Using everyday items to save the environment

"I would like to see some exchange on ideas that parents are using with their kids, or for their kids, that are saving on the environment. We're all using cloth diapers, which is a start, but what else? For example, we quit using the pre-moistened paper wipes to save plastic and paper and not put unnecessary chemicals on her skin. Any other suggestions?"

"This is a good question. Can we recycle the cans that formula comes in? I also try to save on water and electricity by hand washing and air-drying my child's clothes. This cuts down on the amount of detergent required, too."

"Look around. There are lots of things that can be re-used. Empty kleenex boxes can hold small toys or cotton balls. Later when the child is older, get her involved in your recycling program. Our 4 year old knows where to put the bottles, cans, paper, etc. We also use our extra computer paper for drawing and coloring."

"We use many containers from food as storage for art supplies - or as art projects themselves. I try to think twice about what I'm throwing away. We recycle - It is our 3 year old's job to help bring the stuff to the curb. We are just basically being very mindful of wasting water, electricity, gas, etc. Our son knows the words: waste and recycle, very well! We also planted a tree for each of our boys to take care of."

"Shop at the co-op (if possible), and use re-usable packaging from home. Eat low on the food chain (Lappes' `Diet For A Small Planet' is a good starting point). Try saving money! This often means `Reduce, Re-use and Recycle'. Also, make do or do without (this often results in some creative solutions). Use libraries for books, toys, etc. instead of buying them. Make a statement as a consumer. This may mean spending more on organic produce and asking the retailer to carry environmentally friendly products."

"Put grocery bags back in your car, so you can re-use them on your next trip to the store. The general rule is; the lighter the product, the less pollution it causes when manufactured, so plastic may be better than paper bags. Avoid plastic with red or yellow dyes. The dyes contain toxic elements that enter the air if incinerated or leach out if in a landfill.

Replace a few light bulbs with screw-in fluorescent bulbs. They cut electricity consumption by 75% and las 10,000 hours.

Avoid hazardous cleaners. Vinegar, ammonia, baking soda and detergent are cheaper anyway. Keep tires properly inflated. It will give you up to 5% more miles per gallon. Tires last longer too. To cut down on driving, take the bus or car-pool and combine trips.

Install a low-flow shower head. Water use is cut by half. A daily 7 minute shower requires 5,000 fewer gallons per year.

Don't use throwaway products (diapers, cameras, razors, etc.).

Don't use aerosol sprays. They may not contain chlorofluorocarbons anymore, but spray propellants like propane and butane are polluters. Try pumps or roll-on's.

When shopping, think of products as `pre-garbage'. Buying the largest container usually saves money and reduces the number of cans and boxes thrown out. Beware of over-packaging, especially with small products like deodorant, make-up, CD's, etc.

Compost yard waste. Take your own mug to the office for coffee. Pack lunches in re-usable containers, not paper and plastic bags.

The bottom line is to re-use as much as possible, recycle what you can, and reduce consumption. Planting a tree wouldn't hurt either. Some books I would recommend are: `50 Simple Things You Can Do to Save the Earth' by the Earthworks Group; `The Green Lifestyle Handbook', by Jeremy Rifkin and Henry Holt; `The Green Consumer', by John Elkington, Julia Hailes and Joel Makower; `Shopping for a Better World', by the Council on Economic Priorities (Penguin); `Heloise: Hints for a Healthy Planet', by Heloise (Perigee).

I'm afraid that I'm much better at collecting information about saving the environment than I am about using it. But I'm trying."

"We recycle everything (newspapers, cans, glass and even plastics. There is no extra effort to recycle, you just throw everything in separate bags. We also pick these items up when we find them on the road when we are on a walk. We have also planted a tree every year since my husband and I got married and an additional one for each of our children the years they were born. We also try not to buy products that are in plastic containers (i.e. - laundry soap)."

"We buy all of our toys and clothes used, either from consignment shops or some times from rummage sales. That way the kids are used to `not quite new' items. We even do that for Christmas and birthday gifts for one another."

"If you use bottles, try to buy glass (it's much more recyclable than plastic). For later, think about alternatives to juice boxes."

"Our favorite for saving the environment (and our limited finances) is recycled children's clothes through hand-me-down's, garage sales and second hand stores. Next best is purchasing fruits and veggies then peeling them, cooking them, pureeing them and freezing them in glass jars."

"I am trying to break a lot of `little' bad habits, as they all add up to setting a bad example. For example: Keeping a pitcher of cold water in the fridge or grabbing a few ice cubes instead of running the tap for cold drinking water; Trying to take shorter showers; or using the plug in the sink instead of running the water until my task is competed. Last but not least, resisting all of the convenient individually wrapped servings that our food industries push. Not only are they expensive, they generate an outrageous amount of garbage. It is not that time consuming or difficult to pack snacks and lunches in re-useable containers."

"Little things do mean a lot! Here is a list of some of the smaller things that our family does that we know add up to saving the environment.

Combine as many errands in one outing as possible so that you drive less often.

Re-use grocery bags by bringing them back to the store! (Especially when only going to the corner store for milk or ice cream) Keep extra bags in your trunk.

Tell sales clerks that you don't need a bag when you really don't.

Re-use envelopes for notes and grocery lists - you can even store coupons inside so that you won't forget them!

Re-use every plastic bag imaginable - from bread bags to grocery bags, even if i's just to hold dirty diapers when you're away from the house!

Keep cold water in the refrigerator so that you won't need to let your faucet run until the water is cold for one glass of water.

If you use plastic sandwich and quart sized bags, but the strong ziplock plastic bags so that you can wash and re-use them.

Run the dishwasher and washing machine only when completely full. Also, open the dishwasher after the wash cycle and let the dishes air dry.

Turn off lights, stereo and T.V. when not using them.

Pay attention to what you buy! Single serving plastic packs of meals, snacks or beverages are very wasteful. Also, buying one large container versus many smaller containers of the same thing is less wasteful (this includes everything from applesauce to toothpaste).

The list is endless, but when saving the environment is a true concern, as it is for you, then you will become more and more conscientious about saving water, electricity and gas and also about buying things that are disposable and wasteful. I am anxious to see other people's ideas in print!"

"Use cloth hankies instead of kleenex. Use natural cleaning agents such as baking soda that don't use plastic containers or pressure propellants. Buy shampoo at the co-op where you can re-fill plastic bottles."

"Save all your recyclable's! Buy only things that don't sit in our landfills forever. My kids and I take a garbage bag along with us every time we go for a walk. Now it's automatic for them to pick up the trash they see in our ditches (my kids are 2 & 4 years old)."

"When we go for a walks, our 3 1/2 year old is always picking up cans and now we are going to start bringing a bag along to pick up other trash to clean up our neighborhood."

"A brick in the toilet tank will save water usage every time you flush."

"Strongly encourage (push) walking versus driving. With pre-teens in the house there are many requests for rides, sometimes only a few blocks! With the little one's, we walk almost everywhere even if that means going to the supermarket several times a week. We purchase what we can carry. I get the remainder (heavy stuff) in one trip with the car. Get out your cloth napkins, not the good lacy ones, but casual one's and use them several times before throwing them in the wash. We use Tupperwear/Rubbermaid in lunches. Get kids involved in recycling. When sorting aluminum, glass, etc., it also encourages language development. Purchase milk in returnable containers. Take re-usable containers when going to the convenience store for Slurpee's or coffee, etc."

"Recently we switched from breast milk to formula. We buy the powered form since it requires less packaging waste (in other words, a can of powder lasts a lot longer than a can of ready-made). Along the same lines, we look for manufacturers whose containers are totally recyclable (e.g. Similac). Silly as it may sound, we also walk or bike wherever we can with our little one. The purpose of this is two-fold: To minimize the use of our car and thus carbon-dioxide emissions, and teach our son by example the small things we all do can contribute to bettering our world."

"We buy organic foods as much as possible, not only is it healthier, tastier and safer for your child and yourself but it's much better for the environment (the pesticides used in commercial non-organic farming are harmful to the soil, water, wildlife and air). We also recycle paper, glass, cans batteries and re-use our paper bags and plastic bags. We buy rechargeable batteries, buy products that are packaged in recyclable containers. We have a compost bin going in our backyard. We try to consolidate our trips to the stores, etc., to limit the amount of gas we use. Finally, we do outdoor activities so our children learn to appreciate and respect our environment. They hopefully will take better care of it in the future than has our generation."

"Our 18 month old daughter isn't old enough to understand the idea behind recycling, but we still try to include her in our efforts. We save all of our tin cans, glass containers, newspapers, etc., for pick-up day. We keep them in separate containers in the garage and let her help. Once a month we take back pop cans and let her put that money in her piggy bank."

"A couple of things we've done with regard to transportation are fun. Bike outings for errands, or just to get out, are fun. The best thing we started was city bus outings. My husband started taking our daughter downtown when she was 18 months old as a getting to know each other event (and give mom some free time). She's now 9 years old and is always ready for a trip downtown on the bus. Now it has become a family event."

"During the week we throw recyclable items into one container, then when it's full we sort them. Our 3 1/2 year old daughter helps sort these items into their separate bags and at the same time is learning which items are recyclable. For our infant we are recycling formula tin cans, plastic lids, juice bottles (plastic and glass) and glass baby food jars. We use old containers to store small toys that can easily get lost."

"Our 3 year old picks up cans on our walks and says `We recycle this mom'. We avoid using: aerosol cans, throw away plastic containers and toxic chemicals. Co-op's are great places to fill clean containers with cooking oils, spices, biodegradable detergents, grains, etc. We hang laundry to dry, as much as possible, year round, instead of using the dryer. Maybe the kids don't understand all this now, but they're growing up recognizing that their parents want to protect the world we share."

"Two simple ideas that I would like to start is using handkerchiefs instead of boxed tissues and using cloth napkins at meal times. When I stayed with a family while visiting in France, each member of the family had his/her own personalized napkins. There was extras of course for any guests who visited and they were washed when necessary."

"I use re-usable containers for sandwiches and chips for my husband's lunch instead of bugs. (Fast food containers and pop containers are the most common.) We also garden organically."

"I make most of my own baby food thereby reducing the amount of glass and other packaging I use and have to recycle. It's very easy - I steam veggies and fruit ahead of time, grind it in a food mill and then freeze in ice cube trays until I'm ready to use! (See `Feed Me, I'm Yours', by Lansky for ideas.) I also try to buy used toys and clothes at re-sale stores and garage sales - this saves money and encourages re-using (not just throwing away). Another suggestion - if you must use disposable diapers (on vacation, etc.), dispose of any solid waste in the toilet. This prevents the waste from seeping into ground water."

"Make your own baby food. A book from the library can guide you. This cuts down on buying baby food which results in unnecessary packaging. Buy at consignment stores. That is a direct way to re-use what is already available. Provide your children with good role models - yourselves! If you recycle, your kids are more likely to follow suit. Also, choose breast feeding over formula. The money saved can be put to other family needs and there are no boxes or cans to throw out!"

"In the winter, hang fresh-washed clothes in the basement or other room on a portable line. It adds needed humidity to the air and cuts down on energy use to line dry instead of using the dryer."

"I have a suggestion for helping to save the environment. I sterilize my son's bottles once a day and instead of throwing out the water (which is still clean), I re-use it for my dishes. I just re-heat the water for a few minutes on the stove. When there are no dishes to be done, I re-heat the water for my son's bath."

"Yes, I have really changed our household to help the environment. Here are some of my ideas:

No more garbage and plastic bags - garbage is put directly into the tin can outside.

No more baby bath in plastic bottles - bar soap works just as well.

We no longer rake leaves or grass clippings - they are a good natural fertilizer.

We don't use weed killer - I pick weeds by hand.

We compost our kitchen waste to use as fertilizer in the garden (except meat and eggs which attract animals who dig up the ground.)

We recycle all newspapers, metals, cardboard and glass.

If there's a recyclable alternative to plastic I always buy it even if it's much more expensive.

We buy returnable milk jugs at the store. This also saves money.

I no longer use toxic chemicals to clean my house. I use only white vinegar as a disinfectant and baking soda to scrub. I was surprised how well these things work.

We use only biodegradable laundry soaps such as Arm and Hammer.

If I'm at a small store that only has plastic bags, I often decline the bags if I'm able to carry the stuff without them. Also the plastic bags I bring home we use as lunch bags instead of buying plastic sandwich bags.

I use waxed paper to freeze and cover things in the refrigerator (the process of making plastic wrap is very polluting).

I frequently write Congressmen and the President about environmental concerns. (Guess what, Congressmen always write me back.)

Most importantly, I'm always looking for more ways to be environmentally safe. I try to keep that thought in the back of my mind."

"I used to my husband with a bag lunch and I was using 3 little bugs every day. That was 15 bugs every week. But I've recently really gotten into Tupperware. Now I send my husband's lunch in a container that is washable. I also got little cups with covers to use to put Cheerios, etc., in. I also use cut up pieces of old towel instead of baby wipes. I also only use grocery bags (paper) in waste baskets. And I use only biodegradable laundry detergent and cleaning products."

"I have begun using re-usable menstrual pads made of old cloth diapers - bought by the pound. They can be cut and sewn (layered) into a very soft pad. Feels great, compared to the disposable brands (a little like how our baby's feel about cotton versus paper and plastic). Washing is no problem, just toss the soiled pads in a bucket of cold (salt optional) water to soak, then into the wash. A good way to recycle old diapers and a re-use resource! Also - all the school memo's and one-sided junk mail we keep in a bin for the babies to scribble on. A good re-use of paper. For the phone note pads, cut one-sided paper in quarters, stack into small pads and staple them together. Save money and feel good about re-using a resource!"

"Compost leaves, grass and garden wastes. Use no pesticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers on your lawn. Use laundry soap in a box, not a bottle, and use the carton refills of softener. Go back to using bar soap instead of liquid. Plan an organic garden for next year. Stop using juice-in-a-box. Mix your own from concentrate or squeeze it. Reconsider the use of chemicals in your home (air fresheners, disinfectants, bug spray, flea collars, oven cleaner, drain cleaner, perfumed soaps, detergents, lotions and fabric softeners. It's hard to say which beneficial product of today will be the `Alar' of tomorrow."

"It is difficult to not be wasteful with kids because they want to use up everything - mark and tear on every paper, play with their food whether or not it is eaten, turn lights on and off, etc. But I do hope to instill my resourceful values in my 21 month old some day. For the time being I love to hang out my laundry for at least 6 months of the year (my child can help me with that). I also buy baby toys and clothes used and give them away when I don't need them - garage sales are great for the environment! I work and shop at a local co-op that sells primarily in bulk and in recyclable containers. And don't forget the lowly compost pile. It's a very visible sign of how what otherwise might be trash can be given back to the land and help to improve it."

"I never buy any plastic toys. I do family day-care and get diaper service for all of the kids in my care. I let the kids help with recycling and I teach them all I can of the magic of nature. We don't eat beef and we don't eat sugar since I learned that 700,000 acres of Everglades is now planted with sugar cane. The older girls know why and they love the wildlife so much that they don't ask for sweets and even say no if it's offered. Our dentist is happy too!"

"For newborns and up, buy medium plastic pants. Sew the legs shut to the desired size of your baby's legs. As your baby grows, open them up. It saves money."

"Our 2 1/2 year old carries out the recyclable's from the bin in the kitchen to the garage. This is her favorite job. We are conservation minded and I hope she will learn by example."

"How about in the kitchen, how many times do we still buy the plastic bottles of ketchup or syrup. It's time to refuse to buy anything in plastic, most manufacturers are getting the idea and putting syrups and peanut butter, etc., in glass but there are still plenty of things over-packaged and we should refuse to buy them. We should also go to using bio-degradable products wherever possible and teach our children to conserve water (turn off the faucet when brushing teeth, etc.). Conservation starts at home and if our children are raised with it maybe there will be hope for our future."

"I bring my own cloth bag with me shopping and never bring home plastic bags! Also we recycle everything possible. We buy only rechargeable batteries. I turned our paper milk cartons into blocks for the kids (cut off top's and slide two together). I also plan to use cloth diapers on the infants and toddlers in my family day-care."

"The biggest favor you can do for your kids in recycling is to teach them to cook original food, not box meals and micro-wave packaged foods. Teach them creativity in cooking from scratch and it will las a lifetime. Hence, less pollution than with plastic and chemicals - and they will be healthier."

"I still use baby wipes because I like the convenience, but I buy the large Baby Fresh and cut them in half. I end up with 168 wipes instead of 84. Also, I keep the boxes. They make nice containers for crayons and nic-nacs."

"We use the round paper-wipe containers (when empty) in the bath tub to hold all the shampoo, etc., together. (Punch holes in the bottom to drain the water.) These can also act as great mini-gardens for young ones! They can plant their own flowers/veggies when mom & dad are planting theirs."

"When we go for walks, our 3 1/2 year old is always picking up cans and now we are going to start bringing a bag along to pick up other trash to clean up our neighborhood."

"How about creating a family ritual around environmental issues? Like `giving' a tree to the earth for Thanksgiving and maintain it. Plant a garden and maintain it organically and compost vegetable matter. Eat lower on the food chain. Adopt a cause!"

"I use bread wrappers for plastic wrap. I cut them towards the bottom for sandwiches then cut the tops to use like Saran Wrap and use the twister from the loaf to seal it."

"Buy organic whenever possible. This encourages growers not to spray. My 7 year old won't willingly eat foods sprayed with poisons, why should we?"

"Just teaching your child to be conscious about the situation is another step."

"It has been really fun to teach our 4 year oldabout the importance of recycling. One of her chores is to bring the compost bucket out to the pile. And before she throws almost anything away, she asks if it is `cyclable'!"

"We have been living by the 3 R's since our first child was born, she is now seven. We have cut our number of trash bags we throw away each week to one. I remember a time when we could throw out as many as 15 (that included grass clippings and leaves). Following is a list of ideas we have collected from our years of recycling, we thought maybe you would like to share some of them in you next issue.

Buy products with the least amount of packaging, preferably no packaging at all.

Take newspapers, cardboard, computer and office paper, plastics, tin and aluminum to a recycling center.

Instead of buying wrapping paper, use newspaper & paper bags decorated with stickers, sponge prints, etc. and save your bows and reuse them.

Re-use plastic bags (bread bags, etc.) for wet diapers when away from home.

When at fast food restaurants, ask for sandwiches to be wrapped in paper instead of foam.

Foam meal trays make great reusable holiday decorations. Cut out shapes and decorate and hang in windows or on the Christmas tree.

Use baking soda for cleaning instead of harsh cleaners, vinegar is also good for cleaning.

Encourage co-workers to recycle. I started to recycle at work and at first everyone thought I was nuts. Now they are pitching in too.

Fill a plastic jug with water and place in the toilet tank and it greatly reduces the amount of water wasted with each flush.

Re-use junk mail. Envelopes work great for sending kids lunch money to school in, attaching to diapers each week with the check enclosed and also for scrap paper.

Encourage children to use both sides of the paper when drawing or coloring.

Either buy sturdy canvas totes for shopping or re-use paper bags.

Encourage state and local officials to support mandatory recycling.

Instead of throwing old magazines out share with a friend or donate to a nursing home (the patients really enjoy having things to look at).

Re-use Christmas cards as gift tags, also many organizations will except used cards for crafts.

Discourage and do not participate in balloon launches (animals and fish easily mistake balloons for food and this can obviously harm them.

Cut apart plastic six pack rings (fish and birds get caught in them and strangle or starve).

Become involved in a local or national environmental organization.

Recycle motor oil.

Many items we throw away such as egg cartons, Legg's eggs, etc., are useful as crafts so check with your schools & local organizations - many will accept them.

When cleaned, roll-on deodorant containers make great glue and paint dispensers for pre-schoolers.

Support the companies that use recycled paper in their packaging and produce environmentally safe products by using their products.

Plastic margarine dishes can be re-used again and again to store leftovers.

Use lunch boxes instead of paper bags.

Encourage friends to use cloth diapers.

It's amazing how quickly recycling can become a way of life. Even the youngest children can be encouraged to help. Our 2 year old helps sort our recyclables."

"We recycle plastic, cardboard and glass (so far). I take my son to the recycling center with me."

"We recycle clothes. We buy second hand as much as possible and redistribute out-grown clothes. We try not to buy plastic toys (although some always seem to gain entry!). We find that the best toys are things like squares of multi-colored fabric, boxes of various sizes, and a `dress-up box' of unusual clothing."

"Don't buy baby food you can find in some other form. For example, buy canned fruit in light syrup and natural fruit juice, puree it and save lots of money as well as jars/covers."

"During nice weather, hang your clothes out to dry. It saves gas, electric and puts a fresh smell on the clothes which lasts much longer than using the dryer."

"Recycle all you can. I do use baby wipes, however I recycle the plastic container and any other plastic products, along with paper, aluminum and glass (baby food jars, etc.). Every little bit we can do as parents helps our children's future. Also, plant a tree and have your child help you nurture it as it grows. We have to help replace the trees they are destroying in the rain forests. My husband also re-used all our lawn clippings in a compost pile or you can also leave it in your yard to let it reseed itself. I also use detergents that are biodegradable and hair supplies made of natural ingredients."

"So many environment saving ideas need to be implemented by state and local authorities. Recycling should have been made mandatory years ago. True, clothe diapers help, but whatever happened to the milkman and glass milk bottles? Everything helps - and puts extra cash into your pocket. Turn in newspapers, aluminum cans and glass. Buy products that are not `over-packaged'. Feel good about the little things that you do to help."

"We compost yard wastes and garden organically. We don't use bug sprays (inside or out) for flies or repellents for mosquitos. We recycle glass, aluminum, paper and so on. No paper plates, plastic cups or paper napkins. Just look around in your cupboards as you baby proof and you will see what is not necessary."

"Our five year old is in charge of knowing what we can recycle and separating it. Go through your cabinets together and get rid of all the cleaners, etc., that have a bad effect on the environment and explain why. Turn the water off while brushing your teeth. If all Americans did this, just imagine all the water we could save."

"When we go away, we put our son's dirty diapers in a washable diaper bag instead of plastic bags. He also takes it to his sitter everyday."

"Use of trash cans as recycling bins. One for glass, one for aluminum and one for paper. some of the shopping malls have recycling bins on the first Saturday of every month. If we all contribute to these instead of the landfills, we are helping protect the environment."

"Save the water from boiling/sterilizing bottles to water the plants with. Try to wash full loads of laundry."

"Wash baby clothes (and all laundry) in natural soap. Stop using fabric softener. Don't buy baby food that's not in glass jars. Dress baby in 100% cotton instead of synthetics (plastics)."

"One Earth Day this year we decided to try and see how little garbage we could put out for the garbage collectors each week. We bought 3 large garbage cans - labeled them glass, tin and paper. Of course we have a small aluminum area for cans also. We take them to recycle centers when they are full. Also, we saw an article in the newspaper and we've seen them in magazines that show different home recipes for things like cleaning drains, cleaning windows, mopping floors, etc. With things like soda & vinegar solutions that save on buying the chemicals and the containers that are bad all around."

"We use cloth bags at the grocery store - and re-use plastic at the produce section. We re-use plastic baggies, they rinse out quite well. We have separate bins in the garage to collect plastic, glass, and aluminum. We use recycled paper products. We clean the house with biodegradable cleaners and do laundry with phosphate-free detergent. We turn off lights (also T.V. and VCR) as we leave the room. We only subscribe to newspapers on Saturday and Sunday and we save them for recycling. We keep our cars tuned up and tires inflated properly."

"Reuse paper and plastic. Instead of a new envelope for our monthly check to the diaper service, I put it in a return/reply envelope from junk mail. Use plastic bags that inevitably package food, clothing and other products to carry home a soiled diaper or two in your diaper bag.

We need to plant ground covers that are native to this area, instead of lush lawns that require chemicals and air polluting lawnmowers to maintain them. Do you treat and cut your lawn pretty much to be like your neighbors, as we do?

"We have chosen not to vaccinate both of our children (3 years and 5 months). My husband was nervous about the decision until I provided him with two excellent resources: THE IMMUNIZATION DECISION, by Randall Neustaeder, and VACCINATION & IMMUNIZATION: DANGERS, DELUSIONS AND ALTERNATIVES, by Lean Chaitaw. Immunizations should be viewed as only one aspect to health decisions to be made for your children, but because they're scheduled to begin as early as 8 weeks, the choice is a critical one. The majority of our health decisions involve alternative methods . . ."

( What advice would you most like to give about experiencing life with a new baby?"
Send your advice via E-mail to: Editor - BABY EXPERIENCE ADVICE )

Questions and Answers Index.