Photo courtesy Environmental Media Association
There are tons of different parenting philosophies out there. But in the end, there’s one common denominator that brings together the helicopter moms with the gluten-free bunch — we all want to raise our child in as healthy a way as possible.
For a lot of people, raising a healthy child means embracing a sustainable lifestyle. One of the greatest things about being green is there are different levels of commitment. You can be a bike-riding, homemade baby-food making, organic cotton-wearing, GMO-free parent or you can be the parent who simply brings their own bags to the market. Both are doing good for the planet while setting an example of sustainable living for their kids.
I head up the Parent Board for the Environmental Media Association. Our motto is that every little bit counts when it comes to being green. It’s really important not to get caught up on trying to be the perfect eco-friendly parent. Besides, unless you are living off the grid, raising your own chickens and stitching leaves into sundresses, it’s pretty much impossible.
The trick is to do as well as you can, at a level you feel most comfortable with. One of the best things about living green is that it is economically viable. Reusing, reducing and recycling means less trips to the store and more money in the bank. In my kitchen, we use cloth instead of paper so we never have to buy napkins or paper towels. We also don’t buy plastic water bottles and instead use a water filter system and carry around one of those cute stainless steel bottles.
Another easy way of being sustainable is buying vintage. Have you ever thought about all the parts that go into buying something new at a store? It takes a lot of energy to bring raw material together, not to mention the packaging that often times doesn’t get recycled.
A lot of my daughter’s toys are old-school, and she adores them. A vintage 1980s Barbie Dream House to a small child is going to be loved and appreciated just the same as a brand new one. Plus, the vintage choice is both cheaper and has less packaging.
We also do a lot of sharing in our house. We try and teach by example that nothing gets wasted — a core green value. When my daughter outgrows her clothes and toys, they get passed on to friends or donated. Soiled clothes or linens that can't be given away, get cut and crafted into pillows and blankets for fairies or other dolls.
Food is another big agenda item in the green parenting world. Ideally, we should all be shopping at farmers markets, slow cooking, supporting local growers and only eating organic. Trust me, I know it’s not always possible to eat like a character in a Laura Ingalls Wilder book.
Everything is okay in moderation. If you can’t afford to buy organic, try to buy real whole foods instead of processed junk food. Also, fruits with a thick skin (avocado, banana, pineapple, etc.) absorb less pesticides and if you’re on a budget, you can skip buying them organic. Don’t forget that frozen organic is just as healthy as fresh organic, but cheaper.
Also, if you have the space, grow your own food! Even if it's just herbs, it's a great way to give your kids hands on experience with food that they touch and nurture, grow and then eat.
There is obviously so much more we can talk about in green parenting land. But like I mentioned earlier, you don’t need to cover all the bases to raise your kid in an eco-friendly home. Just do what you can. And while green parenting isn’t the be-all-end-all in child rearing, it does let you feel better knowing the decisions you make for your family today will ultimately affect the lives of your future grandchildren.
Constance Zimmer is an actress and the chairperson of the Environmental Media Association Parent Board.
Do you want to be a guest columnist? Send your pitch to firstname.lastname@example.org with "I want to be a guest columnist" in the subject line. Plus, visit our guest column archive to find a variety of topics and opinions.