Every Monday night, my husband, five children, and I take turns teaching each other various lessons, ranging in topic from "Being a Good Friend" to "Living Within Our Budget." This week, I decided to teach my family how to respect the environment.I started by referring to previous lessons we've had about our bodies being temples. We need proper nutrition, rest, and exercise to keep our bodies in tip-top shape. In this way, we are showing respect for our bodies by taking good care of them. Likewise, we have been blessed with this Earth to live on and must do our part to care for it to show our respect for it. This was, basically, the gist of the lesson. Then came the fun part. I popped "Stuff Happens, with Bill Nye," a video about how our everyday decisions impact the environment, into the DVD player.
The video's menu is broken down into the different areas of our home (e.g. bedroom, kitchen, garage, etc.). Bill Nye points out some of the most harmful substances and/or energy-zappers that surround us on a daily basis, and gives helpful tips as to how we can make "greener" decisions.
Kudos to Bill Nye for doing for my children what I could not. I've slipped books into the library bag to increase their environmental literacy. We compost. We garden. We own an Energy Star rated home. But we all needed that extra little push. I watched, as my children sat on the edges of their seats, cringing with each new description of how harmful certain substances are. They questioned which products and what practices we employ in our own house.
Following the DVD, I challenged each of the members in my family to come up with one way he/she could be more environmentally responsible. These are the commitments they each made, with the exception of my two-year-old twins who I'll count as being "green" by wearing cloth diapers. (Note: Actually, Bill Nye says it might be a toss-up as to whether cloth or disposable are better, as there are pros and cons to each.)
1) My oldest son said he would use a natural toothpaste without sodium lauryl sulfate in it. Previously, my children have shunned these toothpastes, so I went back to mainstream products for them. After they learned that orangutans were dying because of the palm oil that SLS is derived from, they decided it was worth the "yucky" aftertaste. Plus, SLS is bad for your body. When I gave my son the new toothpaste, he and his brother read the ingredients and said, "No palm oil! This won't kill the orangutans!" He kept spitting the toothpaste out of his mouth, even after he rinsed, but exclaimed, "It is so worth it, though!" If anyone can share the brand of a natural toothpaste that their child loves, please do so!
2) My 8 year-old son assigned himself the job of lowering his thermostat to 55° before leaving for school in the morning, and raising it to 65° when he returns. He and his brother share a room in the chilly basement and do a good job of remembering to keep their door shut to keep it insulated.
3) My oldest daughter volunteered to help Mommy and Daddy clean the house, to keep the air clean and the "bad stuff" out. She already does a great job of this and I know she'll continue to do so. Her favorite duties are cleaning the windows and walls with vinegar and water and scrubbing out the kitchen sink with baking soda.
4) My husband agreed to use a natural shaving cream from now on in a squeeze bottle, as opposed to a shave gel in a pump can to save on waste. Of course, he just decided to grow out a beard, too, so that will cut back on the amount of shaving he has to do anyway, but that wasn't a planned effort to be green. So far, no complaints about Burt's Bees Shave Cream.
5) I chose three new ways I could help our planet: Making sure the power strip is shut off each night before going to bed, changing my cookware, and buying at least one package of recycled toilet paper.
We were just gifted a new TV for Christmas. I didn't realize, with newer models, the TV doesn't actually turn off when you power off. It goes on standby to make it easier to switch on your remote. In this way, your TVs are "energy vampires," as Bill Nye refers to it.
Deirdre referred to the dangers of Teflon-like materials in the non-stick coating on pans in her post "Pots and Pads." I owned two very abused skillets, whose surfaces were scratched and leeching into foods. In fact, after watching the video, one of my children refused to eat his eggs because he noticed a gray, metallic coating on the bottom!
Ooops! I recycled those pans and bought a new one from Ecolution. Big Y is currently promoting this cookware, so be sure to check it out: http://www.bigy.com/esc/save/ecolutionSymphony.php.
I have to admit, recycled toilet paper...not my favorite. I prefer soft, kushy paper on my tushy. So, I don't shine through in this category, but I figure even if I buy just three big packs of the green stuff each year, I'm still making some difference, right? My children were relieved to hear that recycled toilet paper does not, in fact, mean using toilet paper that others have already used, but that it has been processed using recycled paper pulp.
This exercise was a fun one, and one that we are all proud of. It has been a joy to see my children get excited about caring for the environment. Together, person by person, family by family, we are making a difference!
Your partner in sustainability,