I have always been environmentally conscious and concerned with what my impact was doing to the larger world. As a kid, I collected aluminum cans (my hometown did not, and still has limited, municipal recycling services) and together with my dad would take them to a recycling center. I recycled my own paper for my 8th grade science fair project and spent nearly a year in college researching methods of plastic recycling (interesting stuff!). And, once I had kids, my interest and concern became even greater.
With Earth Day coming up towards the end of the month – April 22nd to be exact – I thought I would share some tips and tricks for reducing your impact as a family.
Plastic Bags – There are few things on my dislike list – dishonest or fake people, scary movies, Marshmallow in Frozen (mainly because he freaks out my daughter), olives, and … plastic grocery bags. I positively detest plastic grocery bags. Enter the reusable shopping bag, of which I am a big fan. Some of my favorites are here and here – the ones that stuff inside themselves are super easy (and fun) to carry and there are so many cute totes available that a plastic bag just seems like a complete drag anyway.
I also have a love/hate relationship with the plastic grocery bag’s more durable cousin, the storage bag. I am known to wash and reuse them, but I also have on hand some reusable snack and zippered pouches, which have also become a go-to gift for friends with kids.
Junk Mail – If I thought that we received a lot of junk mail before kids, then I was wrong. The minute the universe figures out that you are pregnant, your mailbox suddenly becomes stuffed with ads, baby catalogs, coupons, and samples (okay, okay, I don’t mind the free samples). Years ago, I would contact companies one-by-one and ask to be removed from their mailing lists. Now things are a little simpler, much like the federal Do Not Call list, there is a Do Not Mail list, which allows you to opt out of mailings that use the Direct Marketing Association’s Mail Preference Service. I also use the PaperKarma app, in which you simply take a snapshot of the return address box of any unwanted mail and they do the legwork for you. Taking both of these steps has significantly reduced the number of credit card and New York Times subscription offers (you know what I’m talking about) that we receive.
Squeezee Pouches –
- Fact 1: I once was disillusioned to think that my kids would never eat food from a pouch.
- Fact 2: I once was also disillusioned that I would make my own food pouches, which has actually occurred almost never.
- Fact 3: Municipal recycling services may not accept the pouches, but there is an option for recycling them.
Through Terracycle, which is an international upcycling and recycling service in which many of the “brigades” are sponsored by the companies themselves, you can recycle squeezee pouches and a number of other products that are not normally accepted by your municipal recycling (just look for the Terracycle logo). Simply find a “brigade” or start your own, collect your waste, and when you are ready to send it in, print a postage-paid shipping label and mail it to Terracycle. You can even earn points for upcycled goods like shopping bags or money towards a non-profit (I have a brigade set up and collect pouches on behalf of my daughter’s pre-school).
What are some ways that you and your family reduce your impact?