Simple Eco-Friendly Habits for the Busiest Family

Happy Earth Day! 

Since 1970 more than 190 countries across the globe have collectively honored April 22 as a day to celebrate environmental protection over our incredible planet earth. Likely you will plant something green with your child today or talk about recycling — which are both important lessons. 

But what about the other 364 days of the year? How are we being mindful in our day-to-day lives that this remarkable planet will outlive us? How are we caring for the world that our grandchildren and generations to come will marvel at one day?  

Here are five ways our family works to reduce our carbon footprint on a daily basis. I consider these pretty easy to manage for our current lifestyle — family of four, apartment living, with two young children. Most of these have become so habitual we don’t even have to think about them anymore.

1. Recycle plastic bags and wraps

By now you most likely know that plastic grocery bags cannot be recycled in curbside bins. But did you also know that plastic food storage bags need to be specially recycled as well? Many major retailers offer convenient plastic bag recycling at the front of their stores. Our family visits Target at least once a week, and it’s easy to discard our plastic bags and wraps each time we go. If you are unsure where plastic bag recycling is offered in your area, visit Plastic Film Recycling to enter your zip code and find the closest drop-off location to you. 

2. Swap plastic for sustainable products

What I love about this second tip is that by making this swap, you are actually protecting your family from many of the harmful toxins in plastics. Change out your plastic food storage containers for glass containers. Seek out non-toxic wooden toys versus plastic toys. Opt for stainless steel cookware in the kitchen instead of Teflon or nylon. These swaps are an investment up front, but the quality of the products will last you much longer and save you money in the long run. 

3. Eliminate single-use products

We are fortunate to live in a time when companies like Grove Collaborative and Thrive Market make many alternatives to single-use products. From reusable water bottles, grocery bags, and food storage bags, to cloth diapers and washable baby wipes, the sky is the limit on single-use products you can easily eliminate. At mealtime, prioritize real dishes over paper plates, and realize that cloth napkins can be for everyday use instead of for special occasions only. We do a load of laundry every day anyway, so throwing in a few cloth napkins doesn’t really add to the load that much. 

4. Thrift! Repurpose! Borrow!

There is so much excess in this world. Not everything you own has to be purchased brand new. Hit up local consignment stores, shop Facebook Marketplace, start trading hand-me-down clothes with friends, or join a local “Everything is Free” group. There is enough. 

5. Set eco-friendly goals

The expectation is not that your family become the greenest family on the block overnight. Instead, set goals and chip away at them as you are able to. In the future, when my husband and I are homeowners, we look forward to gardening, composting, and rainwater harvesting. For our next vehicle purchase, we are researching hybrid cars. In good weather, we want to remember to open windows instead of running our AC. 

It can initially be overwhelming trying to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. Fortunately, the earth’s healing does not depend on one of us perfecting an environmentally friendly household. Rather, it requires all of us to imperfectly do a little at a time. Like so many noble causes, if we will all work together, we can accomplish great things. 

Shannon is a native Texan who first visited Boston in 2012 with her now-husband, Ben. Shannon and Ben immediately fell in love with New England, and it was during that trip that they knew they eventually wanted to raise their family in the Northeast. Fast forward to 2018, and Ben accepted a job as a Photographer/Director at a Boston ad agency. They said goodbye to Texas and moved to Woburn with their pup and daughter (2016). Oh, and Shannon was 6 months pregnant with their son (2018). Shannon holds her License and Masters degree in Social Work, and in the past has been a Case Manager to the homeless population, as well as a School Social Worker. She currently stays home with her two littles, and teaches online ESL courses through VIPKid. Most weekends, you will find The Gibson family traveling and exploring all that New England has to offer. Yes, Please: kindness, coffee, dessert, the beach, phone calls to her mom, antique stores, Target runs. No, thank you: passive-aggressiveness, sweet tea, clutter, sleep deprivation, shoes my toddler can’t put on herself, squeaky playground swings.