Moving toward sustainability

Considering our environmental impact and moving toward sustainability is something that every modern day aware parent is faced with, but sometimes the task can seem daunting and it can be difficult to tell whether we’re really making a difference.

Finding out what your carbon footprint is can be a great jumping off point.  There is a list of 15 carbon calculators here You’ll find that car travel, air travel, and household power are often the largest contributors to your family’s carbon footprint.  You can do things like wash clothes in cold, change your light-bulbs to the new more efficient compact fluorescent bulbs, and lower your household heat by 5 degrees.

But there are a few other ideas which don’t appear in many of these calculators that I want to share with you.   By living consciously in our relationship to the environment, we can teach kids to consider their impact on the Earth and maybe get them to turn off the water when they’re brushing their teeth or compost their apple cores.  Before we know it, these kids will be all grown up and dealing with the biggest environmental challenges humans have ever seen.  So let’s do what we can to start them off on the right foot.

Eat locally grown foods- Eating more locally grown food and less food grown in other countries can significantly decrease the environmental impact your food consumption has.  That’s because when your food doesn’t travel as far to get to you, less gas and oil is consumed. The same goes for other household goods.  If it’s made in China it travels across the world before you even purchase it!

An additional benefit of eating locally grown food is that the money you spend on food stimulates your local economy, rather than going elsewhere.  Personally, I love buying my eggs and lamb meat from the people in my community who directly cared for the animals.  My next step is to raise my own chickens!

Eat more vegetables and less meat- The reason eating more vegetables and less meat makes such a difference is because it takes much more energy to produce meat (since animals eat vegetables to produce muscle).  In fact, scientists estimate that it takes between 5 and 20 pounds of grain, corn, or soy to produce one pound of edible beef.   Obviously if we ate the grains directly, we’d produce less environmental impact.

Buy used cars- I was in an environmental sustainability masters program for a semester, before I got too depressed by the statistics to continue, and the most interesting piece of information I gleaned from the experience was the simple fact that the energy it takes to produce a new car is far greater than the energy the car will consume in it’s lifetime.  According to my teacher, this is true of ANY car.

So, supporting the re-using of already produced cars by buying used cars can make a huge difference in the amount of energy consumed yearly to produce new cars; first, because you’re not buying a new car, and secondly because the less we buy new cars, the less new cars will be produced (good ‘ol supply and demand).   Which leads in to my favorite way to reduce my carbon footprint.

Buy used stuff as much as humanly possible- I buy all sorts of used things.  I love thrift stores, goodwill, and other used items stores.  I have just as much fun shopping used as I did shopping new, and I get to feel good about reusing something instead of producing a bunch of new stuff.  Oh, and I always remember to bring my re-usable bag!

I bought or was given almost everything for my baby used, car-seat, stroller, cradle, clothes, toys, potty seats.  I even bought used cloth diapers from a friend.   I also asked for hand-me-down gifts for the baby and I got some of the sweetest packages chocked full of used baby goodies from my wonderful friends.  And whatever I didn’t want, I just donated to a thrift store.

So as we approach Thanksgiving this year, let’s take some time to take stock of our impact on the environment and make some small changes that will eventually make a big difference in the world we’re leaving to our kids.  Please share your favorite tips with us all too!    Have a fantastic week, Shelly


Some very good points. I just wanted people to realize that it is just as important to donate their used items as it is to shop used. I have a friend that is a garbage man and you would not believe all of the things people throw away. Such as new clothes with tags still in them, shoes still in their original box, electronics (our 42" TV was given to us by him as well as our CD player). He has so much stuff that he has a huge garage sale every year of all the good things that people have thrown away.


I just furnished a whole house buying exclusively used furnishings - yes, even beds (although I did buy new sheets.) It was really fun - like going on a scavenger hunt. In addition to the resources you mentioned, I made great use of Craigslist and garage sales. By buying very locally (two blocks away) I was able to get a bed home on the roof of my Honda Civic and found a neighbor to deliver my gently used refrigerator. My husband's favorite find was a Heywood Wakefield end table we found in a horse stable. In the process we've learned two things: it can be a hard habit to break (I really don't need any more furniture) and you can't judge a sale by it's location. If you look closely, you may find treasures!!