Earth to Mom… you’re doing a lousy job!

I’m on the board of our son’s preschool and this year I got them to start recycling at his school for the first time.  I am also Recycling/Environmental Programs Chair at our daughter’s school and have started a number of programs this year, but I’m doing a lousy job.

Perhaps I’m being a little tough on myself, because I do believe I’ve done a lot of good, but I realize that there are a lot of opportunities that I’ve missed, or have been an afterthought, when I should have been more pro-active.  (So, yes… Earth to Mom!)

The reason for my own, harsh, self-criticism was from attending our daughter’s school’s Family Fun Night of bingo last week.  I wasn’t a part of the planning committee and for a change, I didn’t volunteer so I could enjoy the night with my family.  But in the process, I completely overlooked something that I was responsible for… recycling.

Fortunately, someone had the foresight to set up a bin for can recycling, but then I looked around at the tables and saw stacks and stack of used paper bingo cards that were destine for the trash can.  I was sickened that I never even though about this event and my responsibility.  So, I jumped up, went to the concession tables and asked for a box.  Then I asked the bingo caller to please announce that all used cards should be deposited in the box after the families were finished with them.  Everyone was so great to cooperate and we actually walked out with a large box filled with paper cards.

How did I overlook that?  What was I thinking?  (What WASN’T I thinking!!!)   Sure, it was remedied before it was truly forgotten, but we all have the opportunity NOT to miss these opportunities!  Whether you’re a parent at a school where you can encourage recycling, or work in an office that doesn’t recycle or belong to an organization that needs some help getting started, we can introduce practices that really make a huge difference in the long run.

Note-to-self:  Recycling opportunities exist in EVERY circumstance… don’t miss an opportunity!

Kids’ party favors… that actually consider the environment!

This weekend we are celebrating our kids’ birthdays ONCE AGAIN… but this time with all of their friends.

What kid’s party would be complete without party favors.  Kids bring a gift, but they expect to leave with something a little fun for themselves too.

In past years, I think I have purchased every plastic, throw-away, China-made (potentially lead-laden!) trinket on earth. This year, my conscience wouldn’t allow me to do that.  I wracked my brain for something that wouldn’t eventually wind up in the trash some night, long after the kids have gone to bed, and mom thinks “okay, time to get rid of THIS junk!”  (I’ve done it and you know you have too!… followed-up with a “I don’t know where that went, honey!”)

This year I hit the craft store and bought a canvas tote bag for each one of our little party-goers!  Inside we’re putting a little ‘thank you’ note from our kids, a tube of fabric paint (that they can use to decorate the bag when they get home) and a message about why we chose to give them the tote bag… a message about considering the environment, obviously!  Cost of the tote – a dollar!  Cost of the fabric paint – a dollar!  Two whole bucks and we will have given the kids something that they can use again, and again, and again!… and isn’t likely to wind up in the trash.  (The little “eco-friendly” seal makes me smile too!)

We’re so excited to give all of the friends a really great favor and spread a happy little “earth message”.  Now, if we can just keep the moms from snagging the tote bag, we’ll have done a great job!

Can paying bills save trees?… Yes, it can!

Okay, so who likes bills?  If they are currency bills… yes, I’d like to sign-up for a large pile, please.  But unfortunately I’m talking about the kind that arrives at our home telling us we have to dip into our own pile!  Not nearly as fun.

I have one day every month where I sit down and pay every new bill we’ve received.  This is usually a dark and gloomy day because wow, they add up quickly and the grand total is often earth shattering (especially that $400 heating bill that popped up, thanks to arctic temperatures this last month!).  But for at least the past four years I have been paying everything online through our bank and this got me to thinking… hey, this is actually a pretty ‘green’ practice and I never really recognized it.

When I looked further, this is what I learned…

By some estimates, if all households in the U.S. paid their bills online and received electronic statements instead of paper, we’d save 18.5 million trees every year, 2.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and 1.7 billion pounds of solid waste.

Again, WOW!  That really adds up.  Many creditors and utility companies will now offer electronic bills upon request.  If they don’t, at least you can shred the bill and recycle it, along with the return envelopes and other enclosures, to insure that they don’t become trash when they are returned to the company with payment.  Plus you save on the postage, so it’s a really economical choice too.

So sign-up for online banking, tell your creditors and utility companies to “email me” and almost one whole tree a year will thank you!

Welcome to our home… so take off your shoes… NOW!

Well, wouldn’t that be the greeting of all greetings when you arrive at my house, but the more I learn, the more I realize this needs to become a new mantra in our home.

I never really thought about all of the horrible things that our shoes encounter (besides our stinky feet!).  Living in the seasonally leafy or snowy and often FREEZING climate in Cleveland my biggest concern was just tracking in dirt and “ick” and salt, but there is much more concern than just dirtyin’ up the joint… chemicals, toxins, pesticides, lead and just all kinds of things we don’t want to come in contact with are the issue.

Case in point… you were just at the gas station for a fill-up… or you trudge across a lawn just sprayed with chemical fertilizer… and DON’T remove your shoes… ugh.  Ugly picture.

I think about all of the time our kids spend playing on the floor, all of the time we ALL spend playing on the floor, and it can actually be like rolling around in a chemical dump if we aren’t careful.  Plus, when they get dragged into our home, these contaminants also become airborne so we actually inhale them too.  Top that off with a study I read about… it said that wearing shoes indoors was a larger source of children’s pesticide exposure than eating non-organic fruits and vegetables!  Okay, I’m convinced!

This weekend we are celebrating both of our kids’ birthdays with our families, and often times, when someone has asked, “do you need me to take off my shoes” I have been timid (yea, ME?  Timid?!) and said “no, you don’t need to” because I assume that question means they really don’t want to.  But this needs to change.

This time I will be parking a large rug right by the front door and hopefully that will avoid the question because it’s already suggesting the “answer!” Maybe, when I make my first million I can be like Tom Cruise and have slippers for everyone at the door.

I know the party is on a Sunday, but for now… come on in, take off your shoes and hope that you left your “holey” (holy?) socks at home!