Tag Archives: recycle

Have You Added the 4th R to Your Thinking?

Anyone concerned about the environment knows the 3 Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. But there’s a 4th R, and it goes in front of the rest.  It’s related to Reducing, but may be a stronger reminder that you should be cutting back on what you buy.

It’s Refuse.

Refuse that plastic bag to carry your purchases. Refuse single use containers. Refuse unnecessary packaging whenever possible.

This isn’t easy to do in some ways. Packaging isn’t something you have much control over in some ways. Dodging that plastic bag when you shop by bringing your own reusable bags is easy, drinking water from a reusable bottle is easy once you build the habit, but actual product packaging you have only a little control over.

Even if you just do the easy things, you’re making a difference. Millions of water bottles are thrown out every year by Americans. Use your reusable bottle and help others to see how much fun it is to have your own bottle. It’s not all that inconvenient, after all, and the savings versus buying single serve, single use bottles comes quickly.

Pack your reusable bags in your trunk or someplace else where you’ll actually remember to bring them every time you go shopping, not just at the grocery store, but anywhere you shop.

The most challenging part is refusing to buy things that are overpackaged. It’s the area you have the least control over.

Some things you can buy online with less packaging, such as those products available with Amazon’s Frustration-Free Packaging. The selection is limited, but better than when it started. You can also seek out products locally that aren’t as heavily packaged, but you still face the challenge of getting something that isn’t heavily packaged.

When you’re stuck with packaging, think about what can be done to reuse it before you send it for recycling. Anything biodegradable can go in the compost pile. Some packaging materials can be used in crafts or to store other things you already own.

You can also avoid excess packaging by buying in bulk when possible. Buy concentrates and refills when they’re available. This is a habit that can save you money as well as reduce waste.

In general, we need to think when we shop. It’s not just what we buy, it’s how we buy it. Think about what you really need, consider the packaging, consider how you’re going to bring it home and try to make the best decision for your situation. You can make a difference by showing that you care how things are packaged and using less single use packaging whenever possible.

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.

4 Great Children’s Toys You Can Make Rather Than Buy

Children’s toys can get really expensive fast. That’s one thing parents learn pretty quickly. There are some great toys out there, but the expense can be hard to deal with.

Add in that many are plastic and really not so environmentally friendly, and it can be a bit of a problem.

But some toys you can make rather than buy, saving money and even reusing things that might otherwise have been recycled or even thrown out. Here are some ideas to get you started that don’t require a ton of sewing or construction skills.


What child doesn’t love a good playhouse? The popular ones are plastic and can be left outdoors in all weather or kept indoors. And they’re pricey, ranging from about $30 for a cardboard one they can color on, to a few hundred dollars for the fancier ones.

Even that $30 for a cardboard one is expensive when you realize you can get the cardboard pretty easily for free.

My children for a couple of years had a cardboard playhouse that was made from a double thickness box my husband got from the blinds department at Home Depot. He worked there at the time, and just had the night crew save him one. Not a hard thing to ask for, as they’re going to dispose of it anyhow.

That house was strong enough that the kids climbed on its roof regularly as they played. No problem. It tolerated pretty much everything they could throw at it, sometimes literally.

It took some time with a utility knife to cut the doors and windows, but it worked out really well. And being free was a great bonus.

When the box finally broke down enough it went into the recycle bin. We’ll be doing the same soon with a washer or dryer box we happen to have handy.

Play Kitchen

Play kitchens are also very popular with children, and once again can be rather pricey. You can make one on your own fairly easy, however.

My sister made one from a short dresser she bought at a garage sale or some such for her daughters. All she had to do was paint the burners on there and the kids were happy. That’s just enough for imagination.

You could also make one from a cardboard box, obviously a smaller one than you’d use for a playhouse. Draw on what they need, maybe cut in an oven door and there’s a play kitchen.

Bowling Set

You’ve probably seen the plastic bowling sets at the store. While they’re not all that pricey, relatively speaking, you can make your own.

All it takes is soda or water bottles (20 ounce or 2 liter size, your preference) and a ball. If you don’t drink much soda in your family and don’t buy bottled water (yay!), you can always talk to friends about giving some to you. You probably know someone who would have bottles available.


Kids love to be just a little bit taller. You can buy plastic stilts for fairly inexpensive, but they’re really easy to make. My daughter’s preschool had these, and the kids loved it when the teachers pulled them out. There was usually a line for them.

Take two coffee cans and two pieces of rope. The rope should be long enough that, doubled up, it can reach from your child’s hands to the floor with just a little to spare for knots and of course growing room.

Punch two holes in each coffee can, on opposite sides, a short distance from the bottom. Thread the rope through each hole and tie a knot on the inside end. This will form a loop for your child to hold while walking on top of the cans.

Any of these toy ideas can be painted or decorated as you like, but I think it’s best to let the kids decide how to decorate them. It’s just one more part of the play for them.

If you’re really into making homemade toys, consider buying Learn and Play the Green Way: Fun Activities with Reusable Materials or getting it from the library.

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.

The 3 Rs with a Baby, Part 3: Recycle

Just as in the rest of life, recycling that which you can’t reuse is important. If you’re good at reducing and reusing, you can cut down the need, but odds are you’re going to have to recycle a fair number of items.


Perhaps the most obvious thing you can recycle with a baby would be the baby food jars. That glass is so easily recycled is one of the reasons aside from BPA concerns to choose glass jars when you buy baby food. Of course, if you’re making your own baby food you won’t have a lot of jars to recycle. But there are times for most parents when jarred food is a simpler choice.

There’s also a site called BabyEarth.com that offers recycling of those things you don’t feel are worth reusing. I haven’t tried it, but the plan looks good. They break the goods apart and send them for appropriate recycling. If something is, in their opinion, still usable, they’ll donate it for a family to use.