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Life Can Be Greener

6 Ideas for Families

When our first child was born, my instincts kicked in: I wanted to raise our child in a healthy, natural home. The whole family took baby steps towards becoming greener. I started by researching non-toxic cleaners and other ways we could live in a more natural home by using more environment-friendly products.

Over the past few years, our family has expanded, and as our two children have grown, our family has become a few shades of darker green. We have adopted new eco-friendly practices such as creating a compost pile, making rain barrels, growing our own veggies (with moderate success), and making reusable fabric napkins. As our interest in a sustainable lifestyle grew more substantial, I began blogging about our green adventures. It’s important to instill green habits such as teaching children positive ways to cook, craft, garden, and explore the world around them.

What are some changes you can make in your household and your family’s lifestyle that will help your whole family become eco-smart?

1. Model the lifestyle for your kids.

One of the most powerful ways to influence children is to set an example. If you talk about eating veggies, take your child to a farmer’s market or consider planting your own garden. Most children love helping with all aspects of planting a garden. If you talk about enjoying the outdoors, take your children on a hike. The Richmond area has some wonderful parks and hiking spots. If you recycle, have your children take part in the recycling process. Children love to sort.

2. Reuse and up-cycle to create eco-art.

A great hands-on way to introduce children to the idea of re-using and up-cycling items around your house is by creating eco-art. Use items around the house that you might otherwise throw away like plastics that you can’t recycle or fabric scraps to create art with them. Some eco-art examples include: toilet paper rolls and tissue paper to make trees; corks and foam to create floating sail boats; milk jugs make whales or masks; old Cds and feathers can ransform into dream catchers.

3. Use rechargeable batteries.

All parents know how many batteries you need for all those toys and electronics. Eliminate battery waste by buying rechargeable batteries. They will save you money and the time you spend going to the store. They have also become very easy to recycle when they wear out. Just bring them to your local hardware store. For all those plug-ins, invest in a smart power strip that helps avoid vampire energy drain. Of course, even better than using rechargeable batteries is to power down. For the young ones, decide if all the battery-powered noise is worth it. Could your child stay just as entertained with a simpler toy?

4. Install aerators in sinks.

Another great and easy way to save water and money is to install aerators in your sinks, especially the sinks that the children use. They cost as little as $2.25 for a 0.5 GPM sink aerator and can conserve a lot of water. All you need is pliers and a little elbow grease.

5. Make good choices when packing school lunches.

Brown paper bags and throw-away plastic baggies add up to a lot of trash in that cafeteria can. Buy a lunchbox free of lead and, if they don’t already come with it, reusable sandwich bags, cloth napkins, and a thermos. Just by eliminating all that daily wasted plastic and paper, you can help your child save 65 pounds of garbage a year. And don’t forget to lead by example and start taking your own lunchbox to work.

6. Do eco-smart laundry.

There are lots of ways to green-up while doing the laundry. Use the cold water setting on your laundry and your clothes will still get clean. Use natural laundry detergent free of chemicals and dyes, or if you are adventurous, make your own. You can reduce drying time up to 25 percent by using dryer balls instead of dryer sheets laden with toxins. On a nice day, consider air-drying your laundry outside.

“Real Mom” Dorinda Bredbenner writes about healthy ideas and living a sustainable family lifestyle at She also owns, an online store that carries eco-friendly products.
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