Earth Day is April 22nd and we thought it was a good opportunity to check in on our family’s environmental impact. We found the EarthDay.org Quiz that assesses a family’s overall ecological footprint. While we make conscious efforts to implement enviro-friendly actions and choices in our home, our results were eye-opening and prompted us to commit to making some realistic changes to reduce our family’s impact.
What is the Earth Day Quiz?
The assessment measures how much of the biological capacity of the planet is demanded by a given human activity or population. The goal of the quiz is to create awareness of our impact and make changes for a sustainable future
Take the EarthDay.org Quiz to see the impact your family is having on the environment, then use your assessment results to see where you can make changes in your own home and family lifestyle. 10 Ways To Reduce Your Family’s Environmental Impact below.
What Our Results Reveal
Uncovering it would take 5.1 planet earths to provide enough resources if everyone lived like us was a kick in the butt. We honestly feel like we make many sound, enviro-friendly choices, so this was a great activity to put our actions in perspective and drive us to more sustainable choices. While we’re pretty responsible with reducing, reusing and recycling in our home, being a large family and relying on modern day conveniences negatively impacts our score. Mobility is making the greatest impact, as we are heavily reliant on our cars to get around. Convenience-centered meal-making (i.e. – sometimes relying on packaged foods) and budget-friendly purchases (which sometimes mean not the best ingredients) also positions us for needed improvement.
But awareness is everything, and the shock of our results motivates us to make small changes to reduce our footprint. And you can too. We did some research and found realistic ways to reduce our impact, we think you’ll find manageable for your own family as well.
10 Ways to Reduce Your Family’s Environmental Impact
1) Use Energy-Efficient Transportation More Often
- Use public transit, walk, bike and carpool more often.
- Avoid unnecessary plane travel. Think more “staycations”!
- Buy fuel-efficient vehicles.
2) Reduce Home Energy Consumption
- Buy energy efficient appliances & light bulbs
- Unplug appliances and electronics when not in use
- Keep lights off during the day, and only necessary ones on at night.
- Reduce your thermostat temps 2 degrees in Winter, and increase 2 degrees in Summer and warm or cool off in less energy-reliant ways (Ex: where a sweater and socks).
- Use your dishwasher and laundry machines during off-peak times.
3) Convert to Renewable Energy Sources
- Look into wind energy and solar panels as sources of energy for your home. Many government organizations offer monetary incentives to make the conversion, enabling sustainable power generation, while reducing annual home expenses.
4) Reduce Paper & Plastic Consumption
Definitely an area we can improve in as we burn through paper towel like wildfire around here, and opt for the convenience of paper plates more often than necessary. While reusable toilet wipes would be a bit of a stretch right now (our laundry piles already resemble Mt. Everest!) we will be making small changes like choosing reusable hand towels and buying enviro-friendly toilet paper. Other paper & plastic reduction options:
- Print only essential documents, try to use both sides of the paper, and always recycle when documents are no longer needed.
- Send greetings, invitations and announcements electronically.
- When shopping, use reusable shopping bags instead of plastic and purchase products with less plastic packaging.
- Reduce the use of “throw out” paper plates and plastic utensils. Store leftovers in reusable containers as opposed to sealing in plastic wrap and foil. Choose recyclable paper and plastic wherever possible and follow through with recycling.
5) Convert to More Enviro-friendly Personal & Home Cleaning Products
- We are more aware of the ingredients in our personal hygiene and home cleaning products and have already started using enviro-friendly, health-conscious brands more often. To help make better choices in your own family, two great resources by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) are the Skin Deep Database and the Guide to Cleaners. For us, balancing budget-friendly with eco-friendly will remain a challenge in our large family (seems “better for you” products are still priced at a premium), but we do make more enviro-friendly cleaning product purchases where we can.
6) Make Wiser Food Choices
Amidst all the crazy of large family living, the convenience of packaged food and snacks is hard to get away from entirely, but wise food consumption can include:
- Eating real, earth-grown foods more often than not.
- Reducing animal product consumption, growing your own fruits and vegetables, and buying locally produced, in-season food products will all have positive impacts on the environment as well.
7) Reduce Water Consumption & Choose Enviro-Friendly Sources
- Reduce disposable water bottle intake and buy reusable water bottles instead.
- Choose clean, filtered water sources. Some reusable water bottles (like Britta) now come with built-in filter systems.
- Reduce water consumption by turning taps off when brushing your teeth, install water-wise plumbing and filtration systems.
- Use laundry appliances that require minimal amounts of water.
- Collect the water from vegetable washing and reuse to water houseplants.
8) Install Low-Impact Materials in Your Home
- Install energy efficient windows, proper insulation, and enviro-friendly construction materials to save energy on heating and cooling.
- Don’t buy a home larger than you actually need (yikes…guilty!)
9) Reduce Hazardous Waste
- Take advantage of rebate and responsible disposal programs for all your end of life electronics. Best Buy offers an excellent E-CYCLE program.
- Use Re-chargeable batteries.
- Use zero or low VOC paints and properly dispose of paint cans (an all other hazardous waste products) at your local waste disposal centre.
10) Donate, Upcycle & Resell Furniture + Textiles & Shop from Eco-Conscious Businesses
- If you must buy new, shop from brands that implement sustainable, enviro-conscious business practices, like Kin & Kith
- Repurpose old furniture or sell to a local consignment shop.
- Resell pre-loved clothing and accessories.
- Donate books and magazines to hospitals, libraries and education centres.
The best shops and services to donate, resell and repurpose household goods and clothing can be found HERE.
Being aware of your family’s impact is a great start. Small steps made consistently are better than staying stuck in unsustainable and environmentally detrimental ways. Many of the suggestions are also good for our overall health, so small changes have a dual-impact of improved family wellness. While this season of parenting (aka – survival mode!) means being realistic with our changes, and at times needing to cling to some modern day conveniences, we are committed to implementing many of the changes we researched above to reduce our footprint, and hope we may have motivated you and your family to do the same. Every effort matters.
What eco-conscious changes have you made to your home & family lifestyle? We’d love to hear any we missed.