Don’t be overwhelmed by recycling—little changes can go a long way
I care about the environment. Of course I do! I recycle. I take public transportation to work. And I buy organic.
But if I’m really honest, I must add these caveats: Although I do take public transportation to work, I first drive a ridiculously short distance to the school drop-off because time is short in the morning. Although I mostly use reusable containers for lunch, I do buy those individual yogurts and apple sauces because it’s so easy to add them as a snack.
Like most Solo Moms, I’m quite good at defending the practices that make my life a little less hectic. The problem is, this is the earth we’re leaving for our children. And when we consider that we’re also teaching by example, the earth is probably not an area we can neglect, even if it often seems there is no time to address it.
So how can a Solo Mom maintain a light footprint throughout her hectic days?
1. Consider your transportation on a day-to-day basis. Last year when I faced an expensive car repair and considered giving up my 10-year-old Toyota altogether, I suffered several weeks of missed connections and expensive Uber rides before I broke down and paid to get the car fixed. All this to say that I understand just how hard it can be for a Solo Mom to live without a car, even in a big city with plenty of public transportation. But I also know that habits can be hard to break, and once we commit to car ownership, we may fall into the rut of driving every day, even if we don’t need to. Committing to walking, bicycling, or even just carpooling a day or more a week can lighten your footprint a lot. So rather than taking an all-or-nothing approach, commit to driving a little less in a manner you’ll be able to stick to.
2. Watch your shopping cart. Has your plastic consumption gone up with the number of children in the household? Those individually packaged applesauces or yogurts certainly are easy to grab out of the refrigerator to complete a lunch, but are they really necessary? Given all the reusable containers that are on the market today, most of us could easily buy in bulk, invest the 30 seconds or so it might take to fill the container with a treat, and save a whole lot of packaging. And don’t overlook the small things, such as plastic spoons and forks. If you don’t want to send your children to school with real stainless-steel cutlery, you can buy durable plastic forks and spoons that are washable and reusable.
3. Consider living in a smaller home. Many may not consider downsizing, but larger homes take a lot more energy to heat and cool. So if you’ve come to the conclusion that your growing family has outgrown your existing space, think again. Do you really need that extra bedroom or playroom? Consider that, since 1973, the size of the average American home has increased 60%. We all need to have a roof over our heads, but we might not need all that extra space. You might even find your family benefits from more togetherness and lower rent or mortgage payments.
4. Recycle toys. Ever since the rainbow loom craze a few years ago left countless tiny plastic rubber bands around our house and no doubt around the earth, I’ve cringed at the waste in so many kids’ toys. I find that toys and the environment intersect at a curious place. Parents seem more likely than ever to talk to their kids about being kind to the earth, and we even moan about all the plastic that’s out there. But all that talk hasn’t stopped our kids from asking for more plastic when we visit the toy store. And judging from the most popular toys, it hasn’t entirely stopped parents from caving, either. So if your child is obsessed with the latest plastic toy, keep in mind the fleeting nature of these desires. If you must indulge, take the time to see if you can find a used one and then be sure to pass it on to another child after the obsession has faded. Better for a toy to be widely shared than dumped in a landfill. Additionally, you may be able to return your plastic toys to the manufacturer. At least one toy maker has introduced a toy recycling program in an effort to reuse plastic.
5. Limit electronics. At a time when email and the internet have become the basic tools of life and work, the reality is that few of us are in a position to eliminate all electronics. But it’s just as true most of us could easily curb our use. And it turns out there’s a good environmental reason for doing so. Although we don’t always connect our Facebook fix with our global footprint, the data centers that collectively power the internet are one of the largest sources of greenhouse-gas emissions. Many apps are free of charge, but they still pose a cost to the earth.
Notice a pattern here? From walking more to logging on a little less, all the tips I’ve offered are good not only for the environment but also for us. And when we think in terms of baby steps rather than sweeping changes to our lives, leaving a lighter footprint becomes completely feasible. The trick is to be mindful of your consumption at every turn, from the gas that powers your car to the fuel that powers your home. And know that even if you can’t part with your car, your kids’ toys, or your phone, small changes—from each of us—can make a big difference.
What do you do to show your love for Mother Earth?
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