A Deeper Shade of Green
It’s 2021 and “going green” must evolve. Simply owning a recycling bin and ditching single-use water bottles won’t cut it if our earth is going to survive and thrive! With these 15 accessible tips, you can continue to make lifestyle shifts to make a difference at this critical juncture, despite tight quarters and belts, and stay-at-home orders. Mother Earth and your family will thank you!
1. Part-time plant-based
Sure, cutting meat out of our diets is helpful for our overworked planet, but don’t punish yourself for your prosciutto craving or purchasing coffee cream instead of nut milk substitute! As the adage goes: strive for progress, not perfection. Celebrate the Meatless Monday meal you made and the healthy vegetarian snacks you packed for your kid. This balance will help make sure you don’t “fall off the wagon” as there is no wagon to fall from: millions of people going plant-based imperfectly significantly enhance the impact of the millions more who are doing it exclusively.
Find yummy plant-based recipes at ecoparent.ca/recipes
2. Take that to go
Instead of the reusable bag that you often forget and have to run back to your car to get, try a canvas “go bag” that you pack fresh every morning. In it, you can include a reusable container filled with light snacks for the day that can later be used for leftovers if you’re eating supper out. Wrap reusable cutlery and a metal straw in a cloth napkin alongside your water bottle or coffee mug. Plus, you can tuck an extra bag inside for when you stop to grab groceries on the way home.
Not all recyclable materials are created equally. Get the lowdown at ecoparent.ca/recycling
3. Earth-friendly masterpiece
There are many ways to transform arts and crafts when you’re going green. You can reuse, recycle, and upcycle paper, plastic, glass, and metal objects so that the art you create also turns waste into something beautiful. Art collectives like the Guerra de la Paz in Cuba use recycled objects like clothing to create colourful sculptures that are not only stunning but make a statement on society and consumer culture.
Craft it up with this fun bunting made from picture books: ecoparent.ca/upcycled-books
4. Bulk-up big time
Buying dried goods in bulk will not only help you avoid loads of plastic packaging but you’ll also find it to be an extremely cost-effective way to reduce food waste. Only buying as much as your family needs without worrying about the rest going stale and using your own containers to carry it home may provoke feelings of satisfaction and eco-relief.
Take stock of your pantry staples and get tips on which you should bulk up on at ecoparent.ca/pantry-staples
5. Face forward
Protecting ourselves doesn’t need to harm Mother Earth! Unfortunately, OceansAsia has already calculated that more than 1.56 billion face masks used in 2020 will end up polluting oceans. DIY face masks are especially critical as health experts encourage double-masking to prevent the spread of novel strains of coronavirus. Try following an online tutorial and use fabrics that can be easily washed and dried (extra points for upcycling fabric you already have on hand—that soft cotton sleeper or tee that your little one just can’t fit into anymore? Bonus!) Bear in mind that not all fabric is equal: a Duke University study found that fleece and bandana masks are ineffective and maybe even counterproductive.
6. Happy part-time nappies
Cloth diapers are a scary thought for many parents. But, like part-time vegetarianism, stay calm and get ‘er done! Begin by joining a Facebook group for parents or doing a little online research. Even just incorporating a few cloth diapers into your daily routine can be a huge eco-accomplishment. Pick up a few cloth diapers and try them out on your little one on a day when you’ll be home all day long (weekends are great for this!). That way there’s no stress, no rush to get out the door, and no worries that you’ve got to drag a bunch of cloth diapers and accoutrements along on your essential errands! Eventually you can graduate to disposable for on-the-go-only and cloth at home.
For more on cloth diapers check out ecoparent.ca/cloth-diaper-basics
7. Small scale on-the-grow
If you live in a city apartment, it’s impossible to expect to grow one farm-to-table salad a day. But if you have a balcony or windowsill you can easily maintain an herb garden that will prevent you from buying your cilantro from Mexico when it could travel three feet to your table for free. Plus, growing some of the food that makes it to your family’s table has the added benefit of fostering your child’s connection to their food! Grow foods that can be easily grown, picked, and immediately eaten like tomatoes, mint, and green onions.
For some of our favourite herbs you can grow yourself check out ecoparent.ca/healing-herbs
8. Forget the jet-set
It’s so last century! Instead of planting a T-rex-sized carbon footprint flying to an isolated resort and paying for a wasteful all-inclusive family plan, try driving, hiking, biking, or small-scale mass transiting to a less obvious place in your province or country. Slow travel provides the opportunity to create deep connections with the land, people, and culture of the place you are visiting, rather than checking off a long list of tourist attractions.
9. Fast fashion farewell
With so many slow fashion alternatives available, there is no reason to continue supporting exploitative brands that make cheap, low-quality clothing. Vote with your dollar! Buy less and support clothing manufacturers with ethical practices for people and land, do some good old-fashioned thrifting to breathe new life into a discarded piece of clothing, and always say yes to those hand-me-downs! Take the whole bag and pass ‘em along!
Take a deep dive into why fast fashion is so detrimental. Visit ecoparent.ca/fast-fashion for more.
10. Mad skillz
Having some basic sewing, woodworking, and electrical skills can help make your life easier when something breaks. Replacing or throwing away everything the minute it cracks, loses a button, or won’t light up is the dream of “planned obsolescence.” Repurposing and mending as many items as you can is key to a “green” lifestyle.
For tips and basic projects for kids (and grownups!) visit ecoparent.ca/essential-life-skills
11. All intents and purposeless
Chances are the crib your child grew out of that is collecting dust would make a new parent’s day. Online buy-and-sell and trading sites make it easy to make some extra cash or barter for something that will bring joy to your life and not just languish in your basement or attic. Even flawed and broken items may catch the eye of a thrifty and resourceful shopper - one person’s trash…!
12. Seasonal supermarket
While modern grocery stores have an endless array of produce imported from sunny places around the world that dazzle and confuse (how do you even cook that?), when you shop at local farmers markets, you are governed by the laws of the seasons. When you educate yourself about and opt for locally grown options, you get the benefit of tastier, fresher produce that makes less of an impact on the environment and the humans who produce and harvest it. Planning your favourite dishes around the seasons with local fare keeps things more nourishing, economically beneficial, and reduces the burden of transport.
Get some spring-spiration with this recipe for spring rolls featuring spring-friendly produce ecoparent.ca/spring-rolls
13. There’s an app for that
Innovative companies including the FlashFood and Feedback apps have come up with ways to let hungry customers buy discounted food that would otherwise go to waste due to abundance or impending expiry date. This is another one of those tips that’s good for your wallet, in addition to the earth.
For more great ways to save food, money, and peace of mind, check out 5 Ways to Feed Your Kids and Prevent Food Waste.
14. Use it ‘til you lose it
Once it’s endured a few laundry loads tumbling around with its colourful kin, a plain white shirt can go from being your favourite workaday tee or button-up to a fun tie-dyed weekend shirt, and then eventually cut-up rags to wipe down surfaces. Once it’s reduced to only threads (literally), you can feel the sense of victory over how long you prevented waste from entering a landfill.
15. Thanks for sharing
Even in a global pandemic, there are ways to shout the cause from the rooftops. Join social media movements, speak your mind, and find ways to collaborate with like-minded people. Make an effort to invite and include those who otherwise might feel out of place in environmentally-active circles (like your teen!). Be open and honest about the obstacles you faced in the beginning and share advice you wish you knew when you started on your journey of going green.