For me, New Years Day is a time to think about how my life has changed and what my priorities and goals have become. Then I try to work toward changing how I do things so that I meet my goals. In other words, I try to live life as simply as possible and not waste time on things that really don’t matter to me.
While thinking about the way my priorities have changed throughout my life, I realized that it has been ten years since I started work on this website. I wasn’t quite 30 years old yet and I was pregnant with my first child.
Prior to getting pregnant, I didn’t have the healthiest or greenest lifestyle. As a child, I was given fast food, sugary cereals, and a fridge full of soda and Kool-Aid. My parents certainly introduced some healthy habits but they worked a lot and had to do what was easiest. My bad habits amplified during college when I was living off of pizza and middle-of-the-night muffin runs.
Getting pregnant really served to amplify my ever-present anxiety. I started worrying about something going wrong with my pregnancy and about giving birth to the healthiest child possible. So I went on a mission to reduce the toxins in my environment. I started One Part Sunshine because I had a really hard time finding products and information that helped me worked toward that goal. And I wanted to share my research with everyone else.
Fast forward ten years and now there is a wealth of information about natural living and green parenting. And now that I finally have access to the products and resources that I desperately wanted, I have become much more relaxed about the whole thing. Probably because I am older and the kids aren’t babies anymore. I still try to avoid toxic chemicals as much as possible, but I have realized that enjoying life is much more important to me now. When I am in the middle of reading a book to my kids, I would rather use a can of beans (that probably have BPA in them) in our chili than take the extra time to cook them from scratch. I would rather spend money on a family trip than on organic clothing. I will get take-out if I am trying to get my kids to our weekly homeschool playgroup on time.
So needless to say, this list of ways to be a green parent looks somewhat different than it would have when I first started all of this. I think it is more manageable, less product focused, and more affordable.
Buy less stuff.
This one makes sense for a number of reasons. It saves you money. It helps keep trash out of the environment. It reduces manufacturing pollution. And it keeps your house and life less cluttered. When I need something, first I really think about whether I actually need it. If I decide I do, I try to repurpose something else in the house or make it by hand (cleaning supplies for example are really easy to make yourself). If that’s not possible, I try to borrow it or find it used on Craigslist, Amazon or a local thrift shop.
Buy quality stuff.
If I have to buy something new, I try to buy it handmade from local artisans. Or at least locally. But no matter what, I do my research to try to find a product that is well-made and will last so I will hopefully only have to buy it once (and even pass it down to my kids when they are grown).
Eat whole foods.
This is a habit that really took a major life change (getting pregnant) to really take hold for me. Ten years ago, my goal was to eat organic foods (whether made in a factory or at home). Now, my goal is to grow as much food as possible and make as much as I can homemade. (This year we are getting chickens! Stay tuned for more about that.) Anything I can’t grow or make myself, I try to buy from local farms or markets. We have a great grocery delivery service here called RelayFoods that picks up from the many local farms and food artisans. Click here for a $30 coupon to try them out if you live in the Charlottesville, Richmond, Baltimore, Washington, DC or Raleigh/Durham areas. When I do eat out, I try to choose local restaurants that use quality ingredients.
Avoid plastic as much as possible.
I wish I had the same dedication to this that people like Beth Terry from My Plastic Free Life have. Avoiding plastic completely is hard and can be expensive. When my financial situation was better, I found it easier to justify spending more on the peanut butter in the glass jar versus the plastic one. But I got to the point where I realized that I was stressing out too much about plastic and it was having a negative impact on my happiness. I still buy milk in glass jars, bring reusable shopping bags, avoid drinks in plastic bottles, and reuse plastic containers when I can (mostly for my son’s nature collections). I also use only glass storage containers in the kitchen and cook with stainless steel and cast iron pots and pans. If you want more information about plastic, see my post here.
My kids are full-fledged nature lovers. They will play outside in the mud, rain, snow or heat. My son carries some sort of bug or small creature on his person on almost every hike. They each have their own nature collections full of shells, rocks, bugs and more. I attribute their love of nature to the fact that we are constantly outdoors. We take family hikes almost every weekend. We make a point of visiting our local parks frequently. We go geocaching, which is like treasure hunting for the kids. But most importantly, I try not freak out if the kids get dirty or ruin their clothes and try to make me hold a bug. Every discovery in nature becomes a learning experience for us.
For more information about green parenting, check out the articles under the “How to be a Green Parent” tab at the top of the page. Happy New Year!
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