by Meredith Flory

While it can feel time consuming and it’s hard to see what impact you are making, many of you may feel the same responsibility I do towards attempting to positively change the environmental impact my family has.  As we work on our first garden, continue to assess our shopping and recycling habits and try our hand at sustainable practices, I’ve realized how involving my children increases their outdoor time and interest in the sciences.  The last two months, I’ve addressed issues of domestic literacy and how working with your children on household skills can increase their confidence and give them an avenue for practicing a myriad of skills.  As April brings spring weather, adding an environmentally friendly activity to your family’s plans can be a fantastic way to continue these lessons.

I spoke with Pam Mercer, who has transferred her professional experience and role as a mother into the blog Greenily and Tasha Alison, co-founder of Icebox Ministries, to ask how we might be mindful of the ways we teach our children about resources and sustainable practices. 

Mercer expresses how her journey to become more “green” easily extended to the rest of her family, “I guess because practicing eco-friendly habits is now a part of our lifestyle, it’s easy to involve my kids every day in lots of way,” she says. Her website, www.greenily.com, is a resource for families looking to implement lifestyle changes in the amount of waste they produce and provides resources for getting started with practices such as recycling and conserving water.

Alison’s organization focuses on teaching “individuals, families and communities to become more sustainable and productive by learning to grow food, cook food and to preserve food” and she has seen first hand how understanding the growing process can help families nutritionally and financially.  She shared one of her favorite stories of how, a precocious eight-year old girl, who had initially she didn’t like onions, changed her mind after unearthing a perfect purple onion from beneath the garden soil and tasting it.  Alison says, “She asked me, ‘Is this what a real onion tastes like?’” When Alison replied, “Yes,” the little girl found the taste to be better than store bought onions and, “her discovery filled her with joy” as she exclaimed that she did like onions. 

Celebrate Arbor Day and Earth Day this month by working towards a “greener” home:

Read about our impact on the Earth

April is a wonderful time to read books that encourage being kind to our environment.  Mercer recommends Where Does the Garbage Go? because she says, “It does a really great job of explaining the process of trash, recycling and landfills.” Also, 10 Things I Can Do to Help My World by Melanie Walsh is both made from recycled paper and an easy visual guide to ways small children can help take care of the Earth.  We’ve been reading Secrets of the Vegetable Garden by Carron Brown & Giordano Poloni to understand what goes in to planting our garden.  Check with your local librarian or child’s science teacher for suggestions on books dealing with plant life, ecosystems, energy and waste management.

Involve Children in Household Waste Management

Mercer suggests involving children in sorting waste, whether in helping sort refuse into separate bins for trash and recycling or having children determine what used items can be donated or reused in some other way.  Trips to donation centers or farmer’s markets can become educational opportunities to discuss why your family is making the decision to buy local or create less waste.  My children have been helping as we learn to compost and they love dumping compostable items in our bin and digging through to find worms in the good soil at the bottom.

Plant or Preserve Something to Eat

If something has been holding you back from growing plants, I understand: I killed a potted cactus in college once from overwatering it.  However, there are many ways to start small so that children get the benefits of learning to grow food without the commitment of a full garden.  Alison recommends a raised bed or containers to start gardening on a small scale. Families can also become involved with community garden projects to learn more.  For example Icebox Ministries teaches family friendly gardening classes in a greenhouse on Monday mornings.

Alison explained that while they work with families on all aspects of getting food from the garden to the table — such as planting, composting and cooking that preserving food is one of the most important.  If a family has grown or obtained more fresh vegetables than they can eat, the food may go to waste but learning how to preserve (canning, freezing or dehydrating) can provide nutritious, affordable food long after the initial harvest would be tossed.  Icebox Ministries also works with families that do not have the room to do so, providing “storage space so that the abundance of one season is available in the next.”

Getting involved with Environmental Efforts in Your Community

Look for story times or Earth Day events in the CSRA for a family outing this month. If you are ready to commit to bringing more change to your community, Mercer encourages parents to “talk with those in charge” such as an administrator or PTA member about ways your child’s school might become involved with recycling efforts, whether it be through teaching kids to sort their lunchroom trash or becoming involved with a mail-in program for items like crayons or juice bags that traditional recycling doesn’t accept.    

Some organizations, including Icebox Ministries offer classes, workshops or volunteer opportunities for community members to learn more about where our food comes from.  Your scouting troop, church group, homeschool co-op or other organization may be able to join together to work for a greener community.  Check out www.iceboxministries.org to see what events they have planned or fill out their online form to organize a group activity or find volunteer opportunities. 

This article appears in the April 2018 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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