Hey, Room Mom!… Green your children’s classroom party.

class prtyMy list of duties just got longer…  drumroll, please… I am now the Head Room Mom (read:  “Lead Party Queen”!) for our daughter’s 2nd grade class!  She is absolutely thrilled and while I’m excited too, I’m also simultaneously worried.

I know what parties essentially “mean”….  things like lots of trash, waste and “un-environmental” activities.  It’s fairly easy to control what goes on for a party in your own home but this is another situation entirely, yet I believe there are still plenty of things I can keep in check.

  1. Ask volunteering parents to send in bulk foods instead of individually wrapped items. One big box of Goldfish and a big bowl from home is far better than 25 individual packages!
  2. Same goes for drinks… large containers and cups over a bunch of individual boxes or bottles, then recycle the container and compost the cups.party pak
  3. Opt for supplies using materials that are less harmful:  Paper over plastic, please!  Paper plates, cups and napkins can be composted, but reusable products are even better.  I love the Party Pak from Kids Konserve.  Invest in this supply of party wares (plates, cups and utensils) and wash and reuse them for every party.  (Get 15% off, now through October 31, by entering: momgreen at checkout!)
  4. Skip plastic tableclothes.  Bring a fabric tablecloth from home and opt for laundering over plastic in the trash.  And borrow decorations from home and take them back afterward… simple as that!
  5. Make your arts and activities eco-friendly.  Consider decorating little totes or lunch bags so they have some usefulness after the party ends.
  6. Play games with supplies from home.  Or consider supplies that can be recycled, like a game of bingo.  You can print cards at dltk-cards and use edible “markers” (like M&Ms!) and recycle the cards afterward.
  7. Pass out goodies in paper bags instead of cellophane treat bags, and give extra thought to what goes inside.  Mounds of plastic will eventually wind up in the trash.
  8. Recycle and compost everything you can!

Sure, these little ideas won’t change the world but they will certainly help make sure that all of those “little partying feet” create a smaller footprint than would have been created otherwise!

10 ways to green your laundry… (without a random sock!)

landry bsktLaundry… oh, laundry.  Just the thought makes me sigh.  It is probably one of my least favorite of all the home “duties”, but it’s also unavoidable.  Unless I want to send my husband and kids (and myself!) off with stinky, wrinkled clothes, it’s gotta happen!

There are plenty of habits that can make laundry time very eco-UNfriendly, so here are 10 simple ways to make laundry day a little greener:

  1. Make sure the laundry actually NEEDS to be done.  Stop the habit of putting on something for a few hours and then tossing it in the laundry basket.  If it can be reworn before a washing, hang it up or put it away immediately… and teach everyone else in the house the same good habit. (By the way, a great “wrinkle remover” is a simple spray bottle of water.  Mist the wrinkles, smooth by hand and hang to dry… it works!)
  2. Load to capacity.  Forget those mini-loads… wash only when you can fill the machine to capacity.  Also be sure to dry similar fabrics together so they dry in similar amounts of time.  (Towels and tees don’t dry at the same rate, so this will needlessly run the dryer extra long!)
  3. Choose eco-friendly detergents.  Skip the harsh ingredients in the most popular brands of detergents and, instead, choose those with biodegradable content made of plant or vegetable based ingredients (I’m a Method girl, by the way!).wshr & dryer
  4. Wash on warm/cold cycles.  Forget that the hot setting even exists (since 90% of the washer’s energy consumption comes from heating the water!).  In fact, if all U.S. households switched from hot/hot cycles to warm/cold, we could save energy comparable to 100,000 barrels of oil a day!
  5. Choose appropriate settings.  No need to put every load on an extended, hour-long wash.  If what’s inside isn’t heavily soiled, choose a shorter wash cycle.
  6. Skip the dryer sheets or use only those with natural ingredients and biodegradable fibers.  Better yet, use dryer balls… I recommend Wool Dryer Balls, to soften the fabric and speed the drying time.  Even white vinegar added during the washer’s rinse cycle can soften fabric.
  7. Use your auto-dry button! If your dryer has this setting, use it!  It will shut off when the contents are dry and you won’t continue to tumble already dry clothes for an extra 15 minutes!
  8. When weather or circumstance permits, consider hanging your laundry to dry.  It may sound very 1950s, but it’s actually very environment to skip all of that energy usage.  But when you are using the dryer, make sure the lint traps and vents are clean so the air properly circulates and you are drying most efficiently.
  9. When it comes time to replace a washer, choose a front-loading version.  They use 50-60% less water, 50% less energy to heat the water and have a greater capacity than top-loading versions.  Plus, because they spin faster, they extract more water from the laundry and this, in turn, reduces your dryer time.
  10. Batch your laundry.  Take advantage of the heat that’s already been generated and do a couple loads in a row.

You may or may not dread laundry as much as I do, but if you follow these simple tips, it’s will not only keep your laundry green and clean, it will keep your conscious free and clear!

10 simple ways to raise green kids.

eco-logoWe all want to raise great children… from respect for themselves, to respect for others, to respecting this amazing planet we live on… we can all likely agree that we just want them to live in a happy, healthy world.  I believe there are 10 simple ways to help us raise happy, green kids… so let’s just get to it…

  • Make recycling a habit – teaching children, early on, what is trash and what is recyclable and making it a simple practice at home will inevitably lead them to carry this knowledge throughout life and put it to good use.
  • Teach respect for the environment, wildlife & nature – whether it’s reading books that teach them about preserving the world around them, taking nature hikes or simple little discussions, your kids are sponges and will know why to make good choices and see what we are setting out to preserve… and they’ll love it!
  • Green craft – from habits like using both sides of the paper for drawing to creating crafts and art with recycled materials, your little artist will realize that the greatest masterpieces don’t require expensive trips to the craft store… reusing materials is both fun and environmental.nature-kid
  • Give lessons in the three r’s – it’s not just reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic anymore:  reuse, reduce and recycle opportunities are around every corner.  Lead them in the right direction, explain why this is a “green mantra” and soon those decisions will become automatic.
  • Teach about waste & not over-consuming – turning off water when it’s not being used (brushing teeth!), shutting off unneeded lights, taking only what you need, etc… these habits can be practiced by even the smallest of environmentalists!
  • Help them master the art of giving – teach them the beauty of passing on those toys, games, books and clothes that are no longer needed or wearable.  Explain how this helps others that don’t have as much as they do and why getting the full life out of everything keeps useful “trash“ from being sent to landfills.
  • Plant together – whether it’s a full garden, a tree or a simple pot of flowers or vegetables, kids love to watch things grow (I know I still do!) and learn to appreciate where everything comes from.  You can even plan a trip to a farmer’s market and explain the benefits of organic and locally-grown produce to reduce the effects on us and our environment… they’ll  “get it”!
  • Organize challenges & activities – every kid loves a challenge.  Set-up anything from a week-long challenge to reduce the amount of trash you create to a one-night challenge to see who can take the shortest (yet still effective!) shower… they’ll jump at the chance to be a winner!kiids-on-globe1
  • Volunteer together – whether it’s a large community event to learn and participate or a family organized activity (like cleaning up the trash at a local park or walking trail), there are opportunities everywhere and they’ll see that these efforts go far beyond our own backyards.
  • Lead by example – “Monkey see, monkey do”… kids notice everything, so when you make the right choices, it simply becomes a part of who they are and it will last their lifetime…

Believe me, all of this happened to me and poof!… like magic… Mom Goes Green!

Air conditioning vs. fresh air: 10 ways to “keep our cool”.

At the start of every summer, as the temperature rises, my husband and I seem to have the same discussion… when to turn on the air conditioning!

therm-risingThis is never an easy discussion (okay! read: argument!) as this is the man who wears shorts and t-shirts around the house when it is 19 degrees outside in the dead of winter.

I prefer the open windows and doors, and want to breathe the fresh air.  To this my husband responds “Babe, it ceases to be fresh as soon as it’s 86 degrees with 70% humidity!”  Well, it’s still fresh but I guess it does cease to be RE-freshing!

Just like heating your house in the winter and whether you do or don’t choose to crank the AC, there are ways to keep your house cooler, stop some of the cool air loss and use less energy in the process:

  • Close blinds or curtains in various windows throughout the day to prevent the sun shining in.  If it’s coming in, so is the heat.
  • Use ceiling fans. They circulate the cool air and don’t use a lot of energy.
  • Program your thermostat.  No need to keep it blasting in the evening or when you aren’t even home.
  • When it’s cool outside at night, shut off the air, open the windows and take advantage.ceil-fan
  • 74 degrees is all you need.  This is a bearable temperature, and if you can tolerate it higher, do it!  Each degree saves 3-4% on your cooling expenses.
  • Don’t worry about unused rooms.  Close the windows, doors and vents in these rooms, and block the bottom of the door if they aren’t frequently occupied.
  • Run appliances at night.  This includes dryers & dish washers that give off heat. Avoid using your oven… give it a rest and grill instead!  And if you do use the stovetop, be sure to use the exhaust fan to take away the heat.
  • Turn off unneeded lights, TVs, computers, etc. when you aren’t using them.  They all generate heat too.
  • Keep heat generating appliances away from the thermostat (TVs, lamps, etc.).  They’ll make the thermostat think it’s hotter than it really is.
  • Don’t chop down trees that shade your house.  They simply keep a house cooler.  And even plant strategically.  Shaded AC units run more efficiently, but just be sure not to block the airflow.

I do try to take my own advice.  It’s not always easy (living with my husband who compensates by turning up the ceiling fans to “jet speed”) but it’s a compromise we always seem to manage when it all “boils down”!

Countdown to Father’s Day… help “Daddy Go Green”!

dad-super-wordDaddy’s big day is just around the corner.  Maybe, if you’re like our family, you go light on the gifts (or request no gifts at all!) but if you’re still hard-pressed for that perfect eco-gift, there is still time.

Don’t panic! Here are some great ideas!:

  • Buy a tree to plant – I bought a beautiful Japanese Cherry tree for my husband on his first Father’s Day.  Seven years later it has grown tremendously and we look forward to the spring blooms every year!
  • Make a gift – this falls into that beloved “reuse” category.  Search your house and garage and you’re sure to find plenty of supplies to “build the perfect gift” or unique piece of art!
  • Electronics solar charger – self-explanatory… free power from the sun… imagine that!
  • Golf accessories – now, more than ever, pro-shops are carrying bags and accessories made of recycled materials and even golf balls that biodegrade in days (after those unfortunate sinkers in the water glass-beerhazard!).
  • Bamboo knives or grilling setbamboo is incredible and every dad loves to be the king of the grill.
  • Organic brew – what dad doesn’t love a nice “cold one” (or five!) to keep him company while he “mans” the grill!
  • Reusable water bottle – for sports, workouts or whenever he’s taking water with him, reusable and BPA-free stainless steel bottles always have a use.
  • iTunes – CDs are so passe, right?  Remember that statistic about 45 tons of CDs winding up in landfills monthly… sheesh!
  • Solar powered landscaping lights – if he’s a man who loves his yard, yet another way for a little extra flare with free energy from the sun.
  • “Give your time” – whether it’s a hike in nature, a picnic at a local park or a family cookout under the trees in your own backyard, he loves your time!

Ideal Bite also has a great list of eco-gifts (time is running short, and you might have to pay a bit to get them there on time, but you might just locate a “must have”!).

jimkukral4All of that “suggested”, I just want to wish my wonderful husband and daddy of our two amazing kids a wonderful Father’s Day.  I think I have the most incredible husband in the world because he deals with all of my green stuff, does the very best he can and actually gets sad and frustrated when work keeps him from doing the ‘fun stuff’ with me and the kids.  Who doesn’t love a husband that respects his wife and a daddy that LOVES to be with his family… we love you, honey!

Okay, enough of the mushies to make everyone choke…

Happy Father’s Day to every awesome dad out there. From Mom Goes Green to every dad that loves his fam, embraces “going green” or does the best he can, you rock!  Have a fabulous day!