6 Environmental Projects for the Whole Family
These 6 environmental projects will reduce your family’s carbon footprint and teach your kids important lessons about conservation.
Making the commitment to live greener and help the environment doesn’t require a huge investment or sacrifice — you don’t have to install solar panels on your roof or trade electricity for candlelight. By implementing small, meaningful changes in your home and daily routine, you can effectively reduce your family’s carbon footprint. Plus, teaching your children about the importance of sustainable living will encourage a new generation to take even better care of our precious planet.
But where does a busy family begin? These six weekend projects will get your family in touch with their eco-minded side. Better yet, many of the ideas are made from repurposed items.
Project 1: Start Composting
Instead of throwing more trash into a landfill, compost what you can. Fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds, shredded paper, lawn clippings and more can be composted. To get started, you just need an outdoor container. Drill holes all over a large plastic trashcan, including on the lid and bottom, to ventilate it, and you’re ready to compost away.
Also consider keeping an indoor composting pail in the kitchen so you can easily toss your food scraps. (An empty plastic coffee container with the lid is perfect for this.) Let the kids decorate your homemade compost pail with stickers or contact paper, and encourage them to participate in the family composting project by having them empty the kitchen pail into your main compost bin. Older kids can regularly water and mix the compost as well.
Go Green Fact: Composting not only reduces methane emissions from landfills, but it also enriches soil and reduces the need for chemical fertilizers.
Project 2: Transform Old Clothes into Reusable Bags
At the rate your kids grow, have you ever thought about the amount of clothes your family goes through? Turning those old T-shirts into handy shopping totes not only reduces textile waste, but will also save your family from using plastic bags at the grocery store, too.
To make, lay a T-shirt flat on a working surface. Using fabric scissors, cut both sleeves and the neckline of the shirt right at the hem. Take one of the sleeves and cut a ½-inch wide strip of fabric from it. Tug on the strip a little bit to get the edges to curl up, and pin a safety pin to one end.
Turn your T-shirt inside out. At the bottom of the shirt, cut a small slit in the hem without cutting through the stitching. Insert the safety pin into the hem and push it along until you make it all the way around the shirt. Cinch as tightly as you can, and tie the two ends together. Now flip the T-shirt right-side out, and your market tote is ready to go!
Go Green Fact: According to the World Wildlife Fund, an estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic enter our oceans every year, which equals one dump truck a minute. By cutting back on your use of plastic shopping bags, you’re helping to reduce plastic waste from littering our planet.
Project 3: Plant a Vegetable Garden
Growing your own food is not only good for your family, it’s also good for the environment. Plants help absorb carbon dioxide and reduce emissions into the atmosphere. But don’t feel like you need a lot of yard space to start a garden — a container garden or pallet garden on your patio or deck works just as well. Lettuce, tomatoes, carrots and radishes are just a few vegetables that thrive in containers. When selecting what to grow, choose seeds based on the amount of sunlight your containers will get.
In addition to asking your kids to dig holes for seeds, have them create plant markers for your vegetable garden. Painted rocks and wooden craft sticks are easy and economical options.
Go Green Fact: Have you ever wondered how far those tomatoes traveled to make it to your grocery store? Growing your own food or shopping at local farmers markets cuts down on fossil fuels used for shipping and transporting produce.
Project 4: Make a DIY Drying Rack
There’s no question that household dryers use a large amount of energy. While it may not be possible for your family to completely ditch the dryer, you could make a difference by using it less. In fact, experts claim if all Americans line-dried their clothing for just half a year, it would save 3.3% of the country’s total residential output of carbon dioxide.
But what if you don’t have a lot of space for a clothesline or it’s not allowed in your neighborhood? Just repurpose an old wood ladder into a hanging drying rack for your laundry room. To make, detach the frontside of the ladder, clean it and give it a fresh coat of paint. After it dries, attach the ladder to the ceiling using hooks and a sturdy chain. Now you have extra space to air-dry clothes on clothes hangers.
Go Green Fact: Air-drying clothes can reduce the average household’s carbon footprint by 2,400 pounds a year.
Project 5: Plan More Meatless Meals
Did you know eating less meat can help the environment? The production of meat contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and water use for livestock and their feed. While it may be difficult for your family to convert fully to vegetarianism, you could become “flexitarians” by incorporating more meatless meals into your weekly rotation. Try adding meatless pasta recipes, homemade veggie pizzas or meat-substitute versions of your favorite meat dishes to your family’s weekly menu. To help come up with a few meatless meals each week, find and write down at least 10 to 12 vegetarian meal ideas on slips of paper and put them in a jar. When meal-planning for the week, let the kids pick out a few meatless meal ideas from the jar.
Go Green Fact: As the world’s population grows, so does the demand for food. Global production of meat has skyrocketed, along with the increased need for land, energy and water resources to raise livestock. By eating vegetarian at least a few days a week, you can help lessen the demand and impact on our planet.
Project 6: Create Your Own Recycling Center
If your city doesn’t offer curbside recycling, start a recycling center right in your home. Use heavy-duty tubs or bins to separate recyclables by paper, metal, plastic and glass. Teach your kids how to sort recyclable items by turning the nightly sorting into a family chore. You can even make a game of it — which bin will fill up the fastest each week?
Have your kids decorate the bins by drawing the type of items that can go into each bin on sticker paper. Cut out the drawings and stick them where everyone can see. Check your local area for a recycling center where you can drop off your recyclables when your bins get full.
Go Green Fact: An aluminum can could take up to 200 years to decompose in a landfill. But if you recycle it, the material can be used again and again. Nearly 75% of all aluminum produced in the U.S. is still in use today.