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25 things families can do to help the environment

Our commitment to help the environment means all of us should try to adopt small changes. Here’s a list of 25 ways for families to go green,
1. Buy reusable shopping bags and use them for gift wrap. They are comparable in price to a paper gift bag, and they provide the recipient with something that they can use.

2. Kids bring home tons of paper from school. Save the sheets that have printing on only one side and use them for crafts and for printing out recipes and email.

3. Install a laundry line. As a bonus, older kids can help hang and take down the laundry. It’s less work for mom, everyone spends more time outside, and it saves on the electric bill.

4. For gift-giving, make a rule to purchase items only from garage sales. It keeps costs down and helps others find a good home for their used items. It’s fun to see who finds the best gift or bargain.

5. Keep an empty pitcher in your kitchen and bathroom, and use them to collect water from the faucet or shower while waiting for it to turn hot. Use this water for plants, pets, bird baths, and more.

6. For children’s “no-trash” lunches, make reusable cloth napkins. You can make napkins from fabric printed with flip flops, soccer, and other themes. Use cloth napkins at home, too.

7. Purchase a kilowatt tester that shows how much electricity is used by the different plug-in devices around your home. It enables you to see where you are using the most energy-and where you can cut back.

8. Use solar flashlights. You don’t ever have to worry about replacing batteries. When you buy one, we donate one to a developing country.

9. Purchase cups with lids. Now, instead of using bottled water from the store, just refill your cups with the water.

10. For crafts, instead of buying scrap-booking chipboard, cut cereal boxes into shapes and cover them in patterned paper.

11. Some kids are environmentally minded, but have a bad habit of using lots of paper towels. Give a roll to each family member and tell them it is a contest to see who can make their roll last the longest.

12. Make your own laundry detergent from Ivory soap, Borax, and washing soda. It takes less time to make 3 1/2 gallons of detergent than it would take to drive to the store. Instead of fabric softener; just use vinegar in the wash and skip the dryer sheets.

13. Hook up a row of rain barrels to collect rainwater from your roof and gutters. Then use this water for watering the garden and flowerbeds.

14. Instead of having fruits and vegetables shipped across the country, buy a share in a local organic farm.

15. Keep a second recycling can in the bathroom. This makes it convenient for your family to recycle tissue boxes, magazines, packaging, toilet paper tubes, and shampoo bottles instead of throwing them into the trash.

16. Pick one or two days each week when you do not drive your car. If you need to do errands, walk.

17. Try to buy food grown locally. This supports the economy and cuts down on the fossil fuel needed to transport food across the world.

18. An electric water heater is the biggest energy user in many homes, so put kitchen timers in each bathroom to make sure your family keeps their showers 5 to 10 minutes long. You can also set a timer for the water heater, limiting it to heat water for 4 hours a day, rather than 24. With these changes you can reduce your electric bill by 30%.

19. Shop for kid’s clothes, toys, and books at consignment shops, thrift stores. Don’t be afraid of hand-me-downs; after a quick clean, they often look and work as good as new.

20. Buy a bento lunchbox. They have 5 containers as well as a water bottle, fork, and spoon. It makes lunch more fun. You can also get reusable sandwich bags called Happy Sacks. They’re machine washable, and come in different sizes and cute patterns.

21. During the air-conditioned summer months, minimize the use of your stove and oven. Instead, move your toaster oven and Crock Pot to a screened porch, and use those as much as possible. Less heat in the kitchen means less energy needed to cool the house.

22. Sign up for the free National Wildlife Federation Backyard Habitat program (www.nationalwildlifefederation.org and click on Outside in Nature and then Garden for Wildlife). They help you change your backyard to make it more welcoming for wildlife. Ideas include: a butterfly garden, an owl house, and native plants that provide food for butterflies and birds.

23. Give your kids special towels and have a local seamstress embroidered their names on the back. Kids will know to hang their towels up when they are done with them so they are dry and ready to use for the next bath. This will significantly cut down on the amount of laundry you do.

24. Styrofoam is not always readily recyclable in some towns. Crush styrofoam into small pieces and use it as filling in your bean bag chairs. You can also use crushed Styrofoam pieces as packing material.

25. Organize a “Put & Take” in your community. People “put” by donating things and clothes they no longer want, and others can “take” items they need. Instead of throwing used things away, they’re given to others who need them. It benefits everyone.