and recycling electronics, such as through Recycling Fundraiser, Funding Factory, and others.

2. Donation Drive

Goodwill in Southern California has a donation drive program where schools and other nonprofits can earn money for every bin filled. I believe it’s available elsewhere too.

This is a nice way for the school to earn money while families get rid of the junk that accumulates in most homes. And once again, you don’t have to buy anything for your kids’ school to raise some money.

3. Have A Clean Up Drive

Have students ask friends and family to sponsor them at a cleanup day at a local park, beach or another natural area. Encourage people to give either a rate per pound cleaned up by the student or a flat rate they will give the student for participating. This way the school and a natural area in your community both benefit.

 

4. Recycle Aluminum Cans And Other Waste

Schools can earn money by recycling aluminum cans and plastic bottles for the money. This one takes a lot of space, however. Just look for local places you can take the goods or see if any places will pick up when there’s enough collected.

For schools with less space, you can also collect just the tabs off aluminum cans. They don’t take much space but can add up to some reasonable money for the school. You can participate in the Great American Can Roundup if there are buyback locations in your area.

If you want to go beyond the usual recycling programs, Terracycle has a Brigade program where various items can be collected, and the money donated to a nonprofit or school that you select. They have 40 programs to choose from. Some have a cost, but others are free, right down to the shipping.

This one takes a fair bit of space, of course, as it takes time to collect enough waste to send in. The programs can fill up for a time as well, and you may have to wait for the right one to open for your school. They offer programs for drink pouches, baby food pouches, printer cartridges, electronics and much more.

5. Walk-a-thons, 5k, etc.

These are a good way to encourage the kids to get active while raising money. Have them get family and friends to sponsor them to raise money for the school.

This can be just about any activity the kids can do – walking, running, dancing, whatever. Keep it simple to keep the costs down.

6. Smencils

Yes, eventually it comes back to buying. Still, I like the Smencils fundraisers. Smencils are scented pencils made from recycled newspapers, and kids go nuts for them. Best of all, pencils are things students absolutely need, not just junk. As pencils go, they’re pricey, but they make a nice treat for the kids. Best of all, at our school it’s usually students running the fundraiser under a teacher’s supervision, selling to other students to fund a field trip, not something to take to work. Smens are also available.

7. Scrip

Scrip has been around for a very long time. Basically, it’s buying gift cards to stores you already shop at through your school, including many grocery stores. The school gets a percentage (varies by store), you get to spend the same amount you would have anyhow while benefiting your school. Shop With Scrip and eScrip are two options.

You can also sign up directly with certain stores, such as Target, to have a percentage of your purchases go to the school of your choice when you use their card.

8. Sign Up With Amazon.com

Schools can join the Amazon.com Associates Program and earn a percentage of sales on purchases made by people who click through their link. The challenge here is getting people to remember to get to Amazon through the school’s link, not through bookmarks or just typing it in. Not everyone approves of this, as some feel that it takes money away from local businesses that would come back to schools through taxes, but many people are going to shop through Amazon anyhow.

9. Shop Through iGive

iGive is a program your school can sign up for, then go through the iGive button or download the app for their online shopping. iGive partners with many online stores, and a percentage goes to the school.

The wonderful part about an online fundraiser is that it’s not limited to local friends and family. Anyone you know who is willing to use your school’s links can participate. Families can share links through email as well as social media such as Facebook.

10. Collect Spare Change

Encourage families to donate their spare change to the school. A jar can be placed in the school office as well as at any businesses willing to help out. As anyone who has collected their own spare change knows, this can add up fast.

A fun way to do this is called Penny Wars. My kids’ school does this every year. Every grade has a bucket in which they collect change. Every penny is a point. Any other coin subtracts points up to its face value, such as -5 points for a nickel. This allows grades to sabotage each other. The kids get very competitive about the whole thing.

The wonderful part about Penny Wars is that it has very little overhead. The school gets all the money, and the buckets can be reused from year to year. The winning grade gets a prize. Our school does a pizza party for them, sponsored by a local pizza place.

11. Box Tops For Education

This program has been around for a long time. Families can collect the box tops off products they purchase anyhow and turn them over to the school, which then gets money for them. The products are not necessarily healthy or eco friendly, but we’re talking about things most families will buy anyhow.

12. Rummage Sale

Have families donate goods they would otherwise send to a charity or sell at their own garage sale, and have a huge rummage sale at your school. Make sure to promote the rummage sale on social media, especially local for sale pages and Craigslist. Make and post signs if they’re allowed in your area.

The hardest part about this idea is getting and storing the goods donated for the rummage sale, and handling disposal afterward. The best thing to do with leftovers is to have arrangements made to donate them. Try to have them picked up very shortly after the sale so the school doesn’t have to deal with storage for long.

A rummage sale requires a lot of volunteers and time. Try to involve both parents and students. It’s a good experience for the students, especially if it’s for something specific to their class.

13. Sell Eco-Friendly Lunch Bags

Help parents quit the disposable habit by selling reusable lunch bags, containers and drink bottles. One Small StepPlanet Wise, ECOlunchbox, and others offer fundraising programs.

14. Fair Trade Chocolate, Coffee, etc.

Chocolate and coffee are fun to sell, although there’s always the risk that you’ll enjoy it too much yourself. There are a variety of companies that offer Fair Trade chocolate, coffee and other goods for fundraisers, such as Dean’s BeansEqual Exchange and Grounds for Change.

15. Non-GMO And Organic Seeds And Bulbs

Help families in your area grow better gardens by selling non-GMO and/or organic seeds. Sow True Seed, High Mowing Seeds, EcoFlower Fundraising, Botanical Interests and the Online GreenHouse offer fundraising programs. Some programs offer seed packets with flowers that are good for attracting bees or butterflies, as well as other types of seeds.

Eco Friendly Gifts For New Moms

Eco Friendly Gifts For New Moms

It’s funny how these things work. All of the sudden recently, I had a bunch of friends expecting babies. It had been a while since I’d known anyone who was expecting a baby, suddenly I know a bunch. And it got me thinking about what kinds of eco friendly gifts are appropriate for new moms.

Handmedowns

Since I have kids of my own, and a habit of handing things down with family, this one is obvious to me. While you have to keep it safe and check for defects, damage and recalls on old items, there are plenty of baby things you can hand down to new moms, especially baby clothes. You know how fast new babies go through clothes. The very first thing I check with the various moms is whether or not they already have a source of handmedowns. If they need something I have just sitting, no longer used, there’s an easy gift.

A Home Cooked Meal

New moms are often exhausted. A home cooked meal made by someone else can be very welcome indeed. Make it something that can be frozen and reheated easily, so it can be served when convenient.

Playtime For The Older Kids

When moms have older kids, it’s hard to deal with them and the baby. If you can give them time to play away from mom and the baby, everyone gets a much needed break. If your own kids are in the same age group, so much the better.

Cloth Diapers

If the new mom is interested in cloth diapering her new baby, help build her stash. You may need to find out which cloth diapers she prefers. Don’t forget the cloth wipes to go with them! A wet bag is another great addition.

Baby Food Maker

If the mom is on board with making her own food for baby, get her a good baby food maker. I used a manual one for my kids, and it did a great job. If you made food for your own babies, make sure you share your baby’s favorite recipes.

Sustainable Toys

So many baby toys are plastic. Switch things up by finding sustainable toys for the new baby, especially ones that should be loved for many years.

Eco Friendly Baby Clothes

While hand-me-downs are wonderful, it’s nice to have something new for baby too. If you know the new mom is getting gifts from a lot of people, consider getting clothes for a somewhat older baby. Moms often end up with too many clothes for a newborn in my experience.

Feeding Supplies

You may need to know something about the new mom’s plans before picking out any feeding supplies for her. Glass baby bottles are a great choice if she’s going to use bottles at all.

A good breast pump is a great gift if she’s planning on doing any pumping, but not so good if she already knows she’s not interested. Don’t give her a hard time if it’s not her thing – there may be reasons you don’t know.

Baby Wrap/Sling

A good wrap or sling is an effective way to carry babies; so much nicer than relying on a car seat, and less awkward than always having baby in your arms. There are many wonderful options available to keep baby close to mom or dad throughout the day.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

12 Apps That Encourage Kids to Get Out and Explore

Kids get out and explore

As a mom or dad, you probably grumble sometimes about how much time your kids spend in front of one screen or another. And it’s true that kids spend way too much time in front of screens. However, there are some apps you can put on your smartphone that will encourage your kids to get out and explore.

Obviously, you need to decide how much supervision your kids need with each of these apps, depending on location and your child’s maturity level. Some of the apps mentioned here are free; others you have to buy.

1. Geocaching

If you haven’t heard of geocaching yet, the idea is simple. It’s called the world’s largest treasure hunt. The app helps you find geocaches in your area and navigate to them. People hide small things in the cache, and if you find it, you can take it and put something of equal or greater value in, or put the item back where you found it.

Geocaches are all over the place. The website tells me there are more than 8000 geocaches near my town. That’s not just in my town, of course, but in areas surrounding it. Still, I looked at the map and could see quite a few within a few miles of me, and a huge number along a popular local hike.

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2. iNaturalist

Share your observations of plants and animals you observe to contribute to biodiversity science. You can use crowdsourcing to identify plants and animals you don’t recognize. You’ll connect to other naturalists who share your interests in the world around you.

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3. Audubon Bird Guide

Do your kids love birds? Make it easier to identify them as you wander outdoors with this guide. You can log sightings and share with the community, as well as get help identifying birds you can’t quite identify on your own.

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4. Nature Cat’s Great Outdoors

Based on the PBS Kids character, Nature Cat’s Great Outdoors offers daily adventures for kids. The app may have the kids use the compass, camera, microphone or sketch as they create a nature journal.

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5. DIY Lake Science

DIY Lake Science is helpful in learning about lakes and freshwater ecosystems. There are hands-on activities, requiring supplies that are generally easy to get. There is also an “Under the Lake” simulation which allows students to explore what happens as temperatures change for different lakes.

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6. Star Walk 2

Build an interest in astronomy with Star Walk 2, a stargazing app which helps you identify objects in the night sky where you are. Move your device around and it updates as you go.

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7. Redshift

Redshift will also help you identify astronomical objects in your area, and guide you to ones you’re trying to find. It also offers 3d “flights” to go to the surface of other planets and moons in the solar system.

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8. Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go hit it huge when it came out. There have been problems with people not really watching where they’re going as they seek Pokémon. Some have played the game in inappropriate places, although the developers have put in some effort to keep the game out of such places. You have to walk to hatch your Pokémon eggs, guaranteeing that the kids will get some exercise.

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9. Ingress

Before the Pokemon Go app, there was Ingress. Like Pokemon, you will need to be aware of the potential safety risks as kids visit waypoints and how they chat with other players. Forming alliances with other players is a part of the game, so that your alliance can control more areas.

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10. Zombies, Run!

This app will encourage walking and running. You start out on your walk or run, your music playing as you get your mission. When the zombies start chasing you, it’s time to run. It’s a fun story combined with exercise.

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11. Fit For Battle

Another app that makes walking or running into a game. Shia the elf and Keg the dwarf will let you know when to speed up or slow down as they take you through the game.

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12. Monkey Spot Scavenger Hunts

Make exploring your area more interesting with photographic scavenger hunts. The first four hunts are free, then you have to buy further scavenger hunts. Sometimes you can get an addon hunt free.

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7 Ways to Raise a Green Toddler

7 Ways to Raise a Green Toddler

Raising kids with a green lifestyle can be difficult at times. Toddlers can be especially tricky, as they become aware of wanting particular things, not just what you give them. They start to have more opinions, and don’t always want to do things your way. It takes effort to raise a green toddler. Here are some ideas to help.

1. Make the most of handmedowns and secondhand clothes and toys.

My kids are all very used to receiving handmedowns. My sisters and I pass clothes and toys from kid to kid to kid, sorting out what has become too worn out or just doesn’t appeal to the next kid. The better toys may even be used as Christmas or birthday gifts, not just random surprises.

My kids get excited about their handmedowns most of the time. There’s one purple jacket that is on its fourth girl, and every one of them has been very reluctant to release it to the next. It’s just that cute a jacket. My kids get to say whether or not they like particular things, so the handmedowns don’t feel like a burden. Give them a say even as toddlers, and such things become something to look forward to.

If handmedowns aren’t a realistic option for you or don’t provide enough clothing, try resale and thrift shops. You can find a lot of great deals for much less than new clothes and toys cost.

2. Decorate their rooms with their own artwork or other treasured things.

Toddlers are often prolific artists. Rather than crowd the front of my refrigerator, they get to hang their artwork in their own bedrooms. My kids have artwork that they made years ago still hanging in their rooms, and it started when they were little. This allows them to make their rooms very much their own style, and you don’t have to buy anything more than the art supplies you probably would have bought anyhow. Don’t forget to teach them how to make recycled art!

3. Teach them to recycle.

It’s easy to teach very young children to recycle. Once they’re old enough to carry things to the trash, they’re old enough to start learning which things should be recycled instead.

It takes a lot of watching, especially with food related items that may need to be rinsed before going into the recycle bin. Toddlers often forget where things go, but it’s a great age to set them on the recycling path.

4. Walk together.

Don’t drive everywhere you have to go, if you have the option. If school, the park, museum or the store are close enough, consider walking there instead. You may want to use the stroller at times, as toddlers will get tired fairly quickly sometimes, or decide it’s naptime before you’re done with your errands. Fortunately, the stroller can also be convenient for carrying groceries or other packages.

Walking to the park can also be a great excuse for a picnic. Eating outside is often a treat to young children.

5. Use public transportation.

When walking isn’t the best option, consider public transportation. This option won’t work everywhere – not all places have good public transportation – but it’s a very good option if it works for you. Riding a bus or train is a big adventure for young children.

6. Grow a garden together.

Toddlers love growing things. Whether you have a backyard with room for a garden or have to keep everything in containers, gardening is a great activity to do together. Gardening can also be used to encourage your child to eat more vegetables, as they often love eating things they grew themselves.

7. Control screen time.

One of the big ways toddlers learn to want more things is by watching TV or playing games on websites with ads. Not only is too much screen time bad for kids, especially toddlers, as it limits physical activity, it makes it easy for them to learn about more things they want.

There are useful things kids can do with screens, such as play educational games, or give the parents a little break. It’s not your only option, and you shouldn’t use it that way if you can avoid it.