A tongue in cheek title. I don’t actually want anyone to beat anyone or be beaten. There’s my honest disclaimer!! But in our house, we recognize the mindful departure from the conventional ways and have a sense of humor about it! We joke how our push toward the more sustainable would eventually get our kids teased and embarrassed. It was one of the main reasons why we purchased a mini van. Our kids LOVE our mini van now, but they, like both my husband and I, will grow to know better and that it isn’t a hip car and want to be dropped off a block before school.
Here is a list of ways I’ve adopted to raise my family with a lighter footprint and embarrass them shamelessly.
Knit them their own custom pair of wool pants (or hats or sweaters)
Sir Ranulph Fiennes, extreme global explorer stated,
“There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”
He should know, he’s been to both poles of the Earth.
In an attempt to instill the love of the outdoors in my daughter, I began knitting a pair of woolies that I admittedly did not bind off until I had already created a second child and exhausted my vocabulary of profanity in both English and Spanish.
Wool, being a natural fiber, sustainable, renewable, and the byproduct of cute little sheep raised by farmers and ranchers both backyard and worldwide, possesses the unique property of keeping you warm, even when wet. A knitting group compadre suggested
I make the legs a bit long, as I could always roll them up, which I did, and with the stretchiness of the yarn I selected, have been very forgiving to accommodate my children as they have grown and otherwise stretched the seams of their baby clothes every three months. Admittedly, wool tends
to be a bit itchy, but these knickers pull right over their existing pants for a layered onion effect and off we go camping, splashing in puddles, sledding down mountains or to sleep in a snow-covered cabin sans electricity.
I hope by promoting the love of the outdoors will evolve into the love of our planet and thus a more mindful generation. Dress them for success!
Handwrite “lunchable” on their bento box (pack their lunches zero-waste)
As a kid, I recall loving those plastic formed containers with the plastic peel back lid. Now, you can even buy a pack of them, further bound together by a band of plastic. Sigh. But don’t despair! No need to skip the joy of perfectly portioned and partitioned food with a reusable bento-style box! Swap the traditionally highly processed foods (filled with rainforest-land produced palm oil) for healthier and more frugal whole fruits, veggies, seeds, meats, cheeses, and dinner leftovers.
Garnish with a delightful cloth napkin and stainless silverware from the kitchen drawer and there is nothing to send to the landfill. I take it a step further by putting the bento in a hand woven grass basket… its multi purpose and we use the baskets for other activities on non-school days.
Bring roasted mushrooms to the school potluck (and bring your own silverware while you are at it)
Something tasty from your local farmer’s market is sure to delight adults, but what about those picky kids? We eat seasonal, local produce year round grown by hard working nearby farmers in our community. That means not all of their favorite foods are in season all of the time! I have waged my very fair share of food wars with my kids but that hasn’t stopped me from encouraging them to have an open mind and an open palate when it comes to food. A watermelon in January where I live just isn’t possible, so it likely hopped on a fuel-guzzling ship from Chile. I’ve noticed that when I feed them seasonally, they get really excited about a certain food, and by the end of the season, they get so sick of it they turn it away. But by the time the season comes back round again, they are giddy. In other words, it all works out.
Now, if I am going somewhere that you have a good hunch will serve food with plastic utensils and paper napkins, I now try to bring my own. We recently attended an event at our local community center: Pancake breakfast with Santa. We wrapped our silverware in cloth napkins, and no one said boo about it. It was easy, hurt no one, and produced less waste. Santa still delivered presents on Christmas, ate our cookies, and wiped his beard on a cloth napkin. As the silverware was wrapped, though, we had a good laugh that in a few years, this practice would undoubtedly mortify our kids. Next, we will have a boy and name him Sue.
Teach them, “if it’s yellow, let it mellow; if its brown flush it down”
After several downpours, the drought was recently declared abated in our northern California. Let me tell you what, it was PAINFUL to potty train my kid during a drought. All of those times the potty was flushed with nary a drop of urine or with only a square of toilet paper caused me to grind my teeth smooth with anxiety at the resulting levels of our local reservoir. Then the hand washing that follows… water running constantly, with seemingly little actual washing of those sticky little digits. Or when they sneak off to the bathroom for some sink play. Gah!
Its all innocent and precious, but this mama worries about how undoubtedly the drought will be back, and clean, potable drinking water is a luxury, and that I need to be doing more to teach them the importance of conserving water. We need it to grow food! It comes from the ground, damned valleys, and runoff, all of which have a cost and impact on our environment and the habitats of all species. Its not much in the grand scheme of things, but using a little more elbow grease to clean my toilet bowl makes me feel better and serves as an easy lead in for an age-appropriate discussion about water conservation.
Also, tell them it will kill Baby Beluga.
Teach them how to refuse
I love this diagram from Bea Johnson’s book, Zero Waste Home.
Lily gave me this book, and while I find it to be a bit extreme in areas, “Refusing” gave me much cause for reflection, and quite frankly, caused much relief for this mama frustrated with a house filled with STUFF. Johnson states,
“We might be able to recycle [the handouts and marketing materials that creep into our lives], but Zero Waste is not about recycling more; it’s about acting on needless waste and stopping it from coming into our homes in the first place” (16).
This practice is new to me and I’m still figuring it out. But imagine not having a bunch of cute themed but plastic single use tchotchkes after every child’s birthday party? Not having as much STUFF to sort through and pitch or donate weeks or months after an event with free swag that you do not need but seemingly cannot help but take? Less STUFF to accommodate in your home, find a place for, step on, and pick up.
In a recent trip to the grocery store with the kids, I was full-force refusing plastic. I shopped with my glass jars, reusable bags, even had the butcher pack chicken in Pyrex (He was SO THRILLED). As I steered my little love bugs to the cheese area, my heart sank. “Mommy, can I have a cheese stick?” Big doe eyes filled with excitement. So innocent. Gulp. “No sweetie, its wrapped in plastic.” Followed by a less than adorable but totally understandable, “Whyyyyy?”
Luckily, the cheese lady asked permission before offering a sample, to which I am so grateful. I swallowed my pride and decided to flex my ‘refuse’ powers and echoed what I had rehearsed and plagiarized from a conversation with Lily, “No thank you. We gave up our garbage can for the new year.” My mommy guilt was at cosmic red high levels. I was the soon to be crowned queen of bad-mommy hell.
But something amazing happened. That cheesy goddess replied, “Oh great! Can I cut them a sample instead?” I wanted to hug her. Not all of my opportunities to refuse have gone this well, but with practice, its gotten easier. Not easy. Easier. Not perfect. Progress.
Bea Johnson comforts me with her justification of this practice:
“you might find that refusing is the most difficult to achieve socially, especially for household with children. Nobody wants to go against the grain or be rude when something is offered with no ill will…. Refusing is not aimed at making us feel inadequate in social situations; it is intended to cause us to reflect on our everyday decisions, the indirect consumption in which we partake, and the power that we hold as a collective community,” (18).
This reflection should comfort your wee one as they brace for the inevitable wedgy.
Thank you for reading.