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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.

6 Times Recycling Isn’t the Answer

6 Times Recycling Isn't the Answer

You’re probably familiar with the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” mantra. It’s an easy reminder of ways to avoid waste. The problem comes in when too many people rely on the last part – recycle – and pay too little attention to the first two. There are a number of reasons why recycling isn’t necessarily the right answer when you’re trying to cut back on waste.

1. You don’t need to recycle what you haven’t bought in the first place.

Reduce is first on the list for a very good reason. You aren’t causing as much waste if you just buy less in the first place. In this case, waste include the recycling of excess products and their packaging.

2. Keep using what you’ve got.

Sending something out for recycling just because you want a new version isn’t environmentally friendly. Cell phones are a strong example of this. According to Scientific American, Americans replace their cell phones on average every 22 months.  That’s ridiculous. Yes, phone and network features have been changing steadily over the past several years, but how much improvement do you really need?

There are times when it makes some sense to replace something you own and still works with a new version, but it doesn’t happen that often. Older refrigerators and freezers may be inefficient enough to be worth replacing even before they break down, for example, and sometimes cities offer haul away programs for them, and may even pay you a little for them. These programs help ensure that such items are properly recycled.

Shopping bags can be reused, for example, even if they aren’t the ones you buy for that purpose. Gift bags and boxes can be used over and over again, so long as they’re in decent condition.

You can also buy things specifically to replace things you might otherwise recycle after only a use or two. Cloth napkins, cloth diapers, stainless steel drinking bottles, rechargeable batteries and so on can replace things you’d otherwise throw out.

3. Repurpose/reuse it.

Some of the things you might otherwise recycle can be repurposed or reused. I keep a supply of empty glass jars around because they’re just so handy for other things. I can’t keep all of them, so a number still go out for recycling over time, but it’s really nice to have a variety of them on hand for when I need one.

I also save a lot of kind of random stuff for my kids to reuse. My oldest daughter in particular – she’s in a club called Destination Imagination, and reusing items is a great way to stay in budget on each year’s challenge. I can’t tell her what to use or how to use it – that’s against the rules – but I can make it available.

Old clothes can be made into new things. This can be especially nice to do with clothes you’re sentimental about. Some people make old sports jerseys into quilts, for example. For less sentimental things, such as that pair of jeans that has worn out, you can consider making a shopping bag or other practical item, depending on how strong the material is.

Be safe about reuse. Some items aren’t particularly safe for reuse and really are better off being recycled. Containers that have held hazardous materials aren’t your best choice for reuse, as a general rule. Similarly, don’t put anything dangerous into a container that makes it look safe or appealing.

4. Sell it.

So you don’t want to reuse it yourself. So what? Is it something someone else would enjoy reusing? You can sell individual items through eBay, Craigslist or any buy-sell-trade boards for your community you may find on Facebook. You get some money, the buyer gets a product for cheaper than they’d get it new. No recycling required.

You can also have a garage sale if you’ve accumulated a lot of stuff and have the patience to put a price on it and hold the sale. You can make some decent money for your effort this way, depending on what you have.

5. Give it away.

If it’s not worth selling, can you just give it away? Or would you prefer to see how much it helps someone else without money as a consideration?

My sisters and I do this with kids’ clothes, handing them down to each other so that much of what the younger kids wear have been through a few other kids already. The clothes could be worth selling, certainly, but we help each other out by handing clothes down freely.

Freecycle is a great site to use when you just want to give something away. Join your local board and post what you have available.

There are also charities such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army, as well as smaller organizations, that can make use of things you’d like to give away. The advantage to these is that you can get a tax deduction based on the fair market value of the items you donate.

6. Buy used.

When you can, be a part of the reuse cycle by buying used items yourself. Children’s clothes are often a wonderful place to start, but you can often find other good quality items for your home and family at thrift stores, consignment shops,or from companies that make new products from used items. The longer an item can be usefully kept out of the recycling stream, the better it often is for the environment.

Make no mistake, recycling – as in breaking down the old material to make something new – is extremely important. It shouldn’t be your first thought, however. Do your best to reduce your purchases and waste, and to reuse or repurpose things when you can. Then look at recycling.

How Can You Be Eco Friendly With Your Toddler?

Kids are hard on the environment, there’s no denying it. They have a lot of needs, and many of the things they need they’ll outgrow in fairly short order. That doesn’t mean you can’t do a lot to be more eco friendly while raising a toddler.

Handmedown Clothes and Toys

It’s not always easy to get handmedowns for your kids, but when you can manage it, they’re one of the most environmentally friendly things you can do with your toddler.

Most toddlers don’t need a lot of new things, and when you have a resource for handmedowns, make the most of it. Toddlers won’t care that someone else wore their clothes first or that they aren’t perfectly new. They won’t care that their toys aren’t new in the package. In the meantime, you’ll be saving a ton of money and you won’t be buying newly manufactured products.

If you know someone who needs handmedowns for their toddler, make sure you continue the trend. Keep the things your toddler has outgrown organized so that you can hand them down easily when the time comes.

Thrift and Resale Finds

Thrift and resale stores are great for finding other items your toddler needs. You may have to pay a bit more attention to product safety, and some products, such as car seats, I suggest buying new simply to be certain of product safety.

But other products you can buy quite safely used. You may be able to find a good quality dresser, for example. Beds are a possibility as well, but once again, be picky and careful.

Thrift and resale are great for making up those areas where handmedowns weren’t sufficient. Lots of clothes end up in thrift stores, and if you don’t have someone to hand your toddler’s old clothes down to, they’re a great choice so that the clothes continue to be used by someone.

Cook From Scratch

The more you cook their meals yourself at home, the more likely you are to teach your toddler lifelong healthy eating habits. Skip the convenience foods as much as possible. Sure, hot dogs and boxed mac n’ cheese are easy favorites for many toddlers, but there’s no reason to serve these things often… or at all if you can manage it. Not every family can, but it’s certainly worth the attempt to keep such foods to a minimum.

The younger you can get your kids used to home cooked foods, fresh produce and so forth, the better.

Keep Their Bedrooms Simple

It’s a lot of fun decorating a room for a toddler, but keep it simple. You don’t need to buy lots of wall stickers or borders to give the room some personality.

Most toddlers love to draw, and there’s nothing wrong with displaying their artwork in their bedroom. Their scribbles may not look like much to you, but some toddlers know exactly what they’ve drawn. My two year old insists that one of her pictures is a cat; another is a bird. Get some basic art supplies such as crayons and let your toddler enjoy them.

You can also put up photos that mean something to your child, perhaps pictures from outings and vacations. Much more interesting than princesses, cartoon cars or whatever the latest trend in children’s decor may be.

Don’t forget a bookshelf. This is a great age to encourage a love of books.

Encourage Toddlers to Help Recycle

Toddlers can start to learn what items can go into your recycle bin. Just what that means depends on the recycling program in your area, but toddlers can certainly learn to recognize that most paper gets recycled, as well as any containers that are usually recycled in your area.

Also teach them to reuse things before recycling when possible. It’s nice to save a few old containers to use for crafts and such.

Encourage a Love of Nature

Toddlerhood is a great time to introduce your child to the beauty of nature. This doesn’t mean toddlers get to go exploring the wilds on their own, but you can certainly take a toddler on a hike, carrying him or her as necessary, go to zoos so they can see the amazing range of animals, visit an organic farm, maybe even keep a few backyard chickens along with any other pets you may enjoy.

The point is to show your toddler that there is more to the world than what’s indoors. Keep your kids inside all the time at this age, and why would they appreciate the outdoors? Even playing in your backyard or a walk around the block is a help.

Don’t forget the delights of gardening with your toddler. They aren’t old enough to know a weed from the plants you mean to grow, but you can talk about it and show your toddler the benefits you gain from the garden. It’s a wonderful source of fresh produce for your entire family if you grow some fruits and vegetables.

Besides, toddlers love playing in the dirt. Try setting aside a place where your toddler can dig.

Minimize Use of the Television

Too much television is a bad habit; I think we all know that. It’s worse for toddlers, who are building the habits they’ll use for a lifetime. Keeping television watching to a minimum in early childhood is important for their development.

Commercial television exposes kids to all sorts of commercials, and means they’ll want things they otherwise would never have known existed. Most any television at all, including many otherwise educational shows also have a lot of products kids will want if they see them in the store. A little, carefully chosen television isn’t a bad thing as such, but do think about what your kids are watching. I like my Tivo, as it means my kids get to watch shows I approve of at the times I let them watch TV, not just when the show happens to be on. It’s also helpful for avoiding commercials when the show does have them.

Used DVDs are also a nice choice, and options such as Netflix’s instant queue. You don’t have to buy movies new if you have a bit of patience.

There are plenty of other things you can do to be eco friendly with your toddler, but these are some good places to start. It’s not too soon to teach the basics of respecting the environment.

6 Basic Principles of Green Parenting

Being a green parent takes effort. It’s not easy to avoid the temptation to give your kids everything and to teach them to avoid consumeristic behavior. There are a lot of little things you should do.

1. Clean green.

Using homemade or environmentally friendly cleaners is a very important step for green parents. It’s a way to avoid exposing your family to many of the chemicals that are common to so many homes, some of which can cause health problems. Just think about any time that cleaning with harsh chemicals has left your eyes watering, given you a headache or made it just a little harder to breathe. Why expose your family to such things if you don’t have to.

2. Enjoy hand-me-downs and thrift stores.

Hand-me-downs and thrift stores don’t just save you a ton of money. They allow you to reuse clothing, toys and other goods that someone else doesn’t want anymore.

It can be amazing what you can get for so little. Thrift stores won’t have the hottest styles, but you can find some very good quality clothing in them for very low prices.

Delight in the finds, and make sure that anything that is reusable when you’re done with it goes down to another family or to the thrift store.

3. Keep things simple.

Birthday parties. Holidays. The general clutter of the house. If you can encourage simplicity in your life, you’ll generally consume less. You’ll also be less driven to distraction by the chaos of it all much of the time.

Kids really do love simple birthday parties, especially when they’re younger. Don’t fall for the competition to have the best party in the class. Younger kids will happily just play together. Their parents may even be grateful if you keep the goodie bags simple or even just don’t bother.

It gets more challenging as kids get older and start to feel peer pressure more, but keep at it. Talk about why you do what you do and why you don’t do what you don’t do. Sometimes they’ll agree and be happy about it while other times they’ll be disappointed, but that’s life.

4. Teach the kids to recycle.

Recycling is easy in many areas these days, but not everywhere. If you have it easy, make sure your kids start from an early age tossing recyclables into the correct bin.

5. Garden.

It can be a small windowsill garden or a serious one out in the back yard, but having your own garden is great for green parents. You’re teaching about where food comes from as well as an appreciation for nature.

Make sure you include composting. You don’t have to get fancy about it, but why should that food waste go into the trash if it can benefit your garden?

6. Get active.

There are a couple of meanings to this one. Yes, get active physically. How else to show your children that there’s more to life than television, cell phones and computers.

But also be active in your community. Volunteer. Do so as a family as children get old enough. Don’t just talk about the issues that matter to you, show that you mean it.

8 Ways Being a Green Parent Can Save You Money

Having kids is expensive. You can find all kinds of numbers for it, some covering just the first couple of years, others including the cost to raise to adulthood and even getting into projected college costs. They’re always pretty intimidating estimates when you think about it.

Some costs can’t be avoided. Kids have to eat, after all, and they need clothing and shelter. But you do have control over a lot of this. Considering the environmental impact at the same time can actually help you to save money.

These are some ways to be a green parent that aren’t going to increase the costs:


While there are some costs associated with breastfeeding, overall it’s going to be far, far cheaper than formula feeding. Most breastfeeding moms still need at the very least a manual pump and sometimes an electric one, and that means bottles and so forth will also be needed. Not to mention that the mother is burning more calories, some of which may come from weight gained during the pregnancy, but also comes from any extra food she eats.

But you’ll likely need fewer supplies since you probably won’t be giving so many bottles. You also won’t have empty formula canisters to dispose of. And having baby’s food supply always right there is a real help in those early, sometimes challenging days.

Cloth Diapers

Cloth diapering is a bit expensive to get started, although you can decide how expensive you want to deal with at the start. Just remember that disposables add up over time and would eventually probably cost you more. You can go with plain prefolds and diaper covers, buy all-in-one diapers or pocket diapers, depending on what you want to deal with and what you want to spend.

If you choose cloth diapers it’s important to consider the detergent you’re washing them with. I like to use Country Save detergent as it’s pretty environmentally friendly. I use it with all my laundry, not just the diapers.

If you’re in an area with a water shortage you may need to consider buying environmentally friendly disposables instead. Not as friendly to the wallet or to the environment overall, but in some areas water supply is a big enough issue.

Encourage Simplicity

This can be a tough one, especially as children start feeling peer pressure and watching television. You’ll know when it starts happening, as your child who was content with simpler toys suddenly wants whatever the latest hot item is. Plus whatever was just on the television. And that one too. The demands start coming and keep coming.

When this happens, talk to your child about why you like to keep your lives simpler, with fewer things. Children can be amazingly understanding. It won’t stop all of the begging, but anything that cuts it back a little is a help.

Accept Hand Me Downs

My kids get tons of hand me down outfits, especially my youngest. It’s really amazing how much this saves. Babies in particular don’t really need new outfits, and an outfit can go through a few babies before showing significant wear because they outgrow them so fast.

Toys can also be handed down.

Buy Used

What you can’t get given to you, buy used. Thrift stores and resale shops can be your friends. You’ll spend less on clothes for your family while being good to the environment. You’ll probably even find some really great outfits.


Whether it’s a tiny kitchen herb garden or a big garden in the back yard, grow some food. Not only do you then get control over what goes into growing the food with fertilizers and such (go organic!), you’re teaching your children about where food really comes from.

Be careful, as gardening can get expensive if you let it. Don’t overdo it on supplies and seeds. If you know another family that gardens, consider going together on some things. Seed packages can be split up if you aren’t going to use the whole thing, for example. Tools can be shared, although you need rules about broken or damaged ones.

Cook from Scratch

Well, maybe not everything. But as much as works for your family cook from scratch rather than buying convenience foods. This will save on packaging and can cost less. It also allows you to have more control over what goes into your food, so you can avoid the excessive amounts of sugar and salt that go into so many convenience and prepared foods.

It can also be fun, trying out new recipes and teaching children to cook as they get old enough.

Set the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Example

Always remember that Reduce is the first rule for a reason. Try to live it. Then reuse what you can, and send off for recycling whatever is possible in your area when you’re done with it. Many areas accept a wide range of recyclables, but in other areas you’ll really have to work to get much recycling at all done.

But reuse can be so much fun for children! Teach them to make crafts from things that would otherwise be thrown out. It will save you money on craft supplies and encourage them to think of ways things can be reused.