You don’t have to quit plastic cold turkey or set up your family for zero-waste all in one day. In fact, you’re more likely to fail—and give up—if you try to do too much at once. Instead, take it one step at a time. Pick one green change to nurture each month. When that first change has become a habit, add another. Try these baby steps to a greener family.
Green Step: BYOBags
380 billion: Plastic bags and wraps used each year, in the United States alone.
12 million: Barrels of oil required to create the plastic bags Americans consume yearly.
Reduce your family’s single-use plastic bag habit. Invest in sturdy canvas or fabric tote bags (if you don’t already have 25 hanging around the house) and put them in the car. You’ll be reducing not only plastic bags headed to the landfill, but also the oil and resources required to produce them in the first place.
Green Step: Say Bye-Bye to Single-Use Plastic Bottles
Let each family member pick out a reusable drink bottle or travel cup of their own. When you head out for errands, a day at the park, or family vacation, bring them along. Ask if the coffee shops or cafés your family visits have a discount for using your own cups.
Green Step: Refuse the Straw, Seriously!
500 million: Straws used every day in the United States alone, according to one estimate.
Now that you are in the habit of bringing your own travel cups and refillable bottles, you won’t need the straw…or the disposable cup.
Green Step: Switch to Cloth
Swap paper towels for microfiber cloths, washable towels, and rags for cleaning. Zero Market at Stanley Marketplace carries chenille cloths to fit floor sweepers that otherwise use piles of disposable dry and wet cloths.
Green Step: Be a Locavore
Find local farmers’ markets and you-pick farms to frequent for fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the growing season. This will reduce the carbon footprint of your produce and introduce kids to the source of their food.
Green Step: Walk or Bike
Leave the car in the driveway. Instead, bike to a nearby errand, take the light rail for your next date night downtown, or start a walking school bus by inviting neighborhood families to walk to and from school together.
Green Step: Give Your Dryer a Vacation
As the weather warms, save energy and wear and tear on your clothing by hanging a couple loads of laundry in the sun to dry. Don’t have a clothesline? Head to a big box, hardware, or home store for a collapsible clothes rack or two.
Green Step: Opt for E
From receipts to credit card statements to tickets, select the “e” option and have them emailed to reduce unnecessary paper waste.
Green Step: Turn Off the Lights
It’s simple, but, oh, so hard to remember: Turn off lights and electronics when they’re not in use to conserve energy.
Green Step: Review Your Recyclables
On average, Denverites recycle only 63 percent of the recyclable waste generated by their household each year.
Download the Denver Recycles or Eco-Cycle Recycling Guide App to learn more about appropriate recycling. There are places to responsibly recycle everything from mattresses to electronics, so they don’t end up in the landfill.
Green Step: Make Mondays Meatless
Meat production accounts for an estimated 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.
Pledging to go meat-free for just one day a week is nothing new. A similar campaign started during World War I to aid with food shortages; during World War II it became Meatless Mondays. Institute your own Meatless Mondays and experiment with pasta, quinoa, veggie, and bean dishes.
Green Step: Kids’ Choice
Find an environmental issue that your child cares about, whether it’s clean water or composting, and takes steps to support their passion.