Convenience can be wasteful. Sure, it can be easier to use disposable dishes and flatware for kids. But think about the impact on the planet. Did you know that paper plates may be consuming more energy than styrene foam? If you really must take convenience over reusable items, foam will cause less toxic methane gas after disposed of and have less impact on energy consumption. But if you can afford it, compostable disposables, such as bamboo dinnerware and flatware, are the best disposable option. Many are compostable right from your own home.
What do you clean your home with? Chemicals can harm the earth and your child. Before doing the dishes, sanitizing the bathroom, or wiping down that baby high chair, think about what you are using. Did you know there are natural products that work just as well as (and sometimes better than) the chemical cleaners sold in stores? Instead of bleaching the toys your baby will put in his mouth, find a natural alternative. Sanitizing your bathroom is possible without using chemicals. You can also make many eco-friendly household cleaners yourself and for cheaper than the chemical options. Just like chemicals, there are safety precautions to follow with natural alternatives as well. But when used properly, the natural products will be safer for the kids and better for the planet.
Be careful how you launder. The chemicals used to wash your child's clothing may be toxic to the earth and even to your family. Did you know that fabric softeners may be hazardous to your child's health? You can also disinfect and "bleach" your child's clothing without using chlorine bleach. Everyday household products, such as vinegar and baking soda may be the answer to your laundering needs. They'll cut down on cost, as well as wasteful practices. We like to hang our clothes to dry in order to cut back on energy usage. Clothing racks can fit neatly in the laundering area or even inside the bathtub if your space is limited. For warmer days, hang the clothing outside via a rack or clothesline.
Are your kids recycling? Teach your kids to recycle as much waste as possible. This could be plastic bottles, milk cartons and jugs, egg cartons, cardboard boxes, aluminum, newspapers, broken toys, and more. Many papers, plastics, and metals can be taken to the recycling center or even picked up from your house. Call your local recycling center to find out what services are available in your area. Some sanitation companies and recycling centers will hand out recycling bins and pick them up on a routine schedule. You may even be able to collect some cash from recycling these items. I let my kids keep any money returned via recycling as one incentive to stay proactive about the process. It's also important that kids know what happens to items when items are wasted and not reused, as well as possible impact on their future.
Is your child's school lunch packed the green way? If your child takes a sack lunch to school frequently, think about all the waste it may be causing. Lunch sacks that are both biodegradable or compostable and reusable are a better option than the brown paper bag. They also save you from having to purchase new bags all the time. The same goes for the containers used to hold the food. If your child is likely to come home without his nice bag and reusable containers, opt for compostable disposables instead.
*I originally published a version of this via Yahoo Contributor Network