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Treat the earth well,

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

– Native American proverb

This was shared at our 4H meeting this weekend, and it really struck a chord with me.  It sums up the main idea that motivates our family to be conscious about how we live.  We’re not perfect by any stretch of the definition, but we constantly try to improve where we can.  Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in consumerism or old lazy habits and just waste, waste, waste.  Coincidentally, Brody’s science lesson today was about caring for the earth and how we can preserve our resources.  It had a great way of explaining how our environment is damaged by our actions, it sums it up and says that when we do things, sometimes we make messes.  Just like when we cook in the kitchen and it makes a mess, the way we live our lives can make messes in the environment.  So then all we need to do is try to not make such a big mess, and then clean up whatever mess we do make…so simple!

We all know the three R’s of conservation: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle…everyone chant with me now!  ;o)  But some people have expanded it to include a fourth R: Rethink.  Rethink the way you do things, just because it’s always been that way doesn’t mean it’s the best way.  For instance, having a different chemical in the cabinet to clean every different surface in the house isn’t necessary, it’s much safer (and cheaper) to go back to some basic elements that do a great job in many areas.  You can clean just about everything with baking soda and/or white vinegar.  Baking soda is great for scouring (pots & pans, counters, sinks, showers, etc) and vinegar works well for breaking up sticky or greasy messes, as well as disinfecting, and polishing (dishes, windows, counters, etc).  It’s true that vinegar doesn’t smell as fantastic as all of the chemically scented options, but the vinegar smell will disappear when it dries and it doesn’t leave you and your family inhaling dangerous fumes.  Here is a link to test results from a study by the Environmental Working Group that can give you a basic idea of the dangers in some cleaning products.  (The study is based on cleaners commonly used in schools, but many are also used in households as well.)

We can also rethink the way we buy things (used vs. new, new isn’t always necessary!), what we do with things after we’re done (donate, freecycle, compost, recycle, yard sale, etc — everything doesn’t have to go in the trash), how the products we use impact the environment (reusable, multi-purpose, renewable resources, responsible companies, etc).  There are little steps you can take, like printing on both sides of a page and then recycling used papers, using towels or cloth napkins instead of paper, avoiding harsh chemical products (cleaners, air fresheners, antibacterial soaps, etc) and using cloth diapers instead of disposable (there are some nasty chemicals and processes used to manufacture disposable diapers, not to mention how many billions of them go into landfills every year).

In order to reduce the messes our family makes, we’ll be starting a compost pile (will also benefit our garden!), switching to homemade laundry detergent (without phosphates), as well as replacing more household cleaners with natural/lower impact options.  And after lunch, Brody will be turning these bits of old construction paper and comics into paper we can use for other crafts!

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