A friend of mine put it pretty succinctly a few weeks ago. The day my first child was born was the day I declared war on the Earth. And I doubled down when my second came along. True, that first child who is now four wouldn’t consider tossing a piece of paper in the garbage, nor would he ever throw away a plastic recycle-able. He knows that the water he can use for his outdoor projects comes from our rain barrel, not the regular hose. And he’s certainly not afraid to tell his two-year old sibling “Helen! You can’t leave the water running. We might run out someday!”. Ok, it was a simplistic explanation of why it makes me insane to see water running in the house when it’s not being used, but it works. At least for my son. I’ve even seen him tell my husband, our au pair, and visitors about what can and cannot be recycled, referring to the pictures on our refrigerator. He’s not afraid to go fishing in the trashcan if he finds a misplaced object.
Kudos to all the Earth friendly moms out there. As witnessed by all the Earth Day posts, it's clear many parents are doing a lot to live earth-friendly lives - and teaching their kids to do the same, daily. But I can't help but wonder, are we missing the forest for the trees? Prior to having children, my husband and I kept the furnace low, and when it got cold, we reminded ourselves that Jimmy Carter had advised folks to put on another sweater. If he could do it in the White House, we could surely do it too. Likewise, in the summer we rarely used our AC, preferring instead to hang out in our basement and sleep in a bedroom tucked away down there, affectionately termed our “summer bedroom”. My husband and I biked to work almost daily, had one car that didn’t do much more than take us on weekend trips and to the grocery store. When gas prices started rising, we didn’t have cause to take notice. For the life of us, we couldn’t understand why Arlington County issued such large trash bins. If ours was filled more than one-third, it surprised us.
But oh, how life has changed with kids.
True we started out with our son in our bedroom downstairs, but eventually, we decided to put our son in his own room. On went the AC as we moved to the main floor of the house where we could sleep in the room across from my son. Good-bye, summer bedroom. We turned up the heat in the winter, because we were advised by multiple sources that we shouldn’t be piling a bunch of blankets on our infant who could barely move. Oh, it was comfortable in that house, the whole year round, it was comfortable! Friends who before would be offered a blanket and sweatshirt from my husband and I suddenly felt like a trip to our house was a vacation.
That car that used to sit in the driveway? Now it went to the pediatrician, the Reston Zoo, the National Zoo, the very cool waterpark. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, Oh the Places We Went! And did you see the trashcan? We received so many items from friends and family after the birth of our son that the UPS guy actually got to know me well enough that he would just bring the packages right inside my house. And frankly, I was grateful not only for all the gifts but for the opportunity to exchange a few words with an adult. I’m praying that I will be forgiven my four years of tossing out of so many disposable diapers – two for each of my children. (We considered the cloth scene, but then we’d be using the washing machine nonstop.)
Ultimately, we found ourselves with a lot more money than time after our son was born. And this led to a lot more packaging and energy use than existed in our child-free years. True, we were able to make most of our baby food, but eventually sleep deprivation set in, and we succumbed to those ever-so-convenient pre-packaged foods. When I started working again, I needed to be home on time for the nanny, which ultimately meant more car trips into the office, rather than worry about the metro. And biking? Well, until recently, I just didn’t have the energy.
It’s been a big change in our life, and the addition of a second child and an au pair have exaggerated these not so earth-friendly changes. Next up: Declaring War on the Earth: Part 2, The Big Move.
This is an original DC Metro Moms blog post. When Elaine is not feeling guilty about her impact on the environment, she records her children’s lives at Connor and Helen!
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Posted by ElaineMM on May 07, 2010 at 02:00 AM in Elaine | Permalink
Children and the Environment, recycling, children's impact on Earth Comments
Haha. We didn't have a dishwasher in DC, so when Teo was born we used up a LOT of paper plates and plastic cups. I am not quite sure our being carless (since we moved here 8 years ago) is enough to make up for how much our 2 kids have added to landfills.
Reply May 07, 2010 at 08:44 AM Sue @ Laundry for Six said...
Enemies of the Environment... I know! The same thing happens here.