“We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” – Native American Proverb
Growing up in a small town in New Hampshire meant growing up in the woods. I spent my summer breaks camping with my parents and my brother along babbling brooks and crystal clear lakes. School weeks in the winter were bookended by weekends skiing Mount Sunapee and thawing out over cocoa in the lodge. I assumed everyone grew up playing hide and seek behind moss covered rocks or collecting fiddleheads and ferns. I left New Hampshire to attend college in Massachusetts and slowly made my way to Providence. As my footprint wandered south, my exposure to adventures in the woods dwindled to the size of my tiny yard. After giving birth to my two children and feeling that longing for them to have a childhood similar to my own, I am eager to get back in touch with nature.
Raising children in a city presents its fair share of challenges as it pertains to creating environmentally conscious children. Teaching our kids the importance of caring for the land and that every action has a consequence can feel like a daunting task, especially when many of us struggle to ‘practice what we preach.’
My objective is to help you, the introspective reader, find bite-sized nuggets of attainable change that can be implemented in your home fairly quickly and easily. We can create consumers of sustainability instead of consumers of destruction. I understand we are doing the best we can to get by during these challenging times. We have been faced with raising children in a time of dramatic uncertainty within the health, environmental, political and racial landscapes. To add the additional burden of reversing years of damage can seem impossible.
With that said, it is our responsibility as parents to put nature back on the front burner. We need to make caring for the land a priority again. We hear all the time that the world is changing and dying and it feels as though it is almost too heavy a burden to carry so, “why try?” But we need to. We need to try. We need to teach our children that if they care for the Earth, the Earth can and will care for us. If we treat our daily tasks as thoughtful moments of giving back to Mother Earth we can help to slow the rate of drastic and debilitating environmental change we see before us.
Here are three quick, moderately easy ways to bring conscious consumption into your home:
Waste not, want not: Americans waste roughly 40% of their food. Forty Percent! Almost half of the food we purchase ends up in trash bags which then take up space in landfills. We all have the rogue apple or two that end up going bad in the back of the fridge or carrot peels that overflow in the trash. Enter composting. Introducing compost to your home will teach children that there is an inexpensive way to collect those unwanted food scraps and give them the opportunity to nourish us once again, by becoming soil. There are several composting companies in New England that will pick up you food scraps weekly or biweekly. The soil, once ready, is available to consumers to use in their own gardens! We use Harvest Cycle but other great companies are Bootstrap Compost, and Rhodeside Revival.
Take a Hike: New England has an overwhelming number of trails at any difficulty level available to the public but It can be very daunting to decide where to take your family for a hike. Is it dog friendly? Will my toddler be able to walk in his favorite sandals holding his Paw Patrol figurine? Is there a picnic table we can fight at for a half hour over who gets the last granola bar? Thankfully apps like All Trails exist to help find the right trail for you and your family. The app provides users with reviewed and mapped out trails located near by. Another resource that my family recently purchased is the book, The Rhode Island Family Hiking Guide and Journal by local author Jeanine Silversmith. The book is filled with accessible trails and activities to do with your family within Rhode Island and contains a journal for kids to track what they saw, smelled, and experienced while out exploring. A must read.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: We all know we need to recycle and attempt to reuse items so I will not go on a tangent about tasks we all ready feel guilty for not doing to the best of our ability. I will say this though, there are so many websites and local resources to find gently used products that can work for your family. Friends of mine swear by Facebook Marketplace to pick up baby items no longer needed by original owners. I love LUCA Boutique, a consignment shop in Warren, RI. LUCA sells beautiful lightly worn (sometimes new with tags!) clothing and children’s books, high chairs, cribs, etc. Be mindful that once you are ready to rid your child’s closet of their outgrown clothing where you can send your own items. Reusing glass jars to store art materials, buying used books instead of new, and toy swapping with friends who have kids a similar age are all examples of how to be more mindful around consumption. Be part of the recycle community and make it a family activity.
We all know that it is important to be mindful of our environment and how we consume goods in today’s climate. Making small changes in your home teaches your children that they play a vital role in the success or detriment of our Earth. Nourishing your child’s approach to how and what they consume can and will create a thoughtful citizen of our planet.
In my opinion, there is no greater legacy we could leave behind.