Growing up, my mother worked a demanding job as a nurse while supporting a home of four children on a single income. Although she was constantly running to keep up with the needs of us kids (thank you, Mom!), she was hellbent on building a “green” lifestyle in her home. By some miracle, she found time to teach us kids about the importance of recycling what we could, reusing items where possible, and reducing energy and gas consumption around the house.
As societal pressure to live a greener lifestyle grows (Vivint Solar reports that 60% of Americans now say they are “eco-conscious") I can't help but think back on how my mother helped shape my awareness of my impact on the environment as a child and what that means to me today. New statistics and climate superheroes like Greta Thunberg will continue to push the importance of protecting our planet, and rightfully so, but is it really that easy to pick up a green lifestyle with a whole family in tow?
I’ll never know exactly how she made it happen, but I can share the key characteristics of my mother’s approach to getting the family onboard with green living that influenced me and my siblings to practice an eco-friendly lifestyle.
Implementing processes like separating recyclables from trash and turning off the lights when you leave a room doesn’t really go off without a hitch in a house full of kids. This was why my mother’s patience played a key role in making a green lifestyle happen in our home.
Rather than making these practices feel like a chore that we had to complete “or else,” my mother focused on providing consistent, gentle reminders to keep us on track. She would hang signs above the garbage and recycling cans reminding us to be aware of what we were throwing out and where, and leave notes to remind us to turn off lights when we left them on in our rooms. I think her patience with the process was the catalyst that made a green lifestyle work with us kids.
As a parent, you likely know that things typically don’t go over well when you can’t give a little context as to why you’re asking something of a child. This proved to be true as my mother taught us about the positive impact an eco-friendly lifestyle can have on our community and the planet as a whole.
She made sure we were educated on the topic by reading us books about the environment (Common Sense Media recommends several options here) and explaining how each extra step we took as a part of our green lifestyle would impact the planet in the long run. Additionally -- and I think this is highly relatable with the climate change headlines making the rounds today -- she carefully explained current events centered on environmental protection to alleviate any fears we might have and make sure we understood that we had a role in preserving our natural resources.
Finally, we’ve come to what’s arguably one of the most important ways my mother has influenced me and my siblings which was leading by example. It’s one thing to preach a green lifestyle, but seeing my mother in action really inspired the rest of us to do our part to support her.
She maintained a compost garden at our home, created easy and efficient processes and systems for us to join in on her lifestyle, and even made a point of purchasing environmentally friendly products. The woman was busy, but she made sure she made as many environmentally-conscious choices as possible to show us kids how important the lifestyle really was.
But it’s hard…
As an adult responsible for my own household now, I look back in awe of how my mother did it. Having the motivation to not only practice eco-friendly habits on your own, but willing other free spirits to do the same is an enormous task. Although I don’t have my own compost garden and I admittedly opt for cheaper cleaning products during most shopping trips, the basic principles my mother instilled in me of reducing, reusing, and recycling where I can have and will continue to live on in my "green-ish" household.
Not everyone can be a green goddess like my mother (I’m certainly not at that level!), but if there’s one thing I learned from her, it’s that any effort to make the world a better, brighter place matters. If the current news cycle has you concerned about the environment and you’d like to guide your family to make more eco-friendly choices, I hope the principles outlined in this post will help you build on your approach! This guide from Wunder Mom offers several great options for starting small with going green that are specific to families if you need some ideas to get started. Or you could check out this lengthier list by Small Footprint Family which incorporates tips with a money-saving element.