By Bethany Stephens, Ozark Natural Science Center
Last time, we talked about giving yourself a little leniency and remembering that greening your life is a journey, not a destination. My goal is that these posts provide you tips, tactics and resources for that journey, with an understanding that everyone is at a different point in their gradual greening.
I’d welcome your posts on the green steps you’d like to take in your own life that you’ve found to be challenging, either because your family wasn’t on board, you didn’t know where to start or any other litany of ways we’re prevented from moving forward with our good intentions. In all likelihood, someone else has had the same struggle!
For now, regardless of the stage of your efforts to live just a bit more sustainably, the very best step is to put together a green action plan. I am a tremendous fan of the website Practically Green (www.practicallygreen.com), and have been known to wax poetic about it on my personal blog.
The reason I’m so enthusiastic about PG is that it is an intuitive, simple, free, web-based and (duh) practical suite of tools to help you on your journey. In fact, I recently mentioned my initial pride after taking the quick and easy “How Green Are You?” quiz to assess how green my life was, quickly followed by chagrin when PG suggested a mere 415 things I could do better. Four hundred. And fifteen. Sigh.
In essence, though, I believe that’s what makes the site such an essential tool in your greening arsenal. There’s a quiz that you and your family can take to pinpoint your starting point, badges to earn for the social-media obsessed and an endless array of action items to keep you challenged and moving forward. To me, this would make an absolutely great (and fun) family activity during some weekend downtime, and it will be as much fun as a night dedicated to board games or movies and popcorn. Gather everyone around, take the quiz and then assign responsibility for the action items.
Some will be better for Mom (making a choice on certain products at the grocery store or washing laundry on cold), some for Dad (slight tweaks to low-flow shower heads or tightening faucets), and plenty will be appropriate for kids of various ages, from switching out light bulbs to taking a bath every other day! Think your kiddos will be on board with that action item?
Not interested in the online version? No hall pass for you – get out a (reused) scrap of paper and a pencil and write down ten things you could do to challenge yourself and your family to be greener. No matter how you go about it, don’t put it off – have some family fun and live a little better in the process. At the end of the day, a greener life shouldn’t mean an austere live with no fun and food that tastes like cardboard. Don’t allow yourself to make excuses, just plunge in!
→ This month’s action item: Put together a green action plan for your family. Do it together if possible for more fun and buy-in (maybe as a year-long family challenge with a reward at the end for improving your score or achieving your goals?), or do it yourself if your family might not be enthusiastic or you’ll take most of the responsibility. If it is the latter, you’ll be quietly setting a good example, and that’s some of the best parenting with the most long-term impact.
About Beth: Beth is the executive director of the Ozark Natural Science Center, a nonprofit field science and environmental education facility on 500 acres of Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission land in the Ozarks of northwest Arkansas. ONSC delivers life-altering overnight school excursions, summer camps and group programs, weaving conservation messages and its mission of enhancing the understanding, appreciation and stewardship of the Ozark natural environment throughout its programs. ONSC has served more than 45,000 children since it was founded twenty years ago, often providing their first significant outdoor experience and a lasting connection to the natural world.