Going Green as a Mom of Two

Caring for the Environment While Caring For Two Children: Progress and Possibilities

I wanted to be eco-conscious, but I was a mom on the go. Here's how I found a happy compromise.

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I come from a family that is very eco-conscious. I, too, want to do my part to help the environment, reduce my carbon footprint, and help improve the quality of the air and the earth around me.

I am also the mother to two children under the age of five, who are very attached to their favorite plastic straws. When I pulled one of them out of my diaper bag the other day, my brother audibly gasped and said, full of dismay, "Tell me you're not using disposable straws." One would have thought I'd grown a second head or suddenly sprouted wings. The very next day, he and his fiancee showed up on my doorstep with a reusable straw and water bottle in tow.

They've never bought me anything so meaningful and personal, so I knew the gift was full of meaning. I'm happy to report that we seamlessly made the switch and my kids have never once questioned the difference in drinking instrument.

That's not to say that I haven't noticed a slight shift in myself. In my college years, I could create bags of waste and never think twice about it. I took too-long showers and lugged cases of water bottles up to my fifth-floor dorm room, never once considering the harm I was doing. Yet, all of that inconsideration changed when I had my first baby.

Suddenly, it wasn't just my world I was living in. It was hers. Then, when my son was born two years later, it was his, too. I felt an ingrained sense of responsibility to make sure I was creating a home, environment and planet that was the best for them. I researched baby shampoos until my eyes crossed trying to find one that was free of parabens and all harmful chemicals. I stayed up all night making containers of homemade baby food because I was convinced that the store-bought brands weren't healthy enough. I was a mama on a mission, and nothing could stop me.

Then, those babies became toddlers. Preschool started. There were dance lessons, playdates, library storytimes, worksheets and more to juggle. It was all I could do to make it through the day without retreating into the laundry room (the only room with a door that locked) and sitting against the door taking deep, calming breaths while the little ones played in the living room and made a general ruckus of everything I had tried to neatly contain.

As I became more harried and more overwhelmed, my eco-consciousness began to wane. I began using more disposable items because they were quicker to grab. We ate off paper plates because I didn't want to tackle a sink full of dirty dishes. I made up a million and one excuses for my behavior, which was growing increasingly shameful as the rest of my family was taking on a newfound interest in all things green.

My brother, already the most nature-loving relative among us, became a vegetarian and has remained that way for more than a year. He bikes to his work 10 miles each way and goes on long hikes, dictionary in hand, whenever he can. He hired a repairman to fine-tune his HVAC system so it's more efficient and draws less energy from the house. He even convinced our uncle, his landlord, to allow him to install solar panels on the family homeplace down the road where he lives. Since then, he's told us anecdotes about energy savings, efficiency and waste. It's been eye-opening, to say the least.

It's also convinced me to find a way to balance the two sides of my psyche: the one that wants to be as good as possible to this Earth, and the one who is honestly just in a hurry and trying to hold it all together until dinnertime. I'm seeking to consume less, create less waste and use reusable items, such as straws, whenever possible.

I may not be able to commit to cycling with my two children in tow every time we want to visit the library or trek to the museum across town. I might not be at a place in my life where I can go on mile-long hikes with the kids in a carrier (I know it's possible. I just don't think my inherited bad back can conquer it quite yet.) But, I can do small things that make a big difference, and I can wake up every day committed to getting it right. For the planet. For myself. For them.

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Dear Taylor Swift, Christians Are Not Homophobic Bigots, Sincerely, The Majority Of Christians

Taylor, you need to calm down when talking about how most Christians act.

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When Taylor Swift released her newest single "You Need to Calm Down" last Friday, I didn't agree with the entire message of the song, mainly because of its heavy political overtones. But as the great Dick Clark once said, "It's got a good beat, and you can dance to it." So, for what it is, it's really easy to dance to this song, and I can see it becoming a pretty big hit.

But then the video came out, and I saw something that really bothered me.

In the music video for "You Need to Calm Down", Taylor is seen partying and hanging out with multiple LGBT+ icons in honor of Pride Month, such as the hosts of Queer Eye, RuPaul, and Ellen Degeneres. There's also a moment with Taylor, dressed as French fries, renewing her friendship with Katy Perry, who's dressed as a hamburger, which is as amazing as it sounds.

However, there's another cast of characters which acts as a foil to the happiness and colorful joy which is taking place in the video. There's a group of protesters surrounding the trailer park where Taylor and all her friends live. They're all dirty, buck-toothed, and dressed like your typical redneck stereotypes. They're also holding up protest signs while screaming at everyone in the trailer park. I saw one of the signs said something about Adam and Eve, and I realized most of the protesters were most likely meant to represent Christians.

And that...didn't sit well with me at all.

I know that these people never explicitly said they were Christians in the video, none of them even wore a cross. But, whenever someone sees anyone protesting rallies and organizations such as Pride, I can guarantee you that most of the time, the first thing people think is that they're from the Westboro Baptist Church, which is notorious for its protests. And I won't lie, there are some Christians who act that way.

But if you haven't heard this yet, let me be the first to tell you that not all Christians act like that. In fact, most of them don't act that way.

Christians don't agree with the LGBT+ lifestyle because of what the apostle Paul wrote in the book of 1 Corinthians (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). However, Jesus never once taught that just because you don't agree with a person doesn't mean they're automatically your enemy (Matthew 5:44). Christians are supposed to represent the love of the Savior of the world, which encompasses every and all aspects of humanity. This definitely includes people whose lifestyles we don't agree with. By not showing love to certain types of people, we are directly going against one of Jesus's greatest commandments.

Not agreeing with people is one of the cornerstones of humanity. It's a divisive world out there to be sure, but that doesn't mean people from any side of the debate need to perpetuate the division. Grouping all Christians into one group of hateful bigots is no different than Christians grouping all the members of the LGBT+ community into one group of evil people. One of the key elements of Christianity is showing people who have different beliefs from us the same love Jesus would show to anyone. And I know I'm not the only Christian who wants to show love to people of all walks of life. I may be the only Jesus they ever see in their lives, and we all wish to express the same love to others.

So Taylor, it looks like you're the one who needs to calm down on this issue.

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Different But The Same: Navigating My Life as One of Three Siblings

I couldn't be more different than my two siblings, but on some levels we're more alike than I thought.

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I am the oldest of three lively, loving and faithful siblings. My sister is seven years younger than me and my brother is nine. Two of us shared a room growing up, and the other lived just down the hall. In a lineup, we're unmistakably related. We share the same nose from our grandfather, the thin hair of our great-grandmother and the thick Italian eyebrows of our mother.

Deep down, we're all cut from the same cloth. Our moral compass, foundation and background are the same. We'd answer alike if you were to ask us our favorite childhood memory, how an elder should be treated, what to say and do at the dinner table and what is essentially right and wrong. All three of us are driven academically, hunger professionally and seek to mine the most good out of every day. Yet, on paper, we couldn't be more different.

Take my sister, for instance. She's the librarian at our local elementary school. We can't go to the local diner, the swimming pool or even walking down the road without scores of children recognizing her, running up to her and giving her a bear hug. There are entire circles of people who only know me for who I am in relation to her. I'll admit, when she first got that position, I went the entire summer long feeling as though I were walking in her shadow, though I eclipse her by half a decade of experience. There's a reason she's so well-known and loved, though. My sister is unfailingly kind, generous with her time and attention and genuinely invested in the young people she serves. She devours books, classic television shows and the family homeplace she shares with her high school sweetheart turned husband.

Then, there's my brother. He was in middle school when I got married, so our time together as adolescents was shorter, but we're more alike than it may seem. It's from him that I got my love of folk music, thrifting and antiques. He's an avid environmentalist and programs coordinator for our local arts council. In a world obsessed with smartphones and tiny screens, he takes walks with his fiance with a dictionary in hand, discovering new words and worlds as they travel. They hike every weekend, hole up and work on crosswords at their tiny cottage in the woods and spend all the time they can in their favorite mountains. In fact, they will likely relocate there or to the west coast when they tie the knot this September. He's outdoorsy, worldly and hyper-aware of how every decision he makes affects the world.

That bring us to me. Though I'm older than both of them in age, I feel as though I fall right in the middle of my brother and sister in terms of our interests and ideals. Like my brother, I love being outside and spend as much time in nature as possible. Yet, as the mother of two, I depend on disposable diapers and eat off paper plates to save time and money. Like my sister, I love nothing more than curling up with a great book, but as a technical writer and proposal manager, my life has me behind a screen more often than not. I read on my laptop into the wee hours of the morning, though like her, I spend many hours reading board books to children myself, though it's in the comfort of my home and not the local library.

At our core, we're wildly unique but I love the common thread woven between all of us. I love that our parents treated us all the same and made sure that what they did for one, they did for another. We all grew up feeling cherished, protected and loved beyond measure and for that, I'm eternally grateful. As we grow older together, we're learning from each other, exploring each other's interests and cultivating our own personalities in the process. It's a beautiful thing, doing life with these two. Thankfully, we all live within three miles of each other, so we get to unfold daily mysteries together on a regular basis. I couldn't imagine a better way or place to live.

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