Earth Day – an easy outdoor activity to do with your kids

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I’ve seen lots of cute Earth Day crafts and activities online. And I keep meaning to scan through all those things I pinned on Pinterest, and plan something. But somehow I haven’t, and now it’s Friday, and we have plans all day Saturday, and then it will be Earth Day on Sunday. Oops!

While lots of the crafts and snack options look fun, they didn’t immediately appeal to me, possibly because they didn’t involve any outside time. For me, rooting the boys outdoors and spending time in nature, that is the way I help them have empathy for our Earth and want to help sustain it. I recently read this document published by the Department of Conservation in New Zealand that stated;

“Studies suggest that frequent, unstructured
experiences in nature are the most common influences
on the development of lifelong conservation values.”

This confirms my feeling that to protect our Earth we need to be connected to it, and it is a big part of why I try to get my boys outside every day.

Earth Day 2018 – end Plastic Pollution

Earth Day has been celebrated since 1970, and the date of April 22 was picked as it is close to the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. We rarely need an excuse to get outside and celebrate the sun (!) but I am certainly happy to use Earth Day as a reason to focus our outdoors time this Sunday.

The goal of Earth Day in 2018 is to end Plastic Pollution in the world.  I downloaded this action toolkit from the Earth Day Network‘s website, skimmed through a lot of it without the boys and picked a couple of appropriate videos to watch with them. I also downloaded the plastic pollution calculator so that I could work through it with the kids and discuss our plastic consumption as a family.

Our outdoor Earth Day activity

As Earth Day falls on a Sunday this year, we plan on taking a picnic to our local greenbelt, which is right next to one of our favorite parks. Then, loaded up with gloves and trash bags, we are going to pick up trash, focusing on plastics that can be recycled. And that’s it! If you can find some gloves and trash bags, you’re good to go!

I’ve discussed with the boys how to check if a plastic is recyclable, by looking for the arrow triangle and number, and we will be sure to separate out anything that can be recycled and bring it home with us to put in our recycling for collection.

I love that this will be so fun for them and easy for me! They’ve already started to look around as we are out on walks and in the yard, and are surprised by how much trash they see on the ground. I’m hoping that spending an hour or two thinking about what others have left behind, and the impact that can have on our Earth, will help them spot more trash in the future. While this is a one-off activity in honor of Earth Day, we have already discussed taking two trash bags with us on future bike rides and walks so that we can keep doing our small bit to help.

Red has a set of work gloves for helping Daddy in the garage, which he also uses in the garden, that will be perfect for clean-up. I recently found these ones on Amazon that I have ordered for Smalls, as any kid garden or work gloves always seem too big for those two-year-old hands. I really hope they arrive before Sunday! If not, we’ll just use the regular kid gardening gloves stuffed into the cuffs of his jacket and hope they stay on most of the time!

Cutting our Plastic Pollution at home

When we looked through the calculator, I was most surprised to find that diapers were over half of our annual consumption! Smalls is currently working towards potty training, and while I am in no rush to push him before he’s ready, he definitely understood that his diapers had an impact, and I suspect it might help him as he slowly moves towards toilet readiness.

We bring reusable bags to the grocery store on our weekly shop but fall short if it’s an unexpected trip. So we brainstormed some ideas to try and reduce our plastic bag usage even further, by keeping a spare reusable bag in the car, and by using paper instead of plastic if we must pick one up in store.

Cleaning supply containers were another item that surprised us as we were filling out the calculator.  In an effort to reduce single-use cleaning wipes in our house, we have an old baby wipes container filled with bleach diluted with water, and we use that and old facecloths to wipe kitchen surfaces. And instead of using paper towels to clean up the boys at mealtimes, we use wet baby facecloths. we use them for all meals in a day and then drop them in a bleach solution to stop them going moldy until we are ready to run them through the washing machine. While this doesn’t drastically reduce plastic consumption, it reduces packaging and helps our family stay in the mindset that we want to move from single-use items to reusable where possible.

Smalls still drinks milk before bed. When we moved from a sippy cup to a straw cup, we were really struggling to find something appropriate. It needed a tight seal and a straw to reduce milk spills. He bites really hard on the straws while drinking, however, and I wasn’t happy about the potential chemical leaks that might happen with a plastic reusable straw. As a result, we spent a month or so using single-use straws. While I may still revert to that if we are camping or away from home, I knew it wasn’t an environmentally friendly solution and I continued the search for something better. Eventually, I found and ordered these silicone reusable straws.

I picked these specifically because we use the Take and Toss straw cups and I read that these silicon straws are the perfect fit and size. And they are! As they are more flexible, it can be hard to push them into the hole in the lid.  I have found that if I push the straw cleaner into the straw before I insert it, that keeps it rigid enough to push into the cup easily. Although these Take and Toss cups are marketed as ones that can be thrown away after one use, we re-use them. So far, Smalls hasn’t managed to chew through one straw, so I count this as a win!

The boys and I are looking forward to our picnic, and I will use the opportunity to discuss how we package and carry our food to the park. We have a few reusable silicon bags like this, and while we don’t use them on every trip, we will be making an effort to use them more often, and this will be the perfect opportunity to start!

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Do you have Earth Day plans? I’d love to hear about them!

 

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