Jen Short is an old friend and coworker. Her green commitment made her a great subject for this column! She agreed to an e-mail interview and gave me lots of ideas. Her family lives in Olathe, a suburb of Kansas City. Read on as the Short Family shares tips from their green lifestyle with Kansas City Green Parenting Examiner's readers.
The Short Family Stats:
Jennifer Short, 33, pre-school teacher/homemaker
Tommy Short, 34, Manager of Interactive Animation at Garmin International
We live in central Olathe.
What we do that's Green:
Recycle plastic, paper, cardboard, glass, plastic bags, Capri Sun pouches, aluminum foil, cds/dvds/vhs. We save our styrofoam and take it with us when we go to Ohio, because my aunt's grocery store takes it for recycling! We have a large garden in the backyard, which we only use organic pest-control products on and we just started composting. I use biodegradable soap and laundry detergent and newly discovered dryer balls (which sounds disgusting!). They are available at grocery stores and take the place of chemical dryer sheets or fabric softener. We take our own bags with us when shopping. I also like to check out the Salvation Army, Goodwill or Savers to buy previously-owned items before purchasing newly manufactured items. My kids, including my 8th grader, take their lunches in lunch boxes and washable plates or food storage containers. If I absolutely have to use a plastic bag for anything, I wash it out and reuse it until it gets holes in it! I buy as much organic produce as I can, and I like to shop at the farmer's market in the summer. I also try to buy local at the grocery store, to reduce shipping pollution as much as possible. We own Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV) and combine trips to save gas. In more temperate weather, I like to exercise and combine errands.For example, I walk to the library and post office and back home. Reusing everything is a big part of our life and we throw as little away as possible. Anything we need to get rid of that is still in useable condition gets donated.
We also use compact fluorescent lights, ceiling fans to circulate air so the heat/air can be turned down, and we wrapped an insulator around our water heater to help keep heat in.
My kids love to create things out of items they find around the house or get from other people. I love this, because it doesn't involve new materials and it stretches their creativity. Khayman is currently into wire sculpture, and he's using wire hangers a friend was going to throw away. Rory loves to take walks around the neighborhood and pick up trash and recycling. This kind of grosses me out, so it's forced me to reach outside my limits and do what's right! Our kids don't even have to be encouraged to be green. It's all second-nature to them and often they come up with ways to reuse things that we never would've imagined (popsicle sticks make a cute lampshade)!
The list seems like a long one, but it is by no means all we could be doing. We know that whatever we do is an important contribution to protecting our environment. We are proud that we often only have 1-2 small bags of garbage a week and have one large and two small recycling containers filled.
I think an important thing for people to do is not overwhelm themselves when trying to improve their environmental consciousness. If someone were to try to make several changes all at once, they would likely become frustrated and give up. I would highly recommend making 1-2 changes at a time and when that is comfortable and part of a regular routine, try adding something else in. We've been doing this for many years; this didn't all come about at once. Also, it's no good to beat yourself up about not doing enough. We tried cloth diapers for a while, but it just didn't work for us. I believe it's important to do what you can without making yourself and your family miserable!
Jen and Tommy model their environmentally-conservative nature, and that clearly affects their children's attitudes about recycling and reusing. They make several suggestions that any family can use, whether they are new to the Green Lifestyle, or old pros. Who knew Capri Sun packages are recyclable? Thanks, Jen!
The best part of this interview is a point that Jen makes about her kids naturally being mindful of the earth. The downstream effects of green parenting on children represent the most significant contribution adults can make to eco-conservation.
If you would like to be featured as a green parent, e-mail me.