In this economic and environmental climate, there are many reasons why we should reduce waste. But how? Sometimes changes like these can seem overwhelming, but here are three very easy ways that any parent can reduce the amount of household waste that children produce:
1. Teach your children about waste and serve small portions to reduce the amount of uneaten food you throw away.
You and your children can always go back for seconds once your plates are clear. But if you serve too much food, some ends up in the garbage. Over a period of time, imagine how much food is wasted!
2. Keep yourself and your family from wasting fruits and veggies. Buy fruits and veggies fresh and frequently (or better yet, grow your own!). Cut up fruits and veggies as soon as they get home from the grocery store or farmer’s market, and have them available to eat, possibly in pre-proportioned containers.
This can take some time and energy, but it’s worth it! When I think of the amount of food and money that was wasted when my daughter would eat strawberries whole and leave the half of the fruit next to the green to wilt in the fridge. . . then I am happy about the ten minutes I take to wash, cut, and store the strawberries now!
3. Recycle and Reuse!
Paper, cardboard, glass, and plastics don’t belong in the trash can at our house. We recycle them all. Set up a bin by your trash for recyclables. Make it a rule that cardboard boxes get broken down, glass jars get rinsed out, and plastic containers do, too. They all belong in the recycling bin now!
Not only will you be using fewer trash bags (cha-ching!), but if you live in an area where you have to pay extra for more than one garbage can, you’ll be very happy you started recycling! Make sure to call your city to find out what the rules for recyclables are in your area, and then get to it! After a few weeks, it will be engrained in your routine. (Extra tip: recyclables also make great craft materials! Castles, robots, trees, animals. . . the list of recyclable materials projects is endless!)
Reusing scrap paper instead of buying post-its helps reduce waste and saves money. Simply take your unwanted printed papers that are one-sided, cut them in fourths, and stack them by the phone or computer. Old newspapers can be used as a biodegradable weed barrier in your garden, or in craft projects (paper maché, anybody?). Old magazines make great cutting practice for preschoolers, and fun pasting crafts for older children. They’re even useful for school projects or art pieces. What other materials can you think of that can be re-purposed?
Taking these three simple suggestions into your home can make a huge difference in the world around us, and a pretty hefty difference in your pocketbook, too. And no more angry tirades about being wasteful! Your kids will learn from your example the ways to be resourceful and respectful of the earth and our consumerist footprint.