With this change of seasons, teach your kids and household help to follow these rules for life. Each of us can have an impact on our own environment, in turn making an impact on our communities and the greater good of the planet. You don’t have to be a hippy-tree-hugging-activist (like me) to love your Mother. Here are ten ways YOU can leave a little less of a footprint in 2017:
1. Shop local, buy local – yes, this saves everyone, from transportation to taxes. When you choose to buy a product manufactured or grown locally, you choose to save time, money and resources like fuel. It is a win-win for both seller and buyer!
2. Plant a garden – it can save your pocketbook and your marriage. Growing a garden saves you real money, builds up your family (both physically and emotionally) and your soil.
3. Drive less, walk or ride more – or at least plan a round-trip with all your errands in one. Make a plan each week to minimize driving and maximize physical activity. Your body, your car and Mother Earth will thank you!
4. Turn off the lights and water – use lights at night, have kids turn off water while they brush (for two minutes timed in my house). If you really think about it, there are very few times that lights need to be turned on in a house. Did you know the average bathtub uses about 70 gallons of water? A five-minute shower uses between 10 and 25 gallons, so even showers should be limited.
5. Turn down the heat and open a window – keep thermostats no higher than 66 degrees Fahrenheit and wear a sweater; fresh air is good for you anyway and blows away stuffy-house-germs too. It doesn’t hurt to invest in a good chlorine bleach cleaner which you use regularly on surfaces, handles and bathrooms.
6. Eat at home, leftovers included – eating out is expensive and should be saved for 1-2 times monthly, so plan on a leftover night once per week. Teach your kids to cook something you grew in the garden together and you might think those hippies weren’t so far out.
7. Switch to solar or renewable energy wherever possible – even if it’s just for the hot water or your out-buildings, many states are offering tax credits for going solar. We have solar lights in our barn and wood shed. We hesitate to cut down trees just to make good lighting, but are still looking at options.
8. Save your scraps and start a compost pile – use the new soil to fertilize and add content to your new garden, or make friends with a local farmer and give him or her your leftovers for their pigs. If you eat leftovers and only put a single serving on your plate, you may find yourself with less food to throw away.
9. Recycle even more – if you don’t recycle all your household plastics, cardboard, cans and glass, what are you waiting for? Your town likely has rules requiring you to recycle and your planet is begging you! My household (minimum 5 daily, since I have a grown-up kid plus two in boarding school) creates only one bag of what we call “kitchen trash” each week. That is all the trash for the house (except the basement trash, which might get full every two months). We recycle every piece of paper, cardboard, glass, plastic or can and we keep food scraps for our two pigs (and sometimes the dog or cats snitch a piece).
10. Get active in your family and community – most, if not all communities can use volunteers to help clean up or organize service events; if yours doesn’t, start with the school department and local parent-teacher organizations for maximum involvement. Just clean up the street in front of your house and to your neighbor’s. Maybe pick up the trash in front of your neighbor’s house; you might make a new friend or at least get a thank you.
We each need to step up and do more to protect the planet and our precious resources. You don’t have to be a super-hero to help save the planet (though I am super-mom to some). You can teach your kids to love their mother (just like in real-life) through your words, actions, attitudes and behavior. Talk to your kids about why you make the choices you do, to shop local or eat at home, so they will learn from you what is right and good for the future of us all. Just in case you are a real super-hero or tree-hugger, may the “forest” be with you!