More than six million children in America have asthma; this can be attributed to toxins found in our homes and the environment. The good news is that there are more and more resources for an eco-friendly lifestyle nowadays.
Here are eleven tips from Christina Houri to make your home or school greener:
Switch to Non-Toxic Cleaning Products
Cleaning your home can be harmful to your health. Many common houseshold cleaners contain toxic solvents, fragrances, disinfectants, and other ingredients that can pollute the air and cause respiratory, skin, and other reactions. You can use cleaning products that are non-toxic like Seventh Generation, Method, or even Chlorox (which has a new green line on the market) to maintain your school or home. You can also make your own cleaning supplies with simple ingredients such as baking soda, soap, and vinegar. They are cheap and easy, and they really work.
Indoor air is three times more polluted than outdoor air, and according to the EPA, is considered to be one of the top five hazards to human health. Paints and finishes are among the leading causes. Paints and finishes release low-level toxic emissions into the air for years after application. The source of these toxins is a variey of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) which, until recently, were essential to the performance of the paint. Benjamin Moore has a new collection of eco-friendly paint called “Aura,” which has very low VOC. A wide variety of colors is available.
Save energy by replacing your standard incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, which lasts about ten times longer and use about one to two-thirds less energy.
You can install the Comfortmaker HV/AC system R410A, which has a non-ozone-depleting gas.
Buy Furniture Made from Recyclable Material
Purchase furniture and classroom materials from a manufacturer that produces furniture with recycled materials. If tables and chairs are made from wood that is harvested from healthy forests and done in an environmentally friendly and sustainable matter, then your classroom will reflect a “green environment.” There is a wonderful variety of items online. The internet is a wonderful tool for research!
Check Out Your Bathroom
Use low-flow faucets, showerheads, and toilets. Did you know that each time a toilet is flushed, it uses five to seven gallons of water? If you can’t afford to buy a low-flush toilet, try putting a plastic bottle in your toilet tank. You can save one or two gallons per flush. Use a plastic juice bottle, or laundry soap bottle, and soak off the label. Fill the bottle with water, put on the cap, and place it in the tank. Be careful that the bottle doesn’t interfere with the flushing mechanism.
Floors can be made with bamboo or cork, which is a softer material. There is no question that bamboo is a renewable resource—it is a grass and grows very quickly. Where oak takes 120 years to grow to maturity, bamboo can be harvested in three.
Switch to Recycled Toilet Paper and Paper Towels
Kids are always spilling juice, but did you know that if every household in the U.S. replaced just one roll of 180-sheet virgin fiber paper towels with 100 percent recycled paper towels, we could save: 1.4 million tees, 3.7 million cubic feet of landfill space, and 526 million gallons of water, and prevent 89,400 pounds of pollution? Several companies make paper towels from 100 percent recycled paper.
Consider using cloth diapers. To sign up for a diaper service to do the dirty work, check out the National Association of Diaper Services for more information.
School Lunches Makeover
Reuse containers and reduce waste. Did you know that one kid’s average school lunch generates sixty-seven pounds of garbage over a year? There are lots of ways you can cut back on lunch waste (and save money). When you go to the grocery store, buy food in bulk rather than single serving packages. Don’t use plastic sandwich bags; instead, use reusable containers.
Buy Organic Foods
For lunch or snacks, buy foods that are organic, locally grown, and in season. Food that travels great distances takes a lot more packaging and refrigeration than food bought near where it grows. No time to cook? Kidfresh is a great store that has pre-packaged organic meals and snacks.
We can start teaching children at home and at schools around the country how to help our planet survive. Several cultures teach children to respect the planet from birth, but in our fast-paced society, we’ve become far removed from where our food comes from, and the importance of recycling. At Le Petit Paradis Preschool in New York City, there are recycling bins in the classrooms and children get involved in the recycling process. Teachers ask questions like: “What do you think will happen to these objects you have put in the trash?” Parents at home can go also go through recycling processes with their children. Kids are remarkable sponges for information. They have curious minds and limitless amounts of energy. Children can actually take a proactive part in saving the environment.
Christina’s Seven Fun Eco-Friendly Activities for Kids:
Cooking with Children
Involve your kids with meal preparation. Teach them about genuine organic food. At Le Petit Paradis Preschool, children prepare their own healthy snacks and even make their own orange juice.
Start a Compost
Show kids that when they have finished their fruit and vegtables, there are parts than can be composted. Involve your children in composting food scraps, coffee grounds, etc. Get them used to seeing that food waste is not garbage, but rather something that can be turned into soil to grow more food.
Use old paper, newspapers, magazines, cardboard boxes, and paper bags for arts and crafts projects. Be thrifty with paper. Did you know that every year, Americans throw away enough writing paper to build a wall twelve feet high, stretching from Los Angeles to New York City? Whenever possible, make two-sided copies.
Taking a walk through the park and woods, or rowing a boat, are all time-tested ways for kids to develop an appreciation for their place within nature.
Adopt an Endangered Species
Have you taken a trip to the local zoo lately? Not only will your child learn about animals, but several zoos now display information about endangered species. Children and their families can actually help save some of these beautiful creatures from extinction by adopting them. Zoos like the world famous San Diego Zoo have programs like CRES (the San Diego Zoo’s conservation research arm). They work to protect endangered species like the Congo gorilla and koalas. They have programs like “Adopt an Australian Iguana,” where kids can learn about the species while helping to save them from extinction!
Visit Your Library
Borrowing from libraries instead of buying personal books and movies saves money and printing resources.
Pick Up Litter
Choose a park or a neighborhood in your community that needs cleaning and get together with your children to pick up the trash.
You can teach children about various subjects like the extinction of polar bears in the Artic region, because glaciers are melting as a consequence of warmer temperatures. Two wonderful DVDs that teach everyone about our planet are the films Planet Earth and March of the Penguins. Both films will help bring awareness to how beautiful and fragile our planet is, and how we can make the effort to preserve it. Yes, global warming is real, but parents incorporating an eco-friendly lifestyle at home can be examples for their children, and in some cases it’s the children that end up teaching their parents about the environment.
Making Your School and Home Eco-Friendly: Tips from Christina Houri, Founder of New York City’s First Green Preschool Le Petit Paradis. Christina was inspired to make her preschool eco-friendly after viewing the film An Inconvient Truth.