For the past year, our family has worked to reduce our reliance on single-use plastic. But how do you stay green in the middle of a pandemic when Starbucks can’t use personal cups, your curbside groceries are all bagged in plastic, and take out comes in styrofoam containers? It’s not easy. We’ve limited our take-out to once or twice a week so we can still support local restaurants without racking up too much waste. Instead of stressing about the inevitable plastic coming in to the house, we’ve shifted our focus to other ways we can be greener. Here are some things we’re doing:
1. Planting all the green things. We’ve just finished having some work done on our house so our yard was a total mess. Several local nurseries are delivering plants and we made use of that service to plant three small trees, blueberry and camellia bushes, flowers, and an herb garden. We also had tons of seeds we’d bought over the years and never planted. So, we planted them. Don’t know if anything will grow but it’s been a fun thing to check on every day. Planting helps our earth in tons of different ways: providing food sources for pollinators (and maybe our family if that watermelon ever grows…), giving shade during those Alabama summers, sucking in harmful carbon dioxide, producing oxygen, etc. etc. etc. Not to mention, plants just make your space more beautiful.
2. Using what we have. Right now, it’s not safe to spend two hours browsing around Target. Our grocery trips need to be quick and purposeful, and we should go as infrequently as we can. Making use of the shelf-stable food we already have is helping reduce how often one of us has to go in public, and is making for some interesting new recipes. Work with your kids to help create new twists on old favorites using whatever you already have in the fridge. Pretend it’s some new YouTube Challenge and they’ll be all over it.
3. Join a CSA or order directly from your closest farmer’s market. Fresh fruits and veggies aren’t out of reach even if we’re limiting grocery trips. There are a number of local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs that will deliver fresh produce weekly to an easy-to-access spot in your neighborhood. Here’s a great list of CSAs in the Birmingham area. Also, check out Pepper Place Farmer’s Market for online ordering of exactly what you need and easy curbside pick-up.
4. Upcycle. Your kids need stuff to do besides jump on your couch and throw Fritos at each other (sorry – personal story). Set aside a basket or bin for random materials you don’t need that might be fun to make something with – paper towel and toilet paper rolls, fabric, yarn, empty spools of thread, shoeboxes, Pringle’s containers, shoelaces, etc. When e-learning is done, give them the box and some glue, and see what they come up with. A marble run? A drum set? A box robot? They don’t need fancy kits or expensive craft materials to have fun and be creative.
5. Be nature-aware. When kids grow up spending time in nature, they are much more likely to become adults who care and advocate for it. Spend time outside, especially while we still have this amazing spring weather. Point out to your kids the different sounds you hear from your yard, search for earthworms in the garden, and try to catch a sunset. If you can do so while maintaining safe distance, go for neighborhood walks and local hikes with your kids. Point out evidence of animals (tracks, webs, poop). Consider making a list of natural things to find ahead of time and marking them off as you go.
Without question, there are a lot of uncertainties and anxieties during this quarantine period. But, we are also being given an opportunity to think about our lives before and how we may want to make changes for our life after. The reduced traffic and production has led to some really positive impacts on air pollution in our cities – maybe you’ve noticed that the air feels cleaner, the sky looks clearer, and the bird sounds are more plentiful. Consider how your family can be part of carrying these positives forward once we have the ability to go and do once again.