Simple Tips for Greener Living

“When we heal the earth, we heal ourselves.”—David Orr, environmental expert

Countless news stories encourage us to live greener and to reduce our carbon footprint, but how can busy families actually make a difference? The answer is yes! Create a green household and start living a greener lifestyle with these ideas.

Tips for all parents...

• Start small. Don’t get overwhelmed with making drastic changes. Remember: If everyone made only one small change to live greener, we’d make a lot of progress!

• Walk and bike more. Drive less. When you run errands, do them in clusters to save time and gas.

• Consider using more organic food. Visit a farmer’s market. Buy locally grown foods. Grow your own fruits and vegetables.

• Stop using incandescent bulbs. A new U.S. law will begin phasing out incandescent light bulbs over the next three years. Don’t wait for the phase in to begin. Get started now!

• Take an environmental quiz to help guide you in the “green” direction.

Learn everyday steps about how to help the environment with your family.

• Use car pools when taking kids to activities and practices. Many organizations will let you create a car-pool list if you ask. (Or you can just create your own by talking with other parents.)

• Visit helpful green websites such as the Zero-Waste Home blog (written by a woman with two young children) , Reuse It, My Plastic Free Life, Rowdy Kittens, and The Daily Green.

For parents with children ages birth to 5

• Consider an alternative to disposable diapers. Some parents use cloth and wash diapers. Others use biodegradable diapers, such as gDiapers.

• Watch movies that promote protecting our environment, such as Wall-E (rated G) and Earth (rated G).

• Take your child on a “home” tour. Explore your home and the things that you do to help the environment. (Show your child where you keep recyclables and where you place things to donate to charity.) Then take a walk outside (or at a zoo) to find the homes of insects, birds, animals, and other creatures. Talk about how homes need to be environmentally friendly so that everyone can keep healthy.

For parents with children ages 6–9

• Ask your kids for ideas on how to help the environment. Many are learning a lot at school and through the books they read.

• Create a toy exchange with other parents you know. Instead of buying all kinds of toys for your kids, have each family buy different toys. Then periodically swap them out. That way your kids will feel like they’re often getting new toys—without you having to buy them.

• Encourage your kids to rent video games rather than buying them. (When they stop using ones they own, what will you do with them all?) Learn more about different video game rentals at All Game Rentals at

For parents with children ages 10–15

• Encourage young teenagers to download tunes instead of buying CDs. (Or have them check out CDs from the library.) The same goes for DVDs. Rent them instead of buying them.

• Help your teenagers see how much packaged products they use. Many use a lot of packaged food (from vending machines or the store), and many buy items that have bulky packaging. Encouraging them to become aware of their shopping habits is the first step toward helping them make other choices.

• As young teenagers go through puberty, many of them start taking long showers, leaving the lights on, and doing other unfriendly environmental actions. Be patient with them, but keep encouraging them to do the right thing for the environment.

For parents with children ages 16–18

• Talk with older teenagers about their driving habits. Many like to sit in cars that idle for a long time. Some like to do fast starts and stops (which not only is dangerous but also hard on the environment).

• As older teenagers begin to explore what they’d like to do after high school, encourage them to research green options. For example, the Daily Green has a list of the 10 greenest colleges.

• Teenagers often fiddle with the thermostat. They think it’s easier to turn up the heat (when they’re cold) or turn up the air conditioner (when they’re warm) instead of wearing appropriate clothes for the season.