Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Recession-Proof and Green…It’s a Family Affair

Thought I'd share an article I recently had published in Vegas' Zip Code Magazine.

Hooray for the recession! What? What good could come out of a recession? Quite simply, the answer is family time. Not ‘family in the minivan heading to the mall’ time, but ‘family finding things to do together at home’ time. With looming cuts in overtime giving moms and dads more hours to spend at home, while budget woes require eliminating expensive extracurricular activities like Tae Kwon Do or piano lessons, finding fun and affordable activities to fill those time slots requires a bit of creativity. Here’s how you can make the most of this time with budget and eco-friendly activities the whole family can enjoy.

Project Time

Pursuing a project together reaps a variety of benefits, including stronger bonds.
  • Compost. From decisions on what to compost, to where to put your composting pile, to building your own container, this can be a green family project involving everyone. For more information on this, check out The Good Compost Guide at
  • Plant a garden. Everyone in the family can take part in the planning and care of the garden. Round up the kids to help build a container garden, plant seeds, make plant markers, water and weed. By avoiding chemical fertilizers and pest control products, your family can enjoy healthier vegetables all summer long.
  • Scavenger hunt. Set the family lose in the attic, garage, basement or wherever unused stuff gets stored. The goal here is to see who can come up with the most creative use of forgotten junk. For instance, an old door can become a workbench when placed atop two old dressers.
TV Time

In today’s modern family, it’s not unusual for three or four televisions to be on at the same time. Mom’s watching HGTV, Dad’s tuned in to ESPN, and the kids are watching separate shows in their rooms. Between the televisions and the lights, that’s a lot of energy being used. Try planning one night a week or more where everyone has to gather in the family room and watch the same programs or DVDs. Tell the kids it’s all about being environmental; they’ll jump on that quicker than if you use the ‘family time’ excuse.

Game Night

Better yet, unplug entirely for one night a week. Turn off the Wii™, don’t worry about who said what on Facebook, forego tweeting, stash away the handheld video games and enjoy an eco-friendly night of entertainment. The kids may moan and groan at first, but they’ll be having fun in no time. If you’re really adventurous, bypass lights altogether and spend the night playing board games or cards by the light of lanterns or soy-based candles.


Get the whole family involved in meal planning. One way to do this is to let everyone have a turn at picking a meal that will fit into any of the following suggestions.
  • Give up cooking one day a week. That got Mom’s attention, didn’t it? Don’t get too excited, though. The alternative to firing up your stove is not hopping in the car to go out to eat. Rather, plan on eating one cold dinner a week…cold as in sandwiches and salads made from as much local produce as possible.
  • Cook out. Cooking outside doesn’t necessarily mean grilling. On really hot days, instead of heating up the kitchen and making the A/C work even harder, plug in your slow cooker out on the patio or deck.
  • Use your toaster oven. Whenever possible, opt for the less-energy-consuming toaster oven over the conventional one.
Go for the Green!

Post-Olympic fervor doesn’t have to die out completely. Why not host your own Eco-Olympic games? Include extended family, friends and neighbors to make an even bigger impact. The goal is to go for the Green, not the Gold. See who can come up with the most innovative way to make their home environmentally-friendly. Nearly everyone recycles, but is there a better way? Is there a greener way to get to work or school safely? Who can cut down on the most waste? Could someone organize a community fundraiser or event for the environment? Choose non-partial judges (co-workers, church members, etc.) and create a clear set of rules. When it’s podium time, have metals available in Forest Green, Pea Green and Lime Green. You never know how big your own personal Eco-Olympics could become! Let’s just hope the news coverage isn’t on your ‘Turn off the T.V. night!’

For more ideas on eco-friendly activities for your family, check out a variety of creative ideas at Earth Day doesn’t have to be limited to a day in April. Enjoy the recession by making every day Earth Day in your home, develop healthier relationships within your family, and create memories that’ll last as long as the planet.

-- Hana Haatainen Caye

Photo courtesy of Peter Griffin

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