If you’re like me, then you’re counting down to mid-May for Mother’s Day. That one day a year where we can sleep-in guilt-free and be treated like a queen by a grateful family (that’s the plan, anyway). Well, let me tell you, just before that special day is another day of Motherly celebration. Earth Day is April 22nd and it’s a great day to think about how we can all help out Mother Earth, the “original” overlooked and underappreciated mother.
Thankfully there has been a growing awareness of climate change, carbon footprints, and leading an eco-conscious lifestyle. It may surprise you to learn that Earth Day has its modern-day roots in 1970 Wisconsin where Earth Day founder Senator Gaylord Nelson recruited like-minded people to demonstrate against oil spills, pollution, toxic dumps, pesticides, and for saving wildlife. This mobilization led to the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency. Now more than a billion people around the world observe Earth Day and strive to take care of Mother Earth. Here are some easy ways your family can join the fight and save some money too!
- Kitchen Towels: I used to think this was how moms in the 1950s cleaned their kitchens, but once I bought a few, I was amazed at how much money I've saved not having to buy so many one-use rolls. Don’t get me wrong, I still buy them, but I use far fewer.
- Shower Time: I'm not going to tell you not to bathe, or to shut off the water when soaping up - that's not very realistic for most, and I've tried it - you get cold pretty fast. So to help conserve water and energy, you can install a low-flow showerhead. Hubby was worried we would lose water pressure, and I feared for the quality of my 5 minutes of daily mommy solitude, but we bought some anyway. They were super easy to install and my pressure is just as good. I was so impressed that I bought another one with an adjustable spray strength so I can slow down the stream while shaving my legs, but not feel like I’m entering the next ice age.
- Water Pitcher: Next to my kitchen sink is my “green” pitcher. Instead of dumping extra water down the drain (water my kids didn't drink, the extra water I have in my measuring cup, or ice that I dropped on the floor), I put it in my pitcher and when it's full, I use it to water my plants.
- Make Your Own Ice Pops: My kids and I love ice pops, especially as a summer treat. Store bought ice pops are a marketing bonanza of superheroes and cartoon characters, but I’m not a huge fan of what’s in them. What’s a mom to do? I use my own juice! This way I know exactly what's in the ice pops and I can pick the flavors we all enjoy. I have molds that are BPA free, easy to use, and most importantly, they’re easy to clean. They’re fully reusable, so there’s no leftover ice pop sticks or packaging to throw away.
- Kiddie Pool: When we’re done with our homemade ice pops and want to spend a little time outside, we’re always looking for simple ways to cool off and have fun. If you have a choice between using sprinklers or a kiddie pool - go for the kiddie pool. You use less water and when the kids are done you can reuse the water to water your plants/grass/garden.
- Battery Tester: Let’s face it, we live in a battery-powered age. In our game room alone I have counted 22 batteries being used. If a single game controller (yes, my kids play video games) stops working, the 4 batteries inside probably have not all died. A battery tester takes out the guesswork and lets you replace only the offending battery. This way you don't get rid of (cough…cough…RECYCLE) perfectly good batteries.
- Recycle Items for Art Supplies: Donate paper towel rolls/toilet paper tubes/shoeboxes, etc. to schools for projects. Local preschools LOVE me, as I supply them with these much-needed items. Ask your teacher - lots of them are thrilled to take them and you’ll help keep them out of the landfill.
- Reusable Lunch Bags: One of my prized possessions growing up was my Bionic Woman lunchbox. I still have it (for nostalgic reasons, of course), but with all of its dents, sharp edges, and rust spots it looks like it went down with the Titanic. Well, times have changed and thankfully there are now a lot of BPA-, PVC-, and lead-free lunchbox options for today’s hungry kids. Cute zoo animals, cool patterns, and even personalizations offer enough choices to keep my kids happy.
- Local Library: If you’re like me, then you’re “one and done” when it comes to books. There are a few books I like to get for myself and my kids that we have to keep, but over the years I’ve become something of a regular at my local library. It gives me the opportunity to try a new author or genre without feeling like “Ugh, did I really waste my money on this?” after a disappointing first chapter. Unfortunately, I find myself in the “Large Print” section more than I would like, but it’s a great option to have (Earth Day wasn’t the only fantastic thing born in 1970 - if you get my meaning). A lot of free events, DVD and audiobook rentals, stacks and stacks of new and classic books that aren't cluttering up your house… what’s not to love?
- Cone vs. Cup: I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! I also have to stifle a scream when I think about all those ice cream cups and spoons filling up our landfills (see what I did there?). This one is my favorite green tip. When buying ice cream at the ice cream store, pick the cone - you eat it, so there's nothing left to throw away.
Ellen DeFrancesco is the publisher of livingcleananddirty.com where she gives tips on being eco-friendly with a dose of humor. Ellen also publishes Macaroni Kid of Long Beach-Oceanside-Rockville Centre, NY.
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