Article by Gillian Deacon, with tips for creating a green back to school routine for your family.
As parents we face increasing pressure to build a seamless routine to balance school, career and extracurricular activities, and continue to keep up with the mounting pressure to do it all without a massive cost or impact on the environment. But getting organized and setting a positive example for the next generation is more accessible than most people think. In fact there are lots of easy and cost effective ways to “green your routine” as your family heads back to school next month.
Greener doesn’t have to cost you more time or money, so get your whole family involved in forming a lasting routine to lead you throughout the school year. Empower them to be a part of the change with these four easy steps and make sustainable living ‘the new normal’ in your home.
Litterless Lunch for Back to School
As a mom, when I recognized the impact of what I call the sinister Ps of food – prepared, packaged and processed – on our bodies and the environment, I knew that I had to make a change. Enter; the Litterless Lunch. Why choose the litterless lunch as you head back to school? Besides the waste saving and cost saving benefits I’ve already mentioned, according to Health Canada, avoiding pre-packaged, processed foods also reduces your child’s risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and kidney disease.
A short list of items to be avoided includes: paper napkins, plastic cutlery, juice boxes, paper lunch bags and individually packaged foods. In general, steer clear of any snacks served from a box off the shelf of your grocery store! Whenever possible, choose reusable packaging options like stainless steel or glass sandwich and beverage containers, silverware or cloth napkins instead of their disposable, one-time use counterparts.
“How to Clean” Efforts That Are Green
Swapping out plastic containers for stainless steel and glass alternatives is a huge step towards helping your family live a toxic-free life, but it doesn’t stop there. Have you ever stopped to think about the chemicals we use to get our containers sparkling clean?
Why use health-conscious stainless steel and glass containers when our food and bodies are coming into direct contact with whatever was used to clean them? We’re essentially canceling out all the good we’re trying to do. Luckily there are lots of green alternatives available in Canada like Seventh Generation’s Free Clear Natural Dish Soap and All Purpose Cleaner, and their 4X Laundry Detergent, all which provide a safe and effective alternative to conventional home products.
Choose a Fun, Fit Sustainable Route to School
Before children can start learning and engaging when they head back to school, they first need to get there. But getting to school has an enormous impact on our environment as well as our health. With an estimated 26 per cent of children in Canada considered overweight or obese, it’s a wonder more parents don’t look at making healthy transportation options a part of their daily lives.
If your children’s school is close enough to walk to, leave the car in the garage. Walking is the greenest way to travel and does the least damage to the environment. Find ways to either walk with your children or ensure they join forces with other families who travel the same path to school.
Eco-friendly carpools are another great way to get your children to and from school. Find a group of families to organize the largest number of children that can be safely transported in the smallest car. Find out which days work best (or worst) for the carpool drivers, and create a schedule that works for all.
As a part of my work with Seventh Generation, I am inspired by the message of caring today for seven generations of tomorrow. I believe we each have the opportunity to make our children environmental stewards by instilling our values in them today, and leading by example. In my family I like to say I did a ‘rebrand’ of responsibilities. This involved finding different ways (besides nagging) to engage each family member in household duties. I worked on cultivating their independence while helping them understand the value of contributing to the larger goal of our household: be kind and respectful to each other, our home and our environment. By empowering them to take ownership of their daily chore I re-worked the way we approach doing chores at our house. The outcome was a cleaner home, less work for mom and dad and an impressive level of self sufficiency from my children.
Before your kids head back to school, sit down as a family and create some family goals for the school year. This can relate to activities, schedules and even performance in school. Be sure to also suggest some sustainable family goals and actions based on what is important to you. For example, if your goal is driving less and walking more, the action is to map out a walking route, safety plan and schedule to make it to school and work.
Back to school is the ideal time to set a new standard of what you and your family can do to help care for seven generations of tomorrow.
For more great tips about how to Green Your Routine follow Seventh Generation at www.facebook.com/SeventhGeneration.
Award-winning broadcaster and bestselling author Gillian Deacon is one of Canada’s best-known environmental writers. She is the author of the national bestsellers There’s Lead in Your Lipstick: Toxins in Everyday Bodycare and How to Avoid Them (Penguin, 2011), and Green For Life (Penguin, 2008), a guide to making sustainable living ‘the new normal.’ Visit her online at www.gilldeacon.ca.