Have “power down” days. We humans are addicted to electricity and all its accompanying gadgets. There should be a few days each year (once per season is nice) where the family “powers down.” This means no TV, music, computer, electric lights, etc. (You can still eat, of course, but try using the more natural gas stove instead of microwave radiation.) My husband and I have powered down for many a Winter Solstice. It’s a way of slowing life down for a bit and reconnecting with each other as well as yourself. Last August, we experienced an unintentional powering down during a five-day blackout. Still, once I got past the loss of food, it was quite enjoyable. The three of us spent time in the same room, playing board games, reading, taking walks and actually meeting our neighbors. We lit candles as the sun set and went to bed early, sleeping against a background of cricket song. It was like camping without the pesky bugs. And the silence was delicious. You don’t realize how much background noise is created by appliances and street lights until the power goes out. Sofie had a ball, of course. Undistracted by electronic devices, her parents had more undivided attention to share.

Donate regularly to a green cause. A few years ago I made it a family tradition to donate to Heifer.org at Christmas. I wanted to instill in Sofie the holidays as a time of giving not just receiving. It was a surprise for her to learn that some kids in the world live very differently, struggling just for food. Now she enjoys perusing the Heifer catalog each year and choosing an animal to give to some needy family. There are tons of green orgs out there (here are ten big ones). Part of the fun is including kids in the process of exploring them. 

Always eat ice cream by the cone. At the store, bypass the “child-friendly” plastic or (horrors!) Styrofoam cups that will only add to the world’s landfills. Your kid wants the cone anyway – let him enjoy it! At home, avoid using another bowl that will require washing – have fun and save water by making your own cones.

Let them wear their favorite clothes. Over and over and over. This greatly reduces washer and dryer usage, thus saving water and energy not to mention your time. If I let her, Sofie would likely wear the same three dresses. So why don’t I let her? We seem to think that little kids are dirty, but it’s rare that my daughter comes home from school with stains or rips. She doesn’t have body odor yet, so the clothes don’t smell. (Honestly, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve worn a pair of jeans before washing them.) I suppose I keep thinking she’ll finally wear that really cute shirt at the bottom of her drawer, but she never does. In the same way that we have the three-second rule for food dropped on the floor, why not enforce the three-day rule for clothing? Only toss it in the hamper after it’s been worn three times. As long as she has clean underwear, we’re good.

Learn to sew. It’s sustainable. If you’re a sewer, teach your child the skill — it ‘s bound to be a bonding experience. If you’re like me, beg your mother to teach her. While I can use needle and thread to mend socks or reattach buttons, I never learned to use a sewing machine. However, my mother is an amazing seamstress. She made clothes for my sister and I (including prom dresses) as well as for our Barbies. Those doll outfits lasted a lot longer than the cheaply made ones we buy today. It seems the art of mending has disappeared in our increasingly disposable society. When clothes fray, we toss them. When shoes wear, we toss them. What message does this send our kids? Sofie has recently taken an interest in making clothes with fabric and scotch tape. So it seems the timing is ripe for an introduction to sewing. Maybe she and I can learn together. This will definitely come in handy as she wears out her favorite clothing.

Switch to an eco toothbrush. About 50 million pounds of toothbrushes make their way into U.S. landfills every year Since dentists advise us to replace our toothbrush every three months, using a green one seems like a sustainable idea. Brushing teeth is always a struggle with Sofie, and I don’t think an eco toothbrush will make it any easier. But the disposable Barbie and princess brushes aren’t helping either. So why not invest in an eco toothbrush? Here are a few recommended ones. Preserve toothbrush handles are made from recycled yogurt containers. And after three months of use, you can mail them back (postage paid) to be recycled again! You can find Preserve in Target and Whole Foods. The TerraDent toothbrush from Eco-Dent reduces waste with a reusable handle that comes with replaceable heads. They have a Funbrush design especially for kids. The Australian Environmental Toothbrush made of bamboo is biodegradable, as is its packaging. They have adult and child versions and toothbrushes can be ordered in a year’s supply.

Find a second life for packaging. This idea is illustrated in my blogs on giftwrap and the recycled dollhouse. And it follows that cliché that children are often more interested in the box than what came in it. This is still true at Sofie’s age. In her class, I sometimes walk in to see a dance floor made of bubble wrap or mail boxes built from oatmeal containers. Last weekend, Sofie entertained herself with a large furniture box that became everything from a slide to a coffin (don’t ask). Last night, she saved cardboard hole punch remnants with plans to make earrings from them — an idea that would have never occurred to me. With every piece of packaging a potential toy, reusing materials is a great way for young imaginations to flourish.

Play green games online. I’m sure there’s an argument over whether more energy is used in playing computer games or manufacturing board games. I’m not going there. Instead, I’m presenting some eco-minded online games for you and your kids. Aside from being fun and nonviolent, many of them offer educational benefits or green rewards. Most are free or have free versions. At My Green Games, creators plant a tree in Peru for every 1,000 games played on their site. Create a monkey on MiniMonos. If you buy a membership, a kid in India gets clean water. Vocab enthusiasts will enjoy Free Rice – for each correct answer, the site donates 10 grains of rice to end world hunger. I filled up a few bowls yesterday. 

Source: Beyond Recycling