It's Earth week and five months since I "greened" The Smiths. This Alberta family of six knew there was more they could do for the planet but didn't know where to start.
They weren't certain what to expect when they found out that they'd "won" me. (Even the reporters who visited their home were expecting shiny new solar panels and a Prius in the garage.) Melanie hoped it would involve more than "chasing my family around turning off lights and faucets and taking my own bags to the store."
Melanie went from "I'm just one person, what can I do?" to "I'm one person, look what I CAN do!"
Here's how you can motivate someone else or get started yourself:
Step 1: What are you already doing?
Start from a happy place. The Smith's garage had a row of overflowing blue recycling bins. I challenged them to recycle less. Sounds absurd? Heaping piles of recycling isn't the way to a smaller footprint. We dove into those bins to see what could be reused. Melanie now covets glass jars (like me)!
Step 2: Where's your biggest impact?
Melanie spends a lot of time doing laundry. She washes clothes in cold water with her energy efficient washing machine. But there is no such thing as an energy efficient dryer. We reinstated her forgotten drying rack, now at home (for the winter) in their dining room.
Step 3: Small steps matter
Melanie said "I don't have time to change out of my pyjamas to drive my kids to school! How can I find the time to save the planet?"
With my help and their determination, the Smiths now:
• Make their own green cleaners (like liquid laundry soap)
• Make triclosan-free liquid hand soap
• Purchase personal care products free of the Dirty Dozen
• Compost (use their garburator less)
• Eat more vegetarian meals
• Buy organic produce and meats
• Choose groceries with certified eco-labels
• Pack truly litter-less lunches for the kids (plastic-free)
• Plugged electronics into power bars (and powered them off when not in use)
• Unplug vampire electronics
Melanie wrote "Little things DO matter. They've changed the way we will live, for the better."
Step 4: Looking at the world through green-colored glasses
Melanie pledged "By teaching my kids the importance of environmental responsibility by the everyday things that I do, they will grow into environmentally conscious adults." And she's right.
When I visited her last week, Melanie said they're buying carbon offsets for their summer vacation flights — something that would have never crossed her mind before.
Step 5: Pay it forward
I coached Melanie about green cleaning ingredients. She found washing soda and liquid castile soap at a local health food store, and then shared my recipes with the cashier. And it didn't stop there. Melanie found "A lot of people are VERY interested in our story — people just like us, who want to do better and just aren't sure how. It's not just our family that's been shown the light, but our extended families, friends, neighbours, my children's teachers, the community in which we live and the list goes on."
Chances are you've already made changes to better the planet. But I bet you know somebody — a relative, someone from your carpool, a neighbour — that could use a little help.
This Earth Week, why not pay it forward?
Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green