If your children are aware of the distressing scientific predictions about the future of our planet, you're likely hearing things like:
"What's going to happen to the Earth?"
"The polar bears have nowhere to go. We have to do something."
"Are we going to be okay?"
Young people are anxious, and anxiety in youth seems to be growing. Who can blame them? We adults are anxious too! It's easy for all of us to start to feel paralyzed.
What to do?
Here's what I know: taking action, even small action, can help alleviate situational anxiety. When you're in a tough spot but you know you have agency, it helps! You can channel anxious energy into creating change or making a difference.
It's also helpful to become informed and to keep your sights on people who are making a difference. See our article "Teaching Conservation and Sustainability to Your Kids: Tips and Resources" for resources.
What action can you take?
I've made list of things we do within the families of the Sparkle Team — so I'm offering real life suggestions.
There are heaps of other lists and ideas out there. Do a search and explore the myriad ways families are making changes for the better.
I recommend that you pick one action and think of it as "changing a habit." Make it a family experience: talk about it, make decisions, and take action together.
Because we know the power of story, we created an original Sparkle Story about this very topic. It's called Libby & Dish: One Little Thing for One Big World.
HOW TO START:
- Have a family meeting and set the intention: "We want to change one family habit to help the planet."
- Together, choose one item to take up.
- Make an action plan for making the change. What will you need to do to prepare? What will the changes look like on a daily basis? What challenges might you meet and how will you stick with your commitment?
- Start! As you make the new change, talk about it as a family. Celebrate that you are doing something new and powerful in support of the Earth.
- Assess. Whether it's after a week or a month, check in about your new habit. Has it stuck? Does it need more support? Are you ready to start something new?
Our List of Small (and Big) Acts
Below are suggestions and photos from our Sparkle Team households. I've ordered the list from the easiest to most challenging. There's a suggestion for everyone, whether you're just starting down this path or you're already structuring your life for the least planetary impact.
I recommend that you start by picking one — this will keep your family from feeling overwhelmed. And once you've integrated that new habit into your life, start a second!
Note: there are product links in the action items below, but they are only informational. We are not affiliates for any of the products mentioned.
- Recycle. Extra challenge: If you go to a restaurant that doesn't recycle, take recylcable items home.
Use reusable water bottles.
Use reusable lunch containers
Use reusable grocery bags and produce/bulk bags. Store them in your car so you have them when you need them. Lisabeth uses these.
Buy dry staples such as beans and grains in bulk and choose paper storage bags that can be recycled or composted. Extra challenge: You can purchase 25 lb quantities that come in paper bags.
Use only natural cleaners. Purchase them or make them yourself. Perk: This is good for the planet AND the immediate health of your family.
Carpool whenever possible.
- Set the thermostat on the cool side in the winter and on the warm side in the summer to keep energy use to a minimum.
Line dry your clothes. Lisabeth and David have had this rotary clothesline for five years and they love it.
Eat less meat (particularly red meat), as meat production contributes to greenhouse gasses and conventional livestock practices utilize chemicals. One tactic: make meat a side dish instead of a feature. Try a veggie packed chili and add 1/2 to 1/4 of the usual meat.
- Join a CSA in your area. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. In the growing season, you'll receive fresh, local, and often organic vegetables on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. In addition, you're supporting your local economy as well as healthful agricultural practices.
- Compost your food scraps. Some cities, like Austin, have a composting program, which makes it easy. There are great instructions online. Lisabeth & David use this compost bucket and this compost bin. Alternative: Save non-meat scraps for local chickens.
Strategize your weekly grocery purchases to include things with the least packaging. For example: buy meat and poultry from the meat counter, particularly if it's wrapped in paper. Buy from the bulk section and bring bags or jars. Let your produce be bag-free.
Strategize and plan your week for the least amount of driving.
Stop buying plastic products whenever possible. For instance: choose glass or metal containers for food storage instead of ziplocs, or use beeswax wraps instead of saran.
Avoid plastics in self-care items. For instance, try bamboo toothbrushes!
Avoid all chemicals on your yard and garden. There are excellent alternatives to anything you need. Perk: This is good for the planet AND the immediate health of your family.
Use an electric plug-in lawnmower and weed-eater.
Buy used when you can: books, clothing, cars, you name it. Hand-me-downs are great!
Reuse everyday things whenever you can. Example: keep scrap office paper for drawing or notes.
Use cloth napkins and cloth cleaning rags instead of paper.
MORE CHALLENGING ACTIONS
Grow your own fruits and vegetables.
Collect rainwater for garden watering.
Work from home, to minimize driving.
Become a one-car family. Ann, Sparkle Editor, says: "We have been a one-car family for about 15 years. It’s not always easy, but we work it out with a combination of public transportation, services like Uber or Lyft, and generous friends who loan us their cars from time to time."
Drive an electric or hybrid vehicle.
Live in a small home.
In the bathroom, use family cloth wipes (like cloth diapers) for #1, instead of toilet paper.
I hope these suggestions have been helpful! If you're feeling stuck, start by listening to the new Libby & Dish story. It will get your whole family inspired.
header photo credit: @andreafwagner via Twenty20
About the Author
Lisabeth Sewell has worn many hats at Sparkle over the years, from Sparkle Kitchen Blogger to Editorial Director to Doer of All Odd Jobs. Her primary role is as CEO.