A few weeks ago I gave a talk about my sustainable lifestyle to a pretty important group of people.
This group is going to save the world. Their enthusiasm for the environment can’t be matched, their creativity is unparalleled and they command the attention of our most prestigious educators.
No, they’re not diplomats, scientists or business leaders.
But they might be someday.
For now at least, they are impressionable 10-year-olds in my friend Nicole’s fifth grade classes.
Nicole recently called me to say her class was learning about air, water, soil, and noise pollution. Part of the unit focused on ways individuals can stop pollution but they were having a hard time understanding how they could help. So she showed them my blog.
After learning about my zero waste travel kit, our compost bin, our garden and my bamboo toothbrush, it was clear they wanted more information so she asked me if I would be willing to answer more of their questions.
Of course I said yes. I was ecstatic they were so interested and impressed with the thoughtful questions they had. I wish I could share them all with you but there just isn’t space to fit them all here. Instead, here are five of my favorites that give us a look inside the curious minds of 10-year-olds.
I was a little girl when my Grandpa Hugh taught me about recycling. When we visited my grandparents’ house they always had four cans under their sink – a recycling bin, a compost bin, a burn bin and trash can. The trash can was the smallest of all four of them because by the time they recycled, burned or composted there wasn’t much to throw away. They also prevented a lot of waste by reusing and fixing things that were broken. I wasn’t always interested in their lifestyle but now I understand the profound impact it had on me. When we see another person practicing good habits like that, it becomes normal to us instead of being weird or strange, and I am very grateful to my grandparents for normalizing those behaviors. When I have kids I want them to grow up in a household where the trash can is smaller than the compost and recycling bins, because to me that demonstrates a respect for our natural resources.
I use a bamboo toothbrush just like a plastic toothbrush. The toothbrush I use is made by a company called Brush with Bamboo. Bamboo is a renewable resource because once you harvest it to make things, it grows back very quickly. Most toothbrushes are made from plastic, which is made from oil, a nonrenewable resource. When I am done using my toothbrush all I have to do is pull the bristles out with pliers (which will be thrown in the trash) and compost the handle. Even the box and package it comes in can be composted! I like using a bamboo toothbrush because I know I am not contributing to plastic pollution. Plastic takes thousands of years to break down and when it does, it breaks up into tiny pieces that can get into our water and our soil.
Yes. We shop at the farmers market, buy our staples (nuts, beans, rice, lentils, and quinoa) in the bulk section of our grocery store and we make a lot of food from scratch. We eat eggs and goat cheese from the farmers market but we don’t eat meat and we try to avoid dairy products.
This change has been slow and steady for the past four years. It started when I took up a challenge to buy only package-free food for the Northwest Earth Institute’s EcoChallenge. During the challenge we realized how much food packaging we were throwing away and how much processed food we were eating. We still buy some food in packages, like vinegar, olive oil, coconut milk and a few other things but overall we’ve cut down our food packaging significantly.
If you want a really great resource for learning how to reduce your waste in the kitchen, check out the blog The Zero-Waste Chef. I refer to her blog often and I suggest you do too.
Oh, boy! I have never really considered myself as someone who is saving the world. But I guess in a way that’s what I am trying to do. I want to preserve our world for future generations and that does mean saving it. The most important thing I do to save the world other than recycling is to reduce.
When I was younger I was taught the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle”. That’s great, but I think we focus too much on recycling as a solution to our trash problem. REDUCE is the best place to start. Here are a few ways I practice Reducing.
- Composting, making things from food scraps, and meal planning every week to avoid wasting food
- Owning one car and taking public transportation whenever possible
- Buying food without plastic packaging, carrying my zero waste kit everywhere I go and using a bamboo toothbrush
- Using cloth towels and handkerchiefs instead of paper towels and other paper products (I still use toilet paper)
And finally, I hope I am making a difference through this blog and sharing my ideas with other people to inspire them to do the same. 🙂
Yes, sometimes I get funny looks when I ask for no straw or plastic fork or spoon, but most of the time people are curious and ask me where I got it or why I am doing that. Then it becomes an opportunity for me to educate them. Using something made of plastic once and then throwing it away should be weirder than bringing your own container to the store. We’ve become so used to using disposable items that most of the time we don’t think about its impact on the environment.
Aren’t these questions great? Their enthusiasm gives me hope that future generations will feel motivated and obligated to protect our environment. We can and should empower kids at a young age to be lifelong stewards of the environment.
Do you have similar questions for me? Leave them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them in a future post!