These 8 eco-friendly ideas can be easily adopted by any family:
1. Recycle, Starting Small
Recycling is a great habit to get our kids into, but it can be daunting at the start when you're used to just tossing everything in the dumpster. Until you're able to get an afternoon to reorganize your garage to accompany separate bins for tin, plastic, glass, paper, aluminum, and so on (when I started recycling, this definitely fell to the bottom of my already long to-do list) resolve to start small.
Decide that you're going to start with glass, for example, and put a box somewhere in your kitchen to collect all those empty baby food jars. When you've made glass recycling a part of your routine, then add another recycling project.
2. Adjust Your House Temperature
A lot of energy goes into air-conditioning and heating homes to just the right temperature. And this temperature is usually derived from a fossil fuel, or perhaps electricity produced from a fossil fuel. Not only can you save big bucks on your utility bills by setting a higher house temperature in the summer, and a cooler temperature in the winter, but you're using less fossil fuel.
Related: 6 Tips to Winterize Your Home When You're on a Budget
Now, I know we all like to be comfortable, and I'm definitely a little guilty of bumping up the thermostat on those cold, winter nights. But you can more easily acclimate yourself to a different temperature by what you wear.
In the summer, avoid making meals that require the oven and put your wet laundry out to dry on the line, to keep appliances from heating up your house. Open the windows on cool nights, and use fans to pull the cool air into the house, and then close the windows before the day heats up the next morning.
Run ceiling or other fans as needed for a burst of cool air after working outside. Drink cold drinks and eat cold foods.
In the winter, do the opposite. Make a lot more meals that require the oven. Dry your laundry in the dryer. Let the appliances heat the house. Put plastic film insulation on the windows, and weather stripping on doors to keep cold air out. Drink hot drinks and eat hot food. Use blankets to keep warm on the couch.
3. Shop Thrifty, and Be Happy with What You Have
Piecing together new outfits at your local thrift store or garage sale is all the rage, so take advantage of it. You can also find some neat items for your household, from unique coasters to an extra lamp for your child's room. While there are some redecorating projects or wardrobe redo's that really can't be done with hand-me-downs, you may be surprised at the style you can find at second-hand markets.
The second part of this is key. You must learn to be happy with what you have. It's much more environmentally friendly to keep using the items you have, rather than changing them out frequently. Items disposed of simply because someone wanted a change in how the living room looked, are filling up the landfills. If you're wanting a change, start by rearranging furniture or replacing just one design element.
Of course, we all have times when we have to get rid of things. If you have an option to ask around to friends or family to see if they want the clothes or items, do so. A couple friends of mine greatly reduce my kids' clothing budgets because their hand-me-downs are just as nice as what I could buy. After that, box up the items and head down to the thrift store.
Related: 5 Tips to Make Your Small House Seem Larger
4. Plan Your Meals and Shop Locally
Plan your meals for the week, and you'll be seeing big savings in your grocery budget. Plus, you'll encounter less food waste. Less food wasted, overall, means that farmers are using fewer fossil fuels to produce the food needed. It's a domino effect.
You can also skip the big-chain grocery store and go local. Seek out farmers markets, u-pick farms, CSA gardens, and food coops to support your local farmers.
Local produce is not only fresher, but has to travel a lot less to get to the market, which means less fossil fuel. It may be easier to first purchase your local foods and then plan your meals, as local markets tend to be seasonal and may not have everything on your grocery list.
5. Reuse Plastic Bags, Used Paper, and Other Seeming Trash
Find ways to reuse things that you'd normally just chuck in the trashcan. Get creative. For example, I reuse plastic grocery bags as trash bags. Used paper is put in a "scrap paper" bin for the kids to use for drawing and painting. I keep the plastic lunch meat containers to keep leftovers. To me, it's just free Tupperware.
Related: 6 Easy-to-Grow Veggies (That Baby Will Love) for Your Garden
Miscellaneous items, anything from plastic bottle lids and stray puzzle pieces to a random shoelace or used-up tape dispensers, are dropped in a bin that the kids can use for 3-D art projects. Random objects can make a great option for kids who've outgrown wooden blocks but have a definite STEM orientation.
6. Grow a Garden
Kids love growing plants. It's so satisfying for them to nurture a seed into a plant that produces something they can eat. It's also a great way to teach them the work that goes into producing their food. Plus, you can save money on your grocery bill, and save the fuel that it would take to go to the grocery store to get that veggie.
7. Take Care of Yourself
It's super eco-friendly to be proactive about your health! If you think about it, there's a lot of medical waste that goes on to treat diseases caused by unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, and generally not taking care of ourselves physically or emotionally. We can save a lot of money in health-related expenses by being proactive, and we can contribute to less waste in the medical field by one less family requiring as many car trips to the clinic and pharmacy, and prescription medications.
Related: Your Kids Will Love These 5 Nature Activities
Plus, walking or bike-riding to get to places saves on fossil fuels to run your vehicle. And when you're outside more, you're able to better appreciate the natural world.
8. Vacation in Nature
What a better way to take an environmentally friendly vacation than camping! Opt for a tent and as little electricity as possible. Not sure what to do? Try fishing, hiking, or simply relaxing away from the busyness of life. You can even do this home. Pitch a tent in the backyard - or even an old blanket tied between a couple trees or porch posts - and sleep under the stars for a weekend. Your kids will love it!