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THE A-to-Z of Homeschooling
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Homeschooling Green

By Ann Zeise

I recently attended a conference about how to teach children about “living green.”

There were some good exercises we learned, and one fun one we got to do was to electronically “vote” which ecological savings we really thought we were willing to implement.

The point being: no one can do each and every thing that can matter to stop global warming, but if we can OVER ALL cut back even 10% each, the effect would be great.

I just found a book at Costco called True Green: 100 everyday ways you can contribute to a healthier planet by Kim McKay and Jenny Bonnin, and produced by the National Geographic. I paid $11.59 for it at Costco, and its more through Amazon.

First of all, households produce 20% of the greenhouse gases that are the problem. That also means that industry and other sources account for 80%.

So often we hear what needs to be done by industry, and that is indeed important, but True Green tells us what we WOMEN and KIDS can do. The first suggestion: if you just want one cup of tea, boil only one cup of water!

Now that it is summer here, and gets around 90 degrees each day, we open our windows over night, and then close up tight first thing in the morning. This means pulling the shades on the sunny side of the house. The house stays amazingly cool all the rest of the day!

In the winter, we reverse the process, opening shades on the sunny side of the house during the day, and closing up tight over night.

Put florescent lights in where you can.

Turn the computer and printer off when not in use. This means turn it off at the SOURCE! Plug them into a surge protector and once shut down, turn off the power switch on the surge protector.

Wash most clothes in cold water – it will save energy AND the clothes! Avoid using detergent at all! And don’t wash clothes that were worn just once and aren’t dirty or smelly. When drying, make sure the lint filter has been cleaned out, or line dry.

I cook a lot of things in one set of double boilers or the other. One has holes in the top part, and the other does not. This way I can cook two dinner items for the energy price of cooking one. And fewer vitamins are lost from the item in the top that is not in water.

Recently we badly needed to replace two of our toilets, and the county was offering a rebate of $150 each for replacing toilets with water saving ones. So we now have two potties that use .8 of a gallon to flush compared to the ones we got rid of that used 3.5 gallons! Compared with the older water saving toilets, these new “dual flush” ones actually DO stay cleaner! The “power assist” scared me at first, but I got used to it.

In your garden, plant plants that are native, or just happen to love the amount of water nature gives there. There is a reason Portland is called “The City of Roses” – because the rain there is what roses like, without the home owners having to give them extra! I spray my roses with a soap-based product to keep aphids away.

I tore out our front lawn and planted a butterfly and hummingbird attracting garden instead. I love to sit out there now, and watch all the critters visit my yard, which they never did when it was just a lawn… and I don’t have to water, except on the very hottest days! Critters tend to also eat pests, and so I don’t need pesticide!

Grow some of your own food. Tomatoes are easy, and taste oh so much better than store-bought. If you don’t have the room, patronize your local farmers market, where the produce doesn’t travel so far.

Sweep instead of hosing down your walks and driveway.

Take your car to a commercial car wash – they tend to use recycled water, where your own hose would have drinkable water.

I’m going to donate old, but still serviceable mugs to my church, and one of those soap storing dishwashing tools so to help our members not use disposable cups at coffee time.

Can you be more “paperless?” Do the businesses you deal with offer emailed billing and even let you pay online? I won’t say we’re without our bills, but for the most part, I get and pay most all my regular bills online. The ones where I get a paper bill, I call up and pay with a credit card, avoiding another wasted envelope, postage, and gas for delivery. The credit card is one that is paper-free.

Place one-side-printed only paper in a place where anyone can grab a sheet when needed for a quick note or scribble.

Here’s one I’m bad about. Did you know your cell phone charger – in a wall socket OR in the car – is drawing energy even when the cell phone isn’t connected? I found out the hard way when my car battery went dead! I had the charger plugged in!

Add indoor plants to your decor. They add oxygen to the air, and they absorb airborne pollutants. They also help reduce stress level. If you have a black thumb, grow Pathos – even I can’t kill it! It is growing up our stair banister, and must be 20-30′ long!

It is important for even young mothers to invest. I invest through a company called Calvert that invests in companies that have a good record about being friendly to the environment, are good to their female and disabled employees and clients, etc. In other words, I don’t invest in tobacco and oil. These are all socially responsible companies.

Think how much better the world might become if all 2 million US homeschoolers’ families invested in socially responsible companies?

Less is more. Consider buying a few very good shoes that will last you for years rather than cheap shoes that are uncomfortable and don’t last! There’s a reason homeschoolers are teased about wearing “Berkies”! Yes, they cost a lot initially, but they wear so well! This goes for just about everything! It is always “cost per mile!”

Think hard: do you really need to BUY everything you use for homeschooling, or could it be borrowed instead? I see no reason to store a gazillion movies at home! Even now, some cable companies are offering to download any movie you want to watch at any time! Borrow all literature and history books from the public library. Borrow books with science experiment ideas, too. Might want to buy a math book, but homeschoolers love to sell them used!

Our city is handing out free shopping bags! They are quite sturdy and generous in size. The grocery store gives me a nickel back for each they fill for me. So you can bet I have them all stored in my car. One is thermal for the frozen food, so it is far better than “paper or plastic?” Use such bags when doing any kind of shopping – clothes, books, toys, etc.

Do you live close enough to the grocery store to walk? Consider getting your own cart! I sell one ofthese carts each month, and have one myself. The store is about a mile away. I first had one with no lining, and stuff fell through. Pay more and get a lining!

When you do go shopping, shop mostly around the outside edges of a stores. Most stores are arranged so that the fresh food – dairy, butcher, and produce – are along the walls, and the packaged, processed stuff is on the shelves in the middle. Once your cart is nearly full with this “good stuff,” then you won’t be so tempted to buy many processed items!

Kids don’t need too many calories: they need GOOD calories! Same goes for your dog and cat. As someone pointed out, good food provides lots of energy and strength for growth, so your kids, cats and dogs need less of it! I refuse to have cookies and ice cream in the house, but I love to have them when we are out. Makes it a treat and not a “staple!”

I am “in charge” of the Fair Trade Equal Exchange fund raiser at church. We order coffee and tea (and chocolate and cocoa in the cool weather) from the Equal Exchange folks. We ask members to buy “cost plus” – whatever they can afford over our cost as a donation. Non-profits don’t have to pay as much.

Start a compost. A homeschool friend gave me some red worms, as our son had expressed an interest in fishing. I got one of those plastic planters that allow bottom watering. I put some mesh on the inside bottom so the worms couldn’t escape (from an old torn screen), and then filled the pot with a mix of soil, shredded newspaper, non-meat table scraps – and the worms, and watered lightly. I kept the planter in my kitchen with another real houseplant on top of it half the time. All I had to do was collect the water coming out the bottom and water the other houseplants with it! It was really very simple. The worms eat the leftover food, turning it into in polite company is called “worm castings.” This blends in with the soil. Water fed through the system is rich in natural fertilizer! Kept fed, your worm farm will last for years! Any fishermen friends will adore you for providing bait. Your houseplants will thrive! And when you get tired of it all, you can dump the whole project someplace in your yard that needs organic help!

When it comes to personal care products, consider that you probably don’t need every one of them every day. While you certainly don’t want to start scaring family members away, lighten up with what you feel you can’t live without, and purchase products that claim to be “green.”

Clothing is a tough one. Tremendous resources are used to create leather, cotton and wool, and synthetics, of course, are made from oil. Clothing has to be one of those, buy what you need, make it last, and recycle to those less fortunate when you are done with an article – don’t throw it in the dump!

Maintain the family bikes, and use them to run some errands.

When it comes time to replace the family car, get the most fuel-efficient and safe vehicle for your family needs. In the meanwhile, check the tire pressure every time you fill up. A few pounds of air can save lots of gas!

Learn what “carbon offsets” are. These are like trades. So you really NEED an SUV for all your kids and their activities! Then pay for a membership in the Terra Pass to help eliminate your carbon footprint. Your money funds renewable energy projects such as wind farms. These projects result in verified reductions in greenhouse gas pollution. And these reductions counterbalance your own emissions.

Now, I know that most homeschoolers are not politically inactive folks! Write your mayor and city council, or stand up during the citizens forum, and insist that the next time the trash pickup company contract is being renewed, that the city take the best bid from a recycling company!

This can be a two edged sword. We have a company that gives us HUGE 50 gallon containers – three of them – one for garden recycling, one for recyclables, and one for everything else. They have these HUGE composing piles, and when the wind from the bay blows over one that has been recently turned –PHEW!– the stink has been awful! They have finally figured out how to align the pile and to listen to weather reports so that the smell isn’t so bad, or blows in the other direction.

Share rides when you go on homeschool field trips. Pick up someone else on the way to parkday.

Just by homeschooling you are already saving that daily commute to get your kids to and from school, and that saves gas. Don’t blow it by becoming a “car schooler” and driving around so much your “school” is in your car!

You did ask about crafts made with recycled materials. Here’s a site that has great ideas. If you live in Santa Clara or Sacramento Counties in CA, the recycled items called for are at the local RAFT stores. Here’s their Idea Sheet section with TONS of ideas of educational things to make from “throw-aways.”

Consider getting a “white board” for math work, but don’t put it on the wall! Let the kids use it on the floor or a table. Kids love to have their mistakes “vanish” on those boards! If you have to show someone else their work, just take a digital photograph to “save” the best. Also, some kids really need to write with “fat” pens, or to be able to see “fat” letters and numbers. Colors make the work look more fun, and a white board encourages drawing illustrations.

It can seem overwhelming at first, but soon, like teaching your own, it becomes second nature. Don’t feel guilty for not doing EVERYTHING suggested… I know people who save “grey water” and use for toilet flushing. I am NOT going to be doing that, but I admire those with the fortitude.

If everyone just did a little more Green Home, Green Homeschooling, it would help.

Tread Lightly
When you go to the beach, you leave footprints in the sand. But did you know that you also have an ecological footprint?


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