This month, we celebrate Earth Day to focus on making positive changes in the environment, but the reality is, if we’re going to see the needle move in the direction of a cleaner, more healthy earth, we need to practice Earth Day every day. With news of a changing climate, it can often seem overwhelming to figure out how to get your family involved in environmental and sustainability issues. Here are five easy ways your family can live a little more “green” any day of the year.
“One of the best ways to get kids to care about the earth is to take them outside!” says Emily Cieminski of the Greater Cincinnati Earth Coalition. Ride bikes, start a garden, go to the zoo, or visit a state or national park. By setting aside time every day to play outside, you’ll initiate a bond between your children and nature, helping them to care for the environment around them as they grow older.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
The idea of reducing waste, reusing materials and recycling should be an ongoing topic of family discussion. Before your waste even hits the recycling bin, brainstorm ways as a family you can reduce or reuse your waste first. Maybe you can commit to making your own sauces for meals instead of purchasing ones in jars or swapping out plastic zipper bags for reusable ones, Cieminski recommends. Start a compost pile to turn food waste into fertilizer for your garden and remind one another to take reusable bags to the grocery store.
For the items you do recycle, read up on what materials are recyclable and how to sort them properly. Also look into Hamilton County’s electronic and hazardous waste recycling programs. Details on all things recycling in Cincinnati can be found at cincinnati-oh.gov/recycling.
Shop with a Conscience
Allow the things you discover through reducing, reusing and recycling to guide your family’s purchasing decisions. Do you buy a granola whose bag typically ends up in the trash can? Find a bulk option instead and fill a container you bring from home. Does your favorite restaurant use Styrofoam to-go containers? Bring your own when you dine out. Whatever you can do to avoid plastic, shrink wrap and Styrofoam is a win for the environment.
Eat More Plants
Be aware of where the food you eat comes from, how it is raised and how it is processed. Maybe you can’t buy all local, organic foods, but you can make choices that limit the number of chemicals used, that promotes humane livestock practices, and limits the miles traveled to reach your dinner plate. Start by aiming for at least two plant-based meals per week, Cieminski says. Eating more plants is not only good for your health, it can significantly reduce the amount of carbon emissions and waste byproducts in our food system.
Turn Off the Lights
Cut down on your energy usage by simply turning off the lights when you leave the room. This will not only lower your electricity bill, it will decrease your energy consumption. Once you’ve mastered that, take other steps to reduce energy use in your home: seal your house with weather stripping, open windows instead of running the A/C, and maybe even look into solar panel conversion.
Don’t let the idea of living a more green lifestyle get the better of you. “Sustainability can often seem more daunting than it is,” Cieminski says. “Making a few small, conscious choices has a larger impact.”