Was “go green” one of your New Year’s resolutions? Even if your composter is still empty and there are chemical cleaners still lurking in your cabinets, don’t fret — Only 12 percent of those who make New Year’s resolutions actually keep them for a year. Which, frankly, is 12 percent more than I would have guessed. But if you’re like me and the other 88 percent, what can help us keep resolutions is the support of others.
With that in mind, this Earth Day I’m enlisting my family in the greening goals I set for 2011. And by “greening” (aren’t we all just getting sick to death of that word?), I mean treading more lightly on my wallet, my Daytimer, my blood pressure and Mother Earth. Surely THAT’s a resolution worth fighting for!
Your family’s planet-friendly plan
Here’s my five-step plan for creating a family of eco-warriors:
1. Create your family’s vision statement
Gather everyone together and develop a vision statement that outlines where you want each family member to be a year from now. Can you create a sentence that defines your family’s focus and intention? To help, ask each family member, from youngest to oldest, what truly matters to them. You may have to do some divining. If your five-year-old, for example, wants to ensure that polar bears don’t go extinct, you can help break it down into steps she can understand, such as “our family is committed to reducing our carbon footprint to enable the preservation of endangered species.” Get input from all family members so that each member feels well represented within the vision statement.
2. Break the vision down into a defined goal
If your goal is to reduce your carbon footprint (which, incidentally, will also save money and boost family health), figure out a realistic goal. Do you know what your family’s carbon footprint is right now? (A Web search will generally reveal sites that can help you come up with a figure.) How much do you expect to reduce that figure? What will each member commit to?
3. Create a plan for each family member
If you’ve decided to reduce your carbon footprint by, say, 25%, what can each family member do?
- Moms and dads can often cut back on their driving by carpooling, taking transit to work or tele-commuting.
- Teens might agree to limit their showers to two minutes.
- Kids might agree to walk or bike to school instead of expecting a ride.
- The whole family might commit to buying food from a local farmer and cutting back on processed junk food.
- Everyone might agree to buy energy from a green energy provider.
4. Give each member an area of responsibility
- Younger kids could monitor energy use, doing routine checks to ensure that lights and electronics are turned off when not in use.
- Teens could monitor waste. Can the family get its garbage down to one bin weekly? Or half?
- Mom can monitor finances by researching green investments to ensure the family’s retirement fund is supporting sustainable projects.
- Dad can commit to reducing the family’s “food miles” by buying locally.
You get the idea…
5. Plan regular meetings to monitor progress
Is the family on track to achieving its goal? Can you tweak expectations to either create a more ambitious goal or ramp up efforts to achieve the existing one? Ensure that meetings become about celebrating achievement rather than policing each other’s efforts. You want eco-warriors, not family warfare.