Like all other holidays, Earth Day comes and goes. We all get a few emails about buying sustainable clothing and earth-friendly cleaning products or joining a march or parade for the planet. The depictions of people living fully sustainable lifestyles are always fun to see, and these inspiring images make me want to head out into the woods and live among the trees. But then, another email comes along that needs my attention, and it is all too easy to put the head-out-into-the-woods-for-the-planet idea on the back burner.
During this time, I think about how I can live more sustainably, how I can teach better ways of being ecologically responsible to my students, or how I can participate in green living. Earth Day reminds me that it does take a little more effort, but the impact and the benefits can be great. In the book No Impact Man, Colin Beavan, who lives in Manhattan, writes about his decision
to completely zero out his carbon emissions. His apartment goes dark. He uses the stairs, rides his bike, stops traveling by car, plane, and automobile. He stops eating anything that comes in single-use convenient packages and even wraps his child in reusable diapers. It is a great book, and it shows how much work goes into going full green. But Beavan’s dive into “no impact” does not have to be your example.
For Earth Day: Just One Thing
This Earth Day, think of just one thing—just one thing—that you can do with your children to lessen your impact or change the way you act on this planet. Commit to that one thing for as long as you are able. It may sound cliché, it may take a little research, it may not be enough to stop the seas from rising, but it can be a jumping off point.
Below, I give you a few examples of week-long challenges you and your children can do to lessen your ecological footprint. Maybe, they’ll turn into two-week challenges. Perhaps, they’ll continue on for a month. If you do continue for 30 days, you may just be able to create a new and lasting habit. No matter how much you do, you will be practicing good routines and changing the way you think about your everyday use of resources.
The Water Challenge
Make water the focus of your attention for a week. Here is a helpful tracker that you can use to calculate the amount of water you use throughout the day. Try limiting the water you use in the shower, in the bathroom, and in the washing machine. Here is another great resource that gives you 45 ways to conserve water.
The Energy Challenge
Turn off the TV and devices and play a board game! If you can persuade the other members of your household to cut out the lights and turn off all power in your home for a week, I’d like to talk with you. But if you’re not so persuasive, how about just an hour each night for a week? Maybe, it’s the last hour of the day before you go to bed. Maybe, you cut it all out during dinner and light a few candles. I like this challenge because it’s a gateway challenge. It almost always leads to more energy savings!
Advanced Energy Challenge
The D.C. Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) has a great resource for a DIY home audit. This could be a great STEM oriented project for your children and family. Take a look at the resources provided by the DOEE and see if any make sense for you.
The Food Challenge
Another author who put herself through a major environmental challenge is Barbara Kingsolver. She wrote a book about it called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. In her account of living within a certain geographical radius of her food, she takes the reader on a journey of living simply and working hard to change what one eats from a worldly, far-traveling, and high-carbon-use diet to one that is based on foods that can be obtained within walking distance.
One way to take on this challenge could be to sign up for a CSA. Our friends at 4P Foods deliver local meat, dairy and produce right to our school, so it is easy for our community. The best part about our CSA is that you get to select the foods you want and do not want. Simply create an online account and add a subscription. Get your orders in by Tuesday of each week, and fresh, local, organic produce is delivered at the end of the week! It’s like shopping at a farmer’s market online. Find a CSA near you, and give it a shot for one week. Get your bag and try to make as many smart, healthy, and sustainable meals for the week as you can.
Here are more ways to start your food journey—read a sustainable foods book, shop at a farmers market, or go to an organic grocery rather than the most convenient stop on the way home. It can be hard to change your routine, so be proud of yourself for doing it and know that it’s a great way to take on a challenge for Earth Day.
Create Your Own Challenge!
There are so many ways to live more responsibly on our planet and in our geographical location. The possibilities are endless. Make your own plan for going green with your family; you won’t regret it. Just remember, you don’t have to go all out. Start simply and slowly, and you’ll see something amazing happen.