We'd all like to live a little greener. And often, it's families who make the extra effort: Parents can't help but worry about how pesticides, pollutants, and tons of nonbiodegradable trash will affect their children's health and future. But sometimes, it seems as if protecting the earth and leading a hectic family life just don't mix. As much as you'd like to avoid drinking from juice boxes, using plastic bags, and spending half your paycheck on gas, as a parent, you've got lunches to pack, groceries to lug home, and a long list of errands to run. But you can take small steps to be more environmentally conscious. These family-friendly strategies will help you begin to reduce, reuse, and recycle more efficiently -- without a complete lifestyle overhaul.Best intention: Rinse and reuse all those plastic sandwich bags from your child's lunches.
Real-world solution: Create less waste by packing food in washable plastic containers or by using the right-size bag for the job -- sandwich bags for larger items and snack-size ones for pretzels or raisins. And remember that fruit is earth-friendly: Many varieties come in their own handy "wrapper" (their skin), so you don't need to bother with the added bag.Best intention: Give up juice boxes and individually wrapped snacks.
Real-world solution: Save the prepackaged bites for lunch boxes, picnics, and times you're on the go; pour drinks into small plastic reusable sports bottles. For home, buy juice and snacks in bulk -- it's cheaper too -- and use nondisposable cups and plates.Best intention: Trade in your SUV for a hybrid car.
Real-world solution: Only earth-conscious celebrities can afford to do this on a whim! If it's not time for a trade-in, help reduce greenhouse gases -- and save money at the pump -- by keeping your car well-tuned. If you combine using the proper grade motor oil, checking that your tires are properly inflated, and replacing an old air filter, you can increase your miles per gallon (mpg) by up to 15 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Removing excess weight from your car (getting rid of an extra 100 pounds of toys and bikes in your trunk increases your mpg by up to 2 percent) and driving the speed limit also help. And don't assume you need air-conditioning on hot days. Rolling down the windows can offer relief and doesn't guzzle gas.