Celebrating Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day!!  My favorite thing about Earth Day is that a new Disneynature documentary comes out every year on this day.  This year it is all about monkeys, and I can’t wait to see it.  But if you haven’t seen African Cats – OMG – add it to your queue and get the tissues.  One of the best documentaries ever!

We try to be as “green” as we can all year long, but I am finding that it gets harder and there are more challenges now with young kids.  A few years ago, I shared our system for eliminating paper towels from our life.  I am happy to report that we still use this system, and we have been paper towel-free for close to four years now!

This year, I thought I’d share some of our thoughts on how we’re living a bit “greener” with kids.  And as part of that, I’m also happy to share that this year I’ve been chosen to be part of the Tom’s of Maine Goodness Circle!  We’ve been using Tom’s of Maine products in our home for years, so I’m excited to partner with a brand that I respect and support.  

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This year, Tom’s of Maine is celebrating Earth Month through the message “Start young.  Live green.”  I really feel like this is a message that rings true in our household.  As the boys grow and continue to learn and understand more and more, we are trying to teach them about concepts like reducing waste, recycling, composting, donating, and the concept of health in general. 

As far as eliminating waste and reducing junk goes, we try to be relatively minimalist from the start.  I know everyone has a different definition of what that term means to them, so take it with a grain of salt.  I have been to houses where it looks like a toy store vomited in every room, and I’ve been to other houses where kids have very few toys (by choice).  Every family has to find the right balance that keeps the kids and the parents sane (and the budget in line).  And it is SO easy to accumulate tons of STUFF, especially once you add more kids into the mix (must have two of everything!). 

In our house, the strategy is pretty simple – all toys must fit into or on top of this console table in the playroom…

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The fleet of trucks and cars hangs out on top, and the baskets are filled with things like blocks, musical instruments, train tracks, stacking cups, and more.  Whenever we get something new – I make a space for it.  This means either packing away toys that that kids have grown out of, or choosing some things that aren’t played with as much to donate or recycle (depending on the condition). 

Other than the main console of toys, we have the play kitchen – which is still a pretty big hit with both kids. 

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And we also have the fleet of garbage trucks that is too big for any basket or table.  These are played with on a daily basis!

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But outside of the playroom, the boys don’t have toys in their rooms or really anywhere else in the house.  I think they have plenty, but I also don’t think it’s anything too crazy.  Of course we have things like art supplies, books, and puzzles – but I don’t think you can ever have too many of those.  A big part of how we’ve avoided the massive toy explosion is to constantly comb through what we have.  I find that too many toys can actually be really overwhelming, and things get lost and broken when there is too much.  So every few months, I go through the baskets and bins, and I sort and organize what to keep and what can go. 

The gently used toys that are still in decent shape are put in the donation pile – and I see this as a great opportunity to get Cullen (and eventually Graham) involved in giving back.  But I’m definitely guilty of tossing the broken toys and things with missing pieces straight into the garbage.  This year, in order to reduce the number of toys ending up in landfills, Tom’s of Maine partnered with Terracycle to make these awesome toy recycling boxes!

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You can fill the boxes with any of the items listed below, and there is a pre-paid shipping label attached to send it back.  Pretty incredible!

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I went through the toy boxes in our house and came up with a good sized pile of things we never use, or things that were missing pieces.  I got Cullen involved, and of course his first reaction was to tell me that those were all his favorite things and he loved them and needed to keep them.  But once I showed him how he could climb up and help me put them in this giant box, he was much more inclined to help out.  Plus, the kid is obsessed with garbage and recycling, so this was right up his alley.

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He had a lot of fun with it, especially once I explained that the old toys and things would be recycled and turned into things like park benches, playground structures, and other cool things he could visualize. Do you think they would let me donate his Mariners t-shirt?  Because he never. takes. it. off. 

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And I was a happy camper when I went back inside and saw all the old junk no one was playing with out of the toy boxes.  Happiness!!

I love the “Start young. Live green” message that Tom’s of Maine is spreading this year.  Now more than ever – with young kids depending on us to make the healthiest choices for them – I find myself constantly scouring labels, looking at EWG lists and recommendations, and always looking for what feels like the best products for my kids.

Somewhere around Cullen’s second birthday we finally started brushing his teeth with toothpaste (we’d used water up until then).  I remember feeling all panicky and worried about making the wrong choice, as there was a lot of mixed information on things like flouride, dyes and flavorings, etc.  I ended up settling on Tom’s of Maine natural children’s toothpaste, and we’ve been using it now for almost two years.  (It scores a 2 on the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics List – with 0 being the best and 10 being the worst!) 

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As we continue to develop and encourage good dental hygiene in the family, there is a whole line of children’s dental products we can use for different ages.  Cullen loves having his own toothpaste, and knows that his has the cool strawberries!

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I didn’t know about the Tom’s toddler training toothpaste back when Cullen was a toddler, but we just started using it for Graham.  I’m excited to have a new option for him, since he is so desperate to do exactly what big brother does – including using toothpaste.

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And of course, there are a million different dental product options for mom and dad too.  Casey and I have been using these for years – they even sell them at Trader Joe’s!

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Something new that I’m excited to try out is the brand new line of kids and baby bath products.  Bath time is a big deal in our house, and we are headed into summer when baths become a nightly necessity (so much sand, sweat, and sunscreen!).  There are a lot of products that claim to be “natural” and “green” and I feel like those terms have been hijacked by marketers in the last few years.  But these products are the real deal, and I will happily suds up my kids with ingredients I like and a brand that I trust.  I also appreciate that they offer fragrance-free options, which is always my preference. 

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So that’s my spotlight on Tom’s of Maine for this Earth Day – from toys to toothpaste!  We are certainly not perfect – far from it – but I like to think that little changes and choices add up over time, and the more I teach my kids about it now, the bigger impact they will have over many, many Earth Days and every-days to come. 

How is your household getting “greener” this year?  Do you do anything special to celebrate Earth Day with your family?

I received the Tom’s of Maine products as part of my Goodness Circle 2015 partnership.  As always, all opinions and thoughts are my own.  Thanks for your continued support of me, and of Daily Garnish!