The eight year old and I were recently near-death with the flu, and we spent the better part of ten hours splayed out on opposite ends of the same couch without the will to live. Our century-plus old house has a nifty chimney, but it’s now too risky to burn a wood fire in the fireplace so we have a gas insert with a remote control. At one point during our extreme illness (no parts of this story are exaggerated, I can assure you), the fireplace went out, and we were certain we would freeze to death since we couldn’t reach the two feet to the remote to restart the fire.Happily, though, we survived. We conquered the rest of our sickly sentence by passing a little time on Practically Green. I know, I’m prone to wax poetic about this site, but I’m truly just insanely fond of it. So, Sophie and I explored some of the badges that can be earned on the site by taking steps to make your life a bit greener. I’m particularly interested in how the site uses incentives like this that are popular with the masses (Foursquare, anyone?) and how we might incorporate something similar with the 4,000 kids who visit the Ozark Natural Science Center every year. We already do a pretty good job on the food front: we’re known for our great food, fresh salad bar and reciting the take what you need, eat what you take mantra before meals. If you’re joining me on this soapbox, read this great piece by one of our teacher naturalists, Roslyn Imrie: The Great Journey of Cheese!
I’ve rambled in the past about packing school lunches and the comfort of our routines. I do believe schools are diligently working with nutritionists to improve selections and that the work of Michelle Obama and Jamie Oliver is making a tremendous difference, but it isn’t enough. The food offerings at school cafeterias may be healthy (although so far, they haven’t looked particularly appetizing), but kids aren’t eating them. I’ve sat regularly in the cafeteria surrounded by kids who pick at the dessert and throw away massive quantities of untouched food and disposable serving items, and it truly makes me squirm. Not only do I know with certainty there are kids who don’t have enough to eat in our community and countless others, the sheer quantities of waste floor me.
Anyway, I digress. Sophie and I started out by checking out the Healthy Green Lunch badge, and we discussed her school lunches. She knows our routine (pack ’em all on Sunday) and our formula (one sandwich on whole grains, one fruit, one veggie, one dairy and a treat) and has it down to a science. She usually makes PB&J or ham and cheese and grabs grapes or an apple and snow peas, carrots or cherry tomatoes in reusable containers and adds string cheese or yogurt. I’m less pleased about the excess packaging on our dairy item, but haven’t tackled that quite yet. She takes a cloth napkin for the whole week and her treat is usually a whole fruit strip or maybe a cookie, and she buys (and enthusiastically drinks) milk every day. You know, the kind that is white as opposed to other colors. And yes: I’m proud of all of this.
So in discussing the badge, she found that she already knocked most of the items out of the park and could even suggest an addition or two (attention, Practically Green – how about pack your own cloth napkin and utensils?!). I asked her if she was remembering to pack a spoon on yogurt days, and she said they had them at school. I immediately riled up thinking she meant disposables, but she assured me silverware was available and asked why it mattered. I explained that it wouldn’t make sense for her to personally throw away five plastic spoons a week, and I loved my husband’s reply when I told him this story: he said she has so much more information available to her than we did, and that parents didn’t know or share those things in the past. “It makes your soul hurt” to think about all that waste, he said. Agreed. It isn’t because I run an environmental education center or because being green is perceived as trendy: it’s just not responsible to behave a certain way when you know better. Isn’t that what we try to teach our children?
Sophie pointed out there was one area where we still weren’t doing well – we will occasionally in a pinch use a plastic baggie, and I confess it makes my skin crawl. I kept thinking how great we are about reusable shopping bags and even produce bags, and yet I haven’t eliminated this small item as an option by just not purchasing the baggies! Chastened, I hopped over (thanks to the Practically Green recommendation) to the utterly fabulous Blue Avocado website – more on that here! I ordered the sandwich and washable (re)zip bags for Sophie for Christmas in her preferred (super cute) orange poppy pattern so we can mark it off the list and feel good about earning our PG lunch badge!
Here’s the GREAT news after all that reading and soapboxing: you can win one of the super cool complete eco-chic kits from Blue Avocado! (You’ll have to click that little “More…” button for the giveaway!)