Simple Steps to Help the Environment
Below are some simple things that your family can do together at home to be earth-friendly:
* Use one cup a day. Have each family member use only one cup for the whole day. This helps your household cut down on dirty dishes and reduces the number of times you need to run the dishwasher each week. Explain to your kids how this saves water, detergent and electricity.
* Donate home goods. Several animal shelters in the Triangle use old carpeting or carpeting scraps, as well as towels, blankets and linens to make comfy beds for the animals. Your children can also donate worn-out stuffed animals and tennis balls to be used as dog toys. Make the donation in person, as a family.
* Flashy trash. You may not think twice about throwing out shiny chip bags, candy and cookie wrappers, or yogurt containers, but maybe you should. TerraCycle (www.terracycle.net) crafts items like these into eco-friendly and stylish products such as tote bags, picture frames and pencil cases. Ask your kids to bring home their lunchboxes with their trash still inside. The donations can even earn your family a bit of cash.
* Redeem soda-can tabs. Americans consume more than 180 billion canned drinks per year. That translates into about $64 million worth of aluminum pull-tabs, according to Nicole Bouchard Boles in How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist. Keep a jar in your kitchen that your family can fill with soda can tabs. When it gets full, donate it to The Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill or Durham. These organizations will redeem them at aluminum recycling centers and use the money to help fund their programs.
* Eat your yard — literally. "Oranges are raised on farms, picked and refrigerated, processed, trucked and refrigerated again," says Nan Chase, author of Eat Your Yard! Edible Trees, Shrubs, Vines, herbs and Flowers for Your Landscape. "By the time you drive them home from the store, that's a huge amount of energy used just to get vitamin C to your door," she says. Chase advises families to landscape their yards with edible plants. Her book offers some easy ideas like planting a few seeds of chard, which looks like a garden plant, amongst your flowers.
Landscaping with edible plants can also make children eager to eat fresh food. "When kids get a chance to take something off the tree or vine or out of the ground and put it in their mouth, they will get excited about it," Chase says.
Be sure that you and your children wash your hands and edibles, especially if you use pesticides or fertilizers. You should even wash whole produce that will be eaten without the skin or rind so pathogens aren't transferred inside from your hands or knife.
Danielle Cushing is a student at UNC-Chapel Hill and an intern at Carolina Parent.