When I was a kid, I liked to play outside. We had a big yard and woods that backed up onto the edge of our property. Back in the woods, I built my own “camp” with a fence around it, a fire pit complete with a roasting spit, and a teepee, all constructed from fallen branches (I covered the teepee in pine branches to waterproof it; it worked pretty well). My dad built us a clubhouse in the backyard with two levels, a sand pit underneath, and a slide and a fireman’s pole to get down. We liked to go out and get dirty.
When I was 7 or 8 years old, at one of our school’s Scholastic book fairs, I picked up a copy of a little guidebook called “Save Our Planet.” It featured practical, kid-friendly articles on issues like recycling and how to start your own compost pile. I read that thing cover to cover about twice a month for a couple of years. Inspired, and needing a club to base in our backyard camp and clubhouse, I started our neighborhood “Earth Savers Club” with my brother, sister, and five or six other kids. We didn’t do a whole lot besides walk up and down the street collecting litter and decorate a really nice “treasury box” to store our club dues. But once again, it was a good excuse to get outside and play together.
I remember learning about environmental issues from a young age. We grew plants for class projects, learned about how CFCs were destroying the ozone layer, had the “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” slogan well beaten into us, and I even earned my Girl Scout badge for litter pickup (circa 1991). And yeah, I watched “Captain Planet.” My dad was notorious for making us use every last bit of butter in the butter container, then repurposing the container to store kitchen grease or extra nuts and bolts from his workshop. We camped a lot and visited many of the national parks, seeking out the great wonders of nature. I felt like I was pretty in tune with the environment and what was happening around us.
Then, I drifted away from that. I think many of my fellow millennials did. Something happened in the late 90s and 2000s . . . life, I guess. I was involved in 50 activities in high school, then went off to college in Ohio and got a big-girl job and met and married the love of my life, then switched to another big-girl job and bought a house and went back to school and worked really, really ridiculous hours and then had two kids in two years. I mean, it happens to all of us . . . life gets crazy.
Only recently have I begun to think about environmental issues again, and hence, this blog. So what’s changed? And why now?
I am a book editor; it seems like a steady stream of books has been coming across my desk this year, more and more related to climate change issues and what it means for our future. At this point, I think it doesn’t matter if you “believe” in climate change, or if you think that human beings caused the increased carbon levels on the planet, or if you agree more with one politician or activist on one side of the aisle who is hollering at another politician or activist on the other side of the aisle. The point is: climate change is happening, the effects are already all around us, and this is only going to continue to worsen in the coming years, so we had better educate ourselves, prepare for it — and better yet — DO something about it to mitigate further damage.
What exactly are we looking at? Well, it’s hard to say. Climate change will affect different areas of the planet differently. In Northeast Ohio, if you look at weather trends, temps are increasing, winters are shorter, we’re having more rainfall/river flooding, etc. Invasive species that are better adapted to warmer temps may move in and disrupt the food chain. Changes in rainy seasons will also affect crop productivity. The environment we live in will shift and change, making Ohio more like a Southern U.S. state than a Northern state in the next 100 years or so. This type of global climate cycle is not new, but is happening at a much faster pace now. The amount the temps are predicted to increase in the next 100 years equals all previous increases in the last 12,000 years. Drastic! Extreme weather events, fires and flooding could all disrupt our infrastructures, which we rely on for transport, jobs, manufacturing products . . . you get the idea.
So, what’s to be done? Well, political action, of course (the U.K. has already declared a climate emergency, and Costa Rica plans to eliminate consumer plastic products by 2030). The United Nations is leading the way on climate research and setting goals to reduce global carbon emissions. But I’m not operating on that level. I have responsibilities at home, as I’m sure you do, too. So I am focusing on the “little things” we can do to help the planet (because, as naïve and cliché as it may sound, if enough people do the “little things,” you eventually get big results). And my plan is to share our family’s journey with you on this blog.
The old “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” maxim that we grew up with still applies (albeit on a much, MUCH larger scale). Another key aspect will be empowering our children. Sure, many of them are too young now to grasp what is happening (nor do we want to put that burden on them yet). But gradual lifestyle changes now will probably help them adapt in the future (sorry, my darling daughter, but you’re going to have to learn to love those veggies!) and open the conversation about the importance of protecting the planet and fighting for a green future.
So, I invite you to follow along on my family’s journey, as we try to green up our lives. It’s a daily challenge. We’re busy raising these kids and shuttling them to various activities and working full-time jobs and trying to wash the dishes and do the laundry in between all of this. So doing the research on the best courses of actions to take can quickly become another full-time job, as I’ve discovered. But since I’ve already opened up that particular can of worms, my goal is to try to share with you what I’ve learned (and continue to learn) in hopes that I’ll at least save you some of the legwork, and provide you with some of the more efficient and easy ways to cut back your waste, promote environmentally-friendly practices in your home, and teach your kids about the environment and healthy living.
If you have ideas or tips and tricks of your own, I invite you to share them with us! And I hope you’ll find our green-family-in-training entertaining, encouraging, and chock-full of ideas you can easily bring into your own life. And when we fail in areas along the way, I hope you’ll laugh along with us and help us find better solutions.
It’s not easy being green (said a famous frog once), but I believe it is possible. I hope you’ll join us on this exciting journey!