10 Simple Ways to be a Better Steward of the Environment

Earth Day 2021 is almost here, and this year I thought I’d write about it here because the older I get and the more time I spend outside with my family, the more I realize how important our job of stewarding the earth and its resources really is. This is a Christian parenting blog, not an environmental blog, so you might not think that Earth Day should have any play here, but the thing is that as Christians, we should know better than anyone else what a gift this beautiful planet is. Bottom line-Christians should be treating every day like earth day, but doing something special on April 22 is great, too!


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Becoming a parent has put many, many aspects of my life, choices, and beliefs under a microscope. My kids don’t miss anything (except one sock–why is there only ever one sock from each pair in a load of laundry??!?) and when I don’t walk the walk when I’m talking the talk, it doesn’t slip by them.

I taught E about littering a few years ago, and he has taken it seriously since he was 2 years old. He still cries sometimes if a napkin gets away from him during a picnic (even if we catch it right away), and you won’t catch that kid dropping trash on the ground. The floor? Yes. Outside? Never–that’s littering.

You probably know that keeping our kids safe and making healthy choices as a family is something that my husband and I are passionate about. We want to teach our kids that we’re taking our mandate to care for the earth seriously. Here it is, from the very first day humans walked the earth:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. ”

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Genesis 1:26-28

Responsibility for the earth and what’s in it has been our human duty and blessing for as long as humans have been in existence. As Christian parents, we need to be teaching our kids that what humans do collectively has a profound effect on the earth and how nature functions. Since sin was introduced to our planet, it has begun to deteriorate. We can never restore it to the perfect glory of it’s original state, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make an effort to preserve its beauty and magnificence as far as possible, as long as we’re here. This world is not our final home, but it’s ours, and it’s a gift from God. Let’s honor that gift and the One who created it.

Here are my top 10+ ways to be a better steward of the environment in 2021:

I’m not an environmental expert, but my family and I have made (and are making) some changes to be better stewards of nature and this planet that God has created for us. I thought I’d share some of these changes with you today, just in time for Earth Day 2021.

1. Compost

10 Simple Ways to Help the Environment Compost can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. We toss stuff in a compost bowl as we go, and dump it outside in our (second-hand) compost bin at the end of the day (or when it gets full–whichever comes first). I tear up plain cardboard to toss in there (toilet paper rolls, etc.) and I have been refusing to buy styrofoam egg cartons in favor of the compostable cardboard ones. We turn the compost once in awhile, toss some dead leaves and grass in there sometimes, and generally just let it be. It turns into compost without all the measuring and ph testing and balancing that lots of composting websites tell you to do. It’s probably not perfect compost, but I’m okay with that. My garden likes it and that works for me. If you have the time and patience and you’re in the right season of life to follow all of the official composting rules, I am happy for you! I hope to be there someday. But done is better than perfect, so if you can’t see your way through all of the regulations, just try putting fruit/veggie leftovers in a compost pile and see what happens. I think you’ll find it’s worth it!

Composting saves us a bunch of garbage bags–my family of four fills up one garbage bag every 7-10 days, and even though that’s still more trash than I’d like us to be generating, it’s better than it used to be.

2. Ditch one-use dinnerware

Guys, I’m not going to say that I NEVER use disposable plates or cutlery, because sometimes I don’t plan ahead well enough and I do use them. But when Disciple Dad and I are on our game, our family abstains from the one-time plates, cups, forks, etc. When we go camping, everyone gets one plate, one bowl, and one set of cutlery for the duration. We wash them after each meal, and although it’s not quite as easy as paper plates, it’s really not that hard to wash a plate, you know? If we know we’re going somewhere that it’s likely there will be disposables, we TRY to remember to bring our own dinnerware, because we have it, so why not?

Pro tip: if you do this for picnics (and you should!), bring a giant (2 gallon) bag to put all the dirty stuff in to transport it home/back to camp/wherever. This is a tip I learned last summer when I happened to have a random 2 gallon Ziploc in the van at the moment I need to figure out how to get ketchup and pickle relish drippy plates back to the campsite from our picnic spot without getting everything else in the van all gross.

3. Drop one-time use zipper bags

Yes, 3 sentences ago I recommended that you use a 2-gallon bag, and yes, I’m telling you now to stop using those exact bags. But there are fantastic alternatives to single-use plastic baggies these days, and I’ve tried some of them out. Guess what–they’re not all fabulous, but some of them are, and I have happily quit my store-brand freezer bags in favor of reusable silicone bags and I’m not looking back.

Obviously, there are some drawbacks to reusable bags, like that to reuse them you have to wash them. I am not a huge fan of washing all the things all day long, and washing out food storage bags sounds horrible. But it’s actually not hard, you guys. Make sure you choose bags with rounded corners, and use a bottle brush. It’s super simple, and they actually dry faster than I expected, too. My first investment was in 1 gallon bags, which I use for all kinds of things. Then I ordered some sandwich bags that don’t work so well. I’m using them, but not loving them. I need sandwich-size bags, though, so I read reviews, checked my (pretty low) budget, and invested in a set of multi-size reusable food storage bags that I LOVE! They’re durable, have the all-important rounded corners, close like a dream, and they are very reasonably priced.

Of course you need the 2 gallon size, too. I use mine to store and freeze loaves of homemade bread, stash dirty picnic dishes until I can wash them, and to season and marinate things like sweet potato oven fries and gluten steaks. These are the bags I use and love!

4. Wash and reuse plastic takeout containers

We make almost all of our meals at home these days, but when we do get some restaurant food, it’s takeout, which inevitably means plastic containers. I’ve started washing them and keeping them stashed until I need to send leftovers home with someone or delivering a meal to a new mom or giving out cookies to our neighbors. You get the idea. Those takeout containers are perfect for giving away, and at least they’re getting ONE more use.

5. Forget plastic wrap

Plastic wrap is one of those things that I’ve never used a lot of, but what I use it for I could really never find a great substitute that does the same thing. Enter beeswax wraps. This is my newest eco-friendly investment, and so far, I’m loving it! These wraps are sustainable, reusable, and cute! I bought these adorable beeswax food wraps, and I love them so far. They seal on my bowls and glass containers just as well as plastic wrap (and without the wrestling), and I love that when they do eventually wear out I can either re-wax them or compost them. Win-win!

Want to ditch plastic wrap but need to go a more vegan direction? You can get vegan wraps, sans beeswax, and they’re just as cute! I haven’t tried them, though, so read reviews carefully!

 

6. Reuse stuff

We give away all of our kids’ old clothes, and gladly accept hand-me-downs from bigger children. I am so thankful for the opportunity to dress my kids in clothes that are still in good shape without having to shop for everything they need.

Buy things at garage sales and thrift stores. My confession: I don’t do this. My husband does all the thrifting and yard sale-ing and it’s a great way for us to get things that we want or need, but at a much lower cost (to us and to the environment). Shopping this way requires some patience, it’s true, but it feels really good when we (just my husband, really) nab something fabulous for a great deal.

Go to the library. This is an eco-friendly choice. Everyone in my house loves books and loves collecting things. We have PLENTY of books at home, trust me, but we all love to read new books on top of the oldies we read every day. The library has a great selection and we can give them back, which is awesome for my bookshelves and gives other people the opportunity to use and love the same books.

I also use my library card for access to tons of ebooks and audiobooks on Overdrive. Otherwise I’d be buying way too many books. Also, when I finish reading a book, I can get practically instant access to the next one–no shipping or shopping time! I just hit the list of saved “wishlist” books on my app, borrow the first one that’s available, and start reading.

7. Stop it with the disposable straws

You guys, there are zero reasons why we shouldn’t all be switching to reusable straws. Even if sea turtles aren’t your thing, surely you can see the beauty in humanity not tossing 500 million straws every.single.day.

You could probably quit straws altogether, but if you want to take a more moderate approach, investing in a few reusable straws is probably the way to go.

We have some stainless steel straws, some plastic ones like this, some bamboo straws from our trip to Indonesia last year, and even some reusable boba tea straws (because boba tea is so.much.fun.). I don’t personally have a strong preference, but my boys sometimes chew on the straws, so we don’t usually give them the plastic ones. Our go-to for smoothies for the boys is this straw by Klean Kanteen (though we don’t have the cool colors). Whatever you buy, make sure you have one of those little straw cleaning tools to go with it.

Pro tip: Always give the straw a quick rinse as soon as possible after you’re done with your drink. Just trust me, it makes cleaning so much easier.

8. Skip plastic sponges and scrubbers

For my entire adult life (until a few months ago), I have never been without a Dobie scrubber thingy in my kitchen. They are awesome at scrubbing, but covered in meshy plastic and every time I wear one out and throw it away to reach for the next one, I feel pretty bad about my choice. Well, I got tired of doing it and feeling that feeling that I should be doing better and I got online and found biodegradable sponges that actually work AND don’t cost a gazillion dollars. The cherry on top was that they came packaged minimally in cardboard with no plastic wrap. Yay! I have been able to clean up all my dishes with no problems and the sponges are lasting at least as long as the Dobies did, so making a total switch to biodegradable, plant-based sponges is a no-brainer for me.

9. Get on board with reusable shopping bags

If you haven’t hopped on the reusable shopping bag bandwagon, it’s time. They’re cute, durable, and are useful for so much more than just shopping. Don’t go to the store without them!

If you have all the shopping bags, but never remember to bring them shopping with you, try keeping a few in the car. I hang mine on the doorknob when I need to remember to take them back out again. We also use ours for transporting snacks, library books, hats/mittens/caps/sunscreen/bugspray, whatever we have to bring with us almost anywhere we have to go. They’re super handy and so much better for the environment than plastic bags–and, bonus, I never see reusable shopping bags blowing around in the street or stuck up in the trees in my neighborhood.

10. Spend some time cleaning up a public space.

A couple of weeks ago I had an outdoor playdate with a friend (yes, the kids came, too), and the playground we were hanging out in was in pretty rough shape. Clearly we were witnessing the aftermath of an Easter egg hunt, and it was awful. Candy and plastic egg shells were everywhere. That horrible plastic grass stuff was everywhere, shiny and blue. ACTUAL hard boiled eggs were smashed all over the play area. It was gross.

So, we found an empty box and started cleaning up. A 5-year-old, a 3-year-old, a 2-year-old and two moms–we took about 20 minutes to pick up, and that place was looking a LOT better by the end of it. The kids had a grand time, and were actually disappointed when we told them they could stop cleaning up to go play.

We cleaned up a tiny portion of our world, and it made a tiny difference. But more than the immediate impact of cleaning up a boxful of garbage on a playground, we taught our kids that we all share the responsibility for taking care of our community and our planet.

You don’t have to tackle a whole playground, but clean up whatever space you find yourself in and leave it just a little better than you found it. Who knows–maybe it will translate to helping kids learn to clean up at home, too! (We can always hope.)

Bonus: More of my favorite eco-friendly things

Use a reusable water bottle

Until last summer I didn’t really have a water bottle. I mean, we have a million in the cupboard, piled up precariously, but the only one I ever used was really old, starting to leak, and wasn’t insulated. So, I finally decided to splurge on my very own brand new water bottle and got this one: the Contigo Autoseal Chill. It’s actually not much of a splurge at all (super affordable, guys), but I LOVE it. It keeps my water cold. It doesn’t have a straw for me to lose or have to figure out which bottle it goes in (I am the worst at putting the right straw in the right water bottle). And, I think it’s cute, too. I don’t ever put anything but water and ice in there, so I can’t tell you how it does with other beverages, but I recommend it, hands down.

Use period underwear

I don’t love talking about my period (0r my underwear, for that matter), but I had to include my Thinx on this list because they have been a game-changer for me. My sister gifted me some when she realized I was struggling to find something that was comfortable and worked for me postpartum (all of my old go-tos weren’t getting the job done, and a cup was NOT cutting it)–and the Thinx did the trick! I’ve ordered myself more since then, and I have to give them a thumbs up. Check out the options–if you order through this link, you’ll get $10 off your first order.

Use Cloth diapers

My boys have both been out of diapers for awhile, but I am so glad that we spent 3 years cloth diapering our guys. Cloth diapers are cuter, eco-friendly, and economical (as long as you don’t go crazy buying all.the.prints.) If you’re thinking about going for cloth diapers, some diaper stores offer free (or at least inexpensive) classes to help you get a realistic idea of what it’s like to use them. My husband and I did that before E was born and it helped us feel more confident before we took the plunge.

My favorites for daytime were Thirsties Duo Wraps–adorable and they worked so well for us!), and my fave overnight workhorse diaper was the Grovia O.N.E.. Cloth diapers were not hard, there were no safety pins involved, and we saved at least 5,000 diapers from ending up in landfills.

Start taking better care of the planet today!

As Christians, if we are really stewards of the earth, then it’s important that we are faithful with our stewardship (1 Corinthians 4:2)You don’t have to try a bunch of things all at once to be a better steward of the environment. Choose one thing and start today–baby steps are still steps in the right direction.

What do you do to model good stewardship of Creation to your kids? I’d love to hear your ideas!


Check out these posts next:

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