For Earth Day – I decided to put together a few of my favorite green money saving tips.
You’ve switched out your florescent light bulbs, sealed your drafty windows and bought energy efficient appliances when you updated your kitchen. What else can you do? Well the truth is there are countless things you can do.
Paperless Paper Towels
Create a paperless paper towel system – it costs very little to set up and will save many dollars over the course of a year!
Foaming Hand Soap
Make your own foaming hand soap – with hand soap ringing in at $3-5 per bottle – it doesn’t take long for this to pay off – readers will benefit by having a triclosan free hand wash – not using, disposing, transporting and manufacturing of about 50 containers per year and they will save about $180 a year. Multiply that by the size of your community and you get the idea of the impact this small step would have if every family did this!
Waste Free Lunches
Pack Waste Free Lunches – Send your children to school with waste free lunches and if this seems overwhelming for you to go waste free for your own lunches, take baby steps. Start with a goal of 2 lunches per week and build from there!
Bonus – BYOB
Bring Your Own Bottle – If you aren’t already doing this – why not? It’s easy, good for the environment and you’ll save money too! Don’t like the stainless – try glass. They are heavier to carry, but extremely durable (think – bounce off concrete) and dishwasher safe.
I selected these things because they require very little investment, and have a quick payback. Once you get in the habit you’ll be saving a little green and living a little greener.
Nothing on this list is monumental – they are all little things. Little things that added together and multiplied can grow into a meaningful difference.
Children are little sponges – jumping at the bit to learn everything we have to teach them. If we start teaching them to live greener lives – it will be the only way they know (unless their friends are living differently – but that is a conversation for another article!).
For now I want to share the techniques that I find work in our home. In real life.
1. Water Conservation:
When they are washing their hands and have the water on full blast – teach them to turn it down.
When they want to keep flushing the toilet over and over again.
When playing with water – we try to fill containers and then turn the water off.
When brushing teeth, water doesn’t need to be on while they are brushing. They can rinse at the end.
When using water – we share. We talk about examples from the world.
I ask them to:
– Think about all the fish that need water to swim in, if we use all the water flushing the toilet, they won’t have water to swim in
– Think about all the pretty flowers, if we use more water than we need the plants will be too thirsty to make any flowers
– Think about the trees – if they don’t have water then we won’t have trees and all their beautiful shade to play under (we live in CA – shade is a big deal for us).
Once you’ve been having discussions like this with your toddlers, you can move to the next step.
When they are using too much water ask them why they shouldn’t use too much, let them show you that they are learning the lesson. It won’t happen overnight. And water play is so much fun for toddlers!
They will grow out of some of the water play, but the lifestyle habits they learn now will last a lot longer.
We haven’t had to do too much in this area, we live in Los Angeles and don’t have to sort our recycling, so it’s not much more than teaching what goes in the garbage, and teaching them what goes in which receptacle. My almost four year old will ask me – is this recycling, is this garbage?
In areas that require sorting – kids love sorting games. So if you turn the sorting into a game the kids learn while they have fun.
3. Don’t be Wasteful
This is an area where I feel as though I’m in a constant dance with cliche’s.
Who wants to be touting children in Africa – feeling like your own parents. Yet, I’m guilty, I do it.
- When they ask for more milk, they have to finish it. If they don’t they are told they won’t get milk next time. There have been next times when they have gone without milk. Now they almost always finish their milk.
- Often for breakfast we’ll have a cereal with a toast, bagel or something. I noticed they were asking for toast, but not eating it. I starting cutting the amount I gave them in half or not giving them toast. When they asked, I told them, you haven’t been eating your toast, so none today. After promising they would eat the toast I prepared it for them with a caveat. “What happens if you don’t eat all the toast?” – and they’ll tell me “no toast tomorrow”.
- None of this is to have them stuffing their faces to avoid waste – but I believe in teaching my children to finish what they ask for… eat what they take… eat their crusts… the skins off the apple.
Other areas we talk about waste:
- When my children don’t take care of something properly, we talk about other children who don’t have toys and how grateful they would be to have a toy like that one
- Repair books or toys, when possible, rather than throwing them away. My daughter was pretty rough on her books early on, I became a book surgeon – I just couldn’t throw them away.
4. Buy Quality and take care of what they have.
Some toys are better than others.
When children break a toy due to carelessness, consider not replacing it. They quickly learn to take care of what they have if they know it won’t be received with, it’s OK – we’ll get another one. When a toy breaks in our home, typically it’s a lesson, I hope next time you’ll remember to take care of your toys, so they don’t get broken. I’m sorry you won’t have this toy to play with anymore.
We started working on this pretty young. Children aren’t born knowing that dropping something on the ground and leaving it their is littering.
They had to be told – that’s littering, we don’t do that. And they had to be taught to pick it up. IMO – If you pick it up for them they aren’t learning as much. For the really young you can take them and place your hand over theirs and use your hands to close over theirs and ensure the item is picked up.
Let your children see you picking up other people’s litter, mine have seen me do it at the park. They’ll ask what you are doing and then you have another teaching opportunity. Another family we know – before they play at the park they pick up 5 pieces of litter.
6. Drinking water.
Every time we pass a water cooler my children want to take a cup and get a drink. I’ll let them have a drink, but they need to put it in their own water container. We have metal water containers for them and they are labeled their names to help prevent loss. My son has lied down on the ground crying because he wanted a cup, so there are some days this isn’t easy, but why waste a cup just to let a toddler have their way. The way I see if they win now they run the show forever!
7. Turn off the lights.
If my daughter had her way she’d sleep with all the lights in her room on as dim as they go. Instead she has a nightlight. I’m sure lights off will be a lifetime of training, if they are anything like we were when we were younger. Only we have 2 green reasons for turning them off.
8. Donate – when you are done with something
My sister had a baby. Now when we’re done with something it goes to “the baby”. I’m sure this technique will work with any baby that your child identifies with. My daughter now randomly comes up with things for “the baby”. Some of this will actually go to the baby and the rest will go to a charity. The idea is to get children used to moving things on to their next home when we’re finished with them.
9. Send Lunches without Waste
This sounds harder than it is. When I look around there are so many single serving pouches, easy conveniences.
What we use regularly are individual serving sized containers. I keep them in my pantry next to the “snackables” so I’m not running around my kitchen putting it together last minute. Every mom needs a system, snacks are sent in an insulated “little mermaid” lunch bag (a birthday party favor) with her “water bottle”. When they get older and might have hot lunches – I’ll use the metal thermos options now available and the reusable to go cutlery.
For more lunch tips – Check out Diva tips for a greener school year.
Batteries leach toxic metals and acid into the environment so be sure to take them to a recycling depot. They can be found at many grocery stores and at radio shack.
Rechargeable batteries are next on my list of green changes to implement in our home, I’ve started a list of everything that needs batteries, quantity and size so I have a starting point of how many batteries we need. I’ve been keeping a coffee tub of batteries that we take to recycle, but it’s time to step it up.
There you have it, 10 ways to be greener with some of our real life experiences on how we’ve
Don’t be surprised when they start lecturing you or a younger sibling on the “green way” to do things.