It only took a few trips to the grocery store for us to remember that we had reusable bags on the floorboards in the backseat of the car. We’d get a few steps inside the store, realize we forgot them, and run back out to grab them.
In short, it took a few days to break a lifelong habit. We kicked plastic grocery bags to the curb, just like that. And we shop for seven.
So if we can, anyone can.
We felt like we needed to, after reading headline after headline about the impacts of climate change and how trash is affecting Earth’s wildlife. It was impossible for us not to make changes, especially when we feel compelled to pick up the trash other’s leave behind while we’re out exploring and hiking.
Experts predict plastic will outweigh fish in the world’s oceans by the year 2050, which is terrifying. And, a dead whale was recently found in the Philippines with 80 pounds of plastic in its stomach.
So, beyond grocery bags, we’ve also kicked sandwich bags and produce bags to the curb. That might sound a little nutty, or maybe even impossible with kids, but it’s not. Was it an adjustment? Totally. But, did the kids catch on? Yep.
Not only did they catch on, but they began to take pride in doing the right thing and they started making thoughtful connections as the budding environmental stewards that they are.
As a family that runs kids to playdates, and different sports practices and packs lunches and sends them out with snacks, we can honestly say that building a little environmental responsibility into each day is not impossible or even painful. It’s just a matter of creating new habits.
Here are a few ways you can, too. Even if you have kids. And, they’re actually totally doable. We promise.
Ditch plastic grocery bags. This seems like a conversation that has been happening for a decade or so now, but for some reason plastic bags are still filling grocery carts. They don’t have to, and they really shouldn’t. Buy a half dozen bags, and keep them in the cars. Always. That way you have them. And retrain yourself. Just don’t use the plastic bags, even if you forget your bags. Run to the car, use the paper bags most grocers provide or carry what you buy. Before you know it, you’ll have a new, more responsible habit. And, while you’re at it, stop using the produce bags, too. We ordered washable, mesh produce bags off Amazon and love them. We just stuff them inside our grocery bags so we don’t forget them.
Turn to Tupperware. Goldfish crackers, pretzels, Takis, fruit and cookies all fit in small, reusable Tupperware containers just as well as they fit in disposable plastic sandwich bags. And, newsflash, kids can be trusted to bring the containers home. This, too, was an adjustment but not one that took too long to take hold. But, think of how many sandwich bags you throw away every day? Reusable containers will ease your conscience.
Grind your leftovers. Most cities have some type of compost program through their waste management departments, which makes getting a bin super easy. We started a compost recently as one of the first steps toward building an urban garden, and we’re a little obsessed with it. The kids already know they should no longer chuck banana peels and egg shells in the trash and instead toss them into our compost bucket, where we collect all our non-meat food waste and grind it up each day for our backyard bin. Not only are you cultivating valuable soil by composting, you’re keeping food waste out of landfills and putting it to use. You’ll be amazed at how quickly composting will lead to lighter loads in your trash bin.
Say no to straws. Besides sandwich bags, this might be one of the toughest habits to break, especially on the road. Drinks come with lids, so they need straws. And kids need lids, right? It’s easy to refuse straws at home, when kids can rest drinks on a table. But on the road, the lid is precious. That’s why we purchased a set of silicone straws for when we’re on the go. They come in different sizes to accommodate thicker drinks, and they come with little brushes for cleaning. We just keep the bag in the console in the car, so we’ve always got them. And if silicone is weird for you, try the steel ones. We recently saw a set for less than $3 at Wal-Mart.
Break up with Styrofoam and water bottles. I remember the first time I asked a convenience store worker if I could use a recyclable cup instead of the Styrofoam ones they assigned to the soda machine. He looked at me a little sideways, but ultimately said it was fine. Styrofoam just never goes away, even when it’s out of our sight. Just avoid it. And find a way to not buy single-use plastic water bottles. Give each kid a refillable one for a day out. It teaches them responsibility in more ways than one – for the bottle and for the planet.