Going Green: The 3 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make


Question: What are the 3 Most Common Mistakes parents make when trying to live "greener"?

Experts: Heather Hawkins and Renee Limon, co-founders of enviromom.com

1. Going for the complete makeover.

Renee: I think that many people are easily overwhelmed by the idea of going green because there is so much information out there about what you should be doing and a lot of the suggestions people hear about involve really big changes.

Heather: Yeah, like: Everyone in America, stop driving this minute or change your entire home heating system! It can freak you out; it can seem easier to just do nothing. What we try to advocate is the baby-step approach. Focus on one small change at a time, like going through your linen cabinet, finding your cloth napkins and starting to use them. Develop that habit. Soon, you stop buying paper napkins and boom; you've taken a step.

Renee: Buying reusable water bottles is also a great first step.

Heather: Cutting out packaged snacks is pretty easy too. We just try to stick with whole foods for snacks now. I buy a big block of cheese and slice off as much as I want and stick it into a reusable container, send that to school instead of individually wrapped cheese sticks. It's such a small step that it may not occur to you, but it makes a big difference.

2. Getting hosed by the "greenwash"

Heather: Manufacturers really throw that "all-natural" label around these days and they can get away with it. They can call their products all-natural even if there may be only handful of natural ingredients in the whole product. This is called the "greenwash."

Renee: If something disposable is being billed as green, it's probably really not. As far as foods go, the fewer the ingredients the better. The same thing with beauty and cleaning products. If you recognize the words in the ingredients, that's more natural than if it's made mostly of chemicals you can't pronounce.

3. Worrying about appearances

Heather: We're a very affluent society, so it can seem strange at first to do things like use cloth napkins or shop secondhand, but I think being eco-conscious friends of the earth is something to take pride in and to help your children take pride in. Children's actions can influence their peers. We see it not just in our own families but also in the families that read our site and in the families we interact with locally.

Renee: For example, next Monday, we're kicking off a Green Week for Earth Day at our kids' school. All of the kids are going to make their own cloth napkins. Suddenly making cloth napkins isn't weird, it's cool. Being eco-conscious can lose that stigma and become the thing to do!

As told to Lindsay Armstrong.