This post contains affiliate links. Please read our disclosure here.There is so much information available today about how to make more eco-friendly choices! This is a really good thing, but it can be overwhelming to know where to start if you are just beginning a more eco-conscious path for your family. The key to success in making any type of change in your life is often to break it into smaller steps. If you try to go big all at once, it is a lot harder to stick with whatever changes you’re trying to make. So, don’t try to do everything on this list all at once. Instead, make one or two changes and then give them a little time to “stick” in your family’s routine before adding another. Even one small change is a step in the right direction!
The following 5 actions are all ones that I have been able to implement and sustain with my family of 7. If we can do it, you can, too!
5 Ways To Green Your Family
#1 Take reusable bags to the store
This is a great eco-conscious change to start with! You can buy reusable grocery bags at practically any checkout counter at any store. I’ve even acquired quite a few for free along the way as promotional giveaways. Chances are, you also have a few of these bags laying around.
The biggest hurdle many people seem to encounter is remembering to take them along to the store. Here are some tips to keep you from forgetting your bags.
- Keep the bags in your car (or with your wallet if you don’t drive).
- After putting groceries away, immediately return the emptied bags to your car/by your wallet.
- Fold the bag into a smaller square and wrap the handle straps around it to keep your bags neat and orderly.
- If you forget your bags, refuse plastic anyway and just keep your groceries loose. The inconvenience of this usually helps me remember the next time.
- Keep all your bags inside one so that they are easier to grab and carry into the store.
- If you have a little helper with you all the time like I do, make it their job to carry the reusable bags. If you forget, they are likely to remind you.
In addition to reusable grocery bags, don’t forget about your produce! Those plastic produce bags can really add up quickly, especially for big families who eat a lot of produce. Many fruits and veggies don’t really require a bag. If you’re buying a couple of lemons, a melon, or an onion, you can just keep them loose. For some things like a head of lettuce or peaches, I like to use these mesh produce bags. They wash easily by hand or in the washing machine and hold up great (I’ve had mine for several years and they are still in perfect condition!) Or you can even make your own. Keep your produce bags with your regular grocery bags so that you don’t forget them.
#2 Stop using single-use ziplock bags
It can be hard to think about eliminating the plastic until you have a viable alternative. At our house, our plastic ziplock alternatives include a variety of items.
We have reusable bags with velcro closure. These would not be difficult to make on your own, but you can buy them online. They are easy to rinse out and they work great. We also use glass and stainless steel containers instead of ziplocks when we need to store food like leftovers. Costco sells numerous sets of glass food storage containers with locking lids and they go on sale often. My new favorite is EcoLunchboxes stainless steel containers with silicone lids. I love these because they are lightweight and non-breakable, making them perfect for in lunchboxes or in my purse for restaurant leftovers. For a more frugal option, you can use mason jars. I also have a glass bowl set that I use a lot in combination with reusable silicone covers instead of plastic wrap.
I recommend collecting a variety of plastic ziplock alternatives and seeing what works best for your family. If you feel like you still need to have ziplocks available to use sometimes, move them out of the kitchen to a different room. This will make reaching for them a little less convenient and help you (and the rest of the family) remember to instead use the eco-friendly options you have.
#3 Swap out harmful cleaners for eco-friendly options
Many substances like bleach, ammonia, and phosphates not only pose a health risk to you and your family but are also harmful to the environment. Switching to natural, DIY cleaners, even if you only replace a couple cleaners to start with, is a big step in the right direction. DIY cleaners are very effective and are often less expensive than their more toxic counterparts. See this post for a look at the ingredients you’ll need to make your own DIY cleaning recipes.
#4 Stop buying single-use plastic water bottles
Plastic bottle recycling and trash are out of control. The recent movement to reduce these single-use plastics has led to some cities banning their use altogether. Unfortunately, much of the world continues to contribute to plastic waste.
The single best thing you can do is to stop buying plastic water bottles. Instead, invest in a good water bottle for each member of your family. If you use glass or stainless steel, your water will be safer to drink with no added chemicals leaching from your bottle. When you consider all the people in your family, this change will drastically cut down on your trash produced. AND with a good quality insulated bottle, your water stays icy cold for a long time! Some of my family’s favorites include Klean Kanteen, Yeti, and Hydroflask.
In addition to plastic water bottles, be mindful of other beverages packaged in plastic bottles. At our house full of young athletes, we go through a lot of electrolyte drinks like Gatorade. Did you know you can buy canisters of Gatorade powder and just mix your own with water? I usually find ours at Target and Walmart, or, like most things, you can buy it on Amazon here.
#5 Switch To Cloth Napkins
If you have a family of 5 and each person uses a napkin for each meal, it adds up to over 400 napkins a month! The real number is likely even higher since when they are available, we end up using them for other things as well, like cleaning up spills or picking up fallen food from the floor.
If you can stop buying paper napkins by replacing them with cloth ones, you will end up reducing your family’s waste significantly. You can either buy several sets of cloth napkins online or someplace like Target, or you can make your own. There is also a good selection on Etsy if you want the feel of handmade but do not know how to sew.
Green Your Family
As someone raising a family, you have a real opportunity to reduce your collective negative impact on the environment. By making these simple changes as a family, you will be teaching your children and leading by example all at once.