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5 ways to be a green parent

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STUFF

Get rid of the stuff. More toys and more clothes will only create more work for parents and kids, not to mention debt. Break away from the traditional birthday party model where every guest brings a gift; suggest cash instead, or skip presents altogether. Buy fewer, but better toys. Discuss the material and quality of construction with your kids; explain why plastic isn’t so great once it breaks and cannot be recycled. (You know, like Star Wars-style retractable glowing plastic light sabers, coveted in this household. They’re not keen on my alternative suggestion: a flashlight mounted inside a painted paper towel tube.)

Fewer toys in the house will make a kid more inclined to play outside. Encourage the use of natural materials, such as sticks (a.k.a. swords or spears), snowballs, mud, and leaf piles. Let them get dirty.

Get rid of the devices. It sounds heretical, but I’ve done it and I know it works. We have no TV or iPad; the kids aren’t allowed to touch our phones, ever. Once a week they get a half-hour of Netflix on my laptop and that’s it. Sure, they howl and complain, but eventually they find something else to do.

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