- Courtesy of Meredith Bay-Tyack
- Playing in the afternoon
My husband and I share the load of, well, everything. The last year has highlighted how important our partnership is, and I'm grateful that we both believe that a marriage isn't just 50-50 — it's two people giving 100 percent and picking up each other's slack during busy or stressful times.
I have been the driving force of many of our eco-friendly habits, but my partner has not only supported the changes but has become an advocate, too. His grumbles about giving up paper towels for washable rags has turned to casually telling family and friends about how much more effective cloth towels are at cleaning and mopping up spills.
Here's a look at how our whole family incorporates environmentally friendly practices into our daily routine.
I am not a morning person, so my husband gets up with the girls and they all head downstairs while I hit the snooze button several times. Kids' breakfast is usually something easy to make in a tired state, such as oatmeal or toast with jam. We buzz around, gathering backpacks, getting dressed in our mostly secondhand clothes and packing school lunches in stainless steel bento boxes. Durable, reusable items are pricey up front but they really do last. And stainless is incredibly easy to clean, even if food is left for days (don't ask me how I know this). We usually pack leftovers and a few things we have stocked specifically for lunches, such as fruit, crackers and cheese. We try to make reducing food waste a regular part of our life, but I'll admit we have a long way to go.
With an insulated mug of fair-trade coffee in hand, I drive both kids to school. It's time-consuming since they're at different schools now, but in a few years they'll be back to being in the same place. We listen to music or a podcast, and I daydream about having an electric cargo bike someday.
- Courtesy of Meredith Bay-Tyack
- Prepping lunch
Back at home, the rest of the day is a blur of emails, Zoom meetings, calls and other work. To get over that midday slump and find the energy to complete a few more work tasks before school pickup, I'll brew a cup of loose-leaf tea. Find it package-free in bulk at City Market or Healthy Living, or check out local makers, such as Misuba Tea. I was shocked to find out that almost all tea bags contain plastic, and I find the ritual of making loose-leaf tea so lovely. It's typically less expensive, too.
If I can, I like to listen to podcasts while I work or if I'm doing a quick chore. It's a great way to stay updated on news and hear experts go in-depth on topics such as climate change. I enjoyed the recent VPR interview with Dr. Lesley-Ann Dupigny-Giroux, Vermont's state climatologist, called "What The Climate Emergency — and Solutions — Look Like in Vermont."
School pickup always comes quickly. My husband bikes to pick up our kindergartener, and then typically drives to preschool pickup while I continue working. When they get home, the kids will stop inside for a snack and a glass of water from our self-serve kids' area. Now that it's warm out, afternoons mean spending time outside. We may stick around the house and do some gardening, play a little soccer or build fairy houses. Often my husband will bring the girls to a nearby park for some biking practice or scootering. Sometimes we'll do a quick hike through nearby nature areas in Winooski, such as Memorial Park and Casavant or Gilbrook nature areas. (Visit winooskivt.gov/rec for more info.) If we see trash, we'll carefully pick it up and either bring it home to dispose of or put it in a receptacle at the park.
- Courtesy of Meredith Bay-Tyack
- Setting the table for dinner
After a tick check (ugh!) we'll clamber inside for dinner prep. My husband usually steps up to do the heavy lifting for dinner, while I tidy up and act as sous chef or make a side dish.
We light beeswax candles and set out cloth napkins to make the everyday feel special. Another thing we started to do this year was fill out the One Question a Day for Kids journal we got at a bookstore. It has questions like "What's a recent movie you liked?" and "Who makes you laugh a lot?" It's a fun way to break the ice on good conversation, and it will be interesting to look back at the kids' answers as they get older.
End of the day
After the kids are in bed, my husband and I will collapse on the couch and scroll on our phones for a few minutes. No shame in our zone-out game! Then we'll take a few minutes to give our future selves a leg up. My husband will run the dishwasher, and I'll tidy up all the little stuff that somehow gets thrown around the house every day.
We are grateful to have a washer and dryer in our home, and we take full advantage of them. We run a load or two of laundry nearly every day. My mantra is "Laundry not landfill" to remind me of why going back to disposables isn't a good option for us.
Maybe we'll read or watch a documentary — or a superhero movie. When I do start to get overwhelmed with feelings of dread about climate change, environmental racism, deforestation or a myriad of other issues that seem too big to solve, I try two things. First, I do some small act of resistance against throwaway culture. I'll mend a shirt. I'll carefully clean a pair of too-small shoes to donate to friends or our local mutual aid organization. Second, I'll take some kind of manageable action. I'll write an email to a mid-sized company to ask about how they are making their manufacturing practices more eco-friendly. I'll do some research on what Vermont-based organizations are doing and sign up for a workshop, webinar or meeting. I'll flag a book, documentary or podcast episode to listen to later.
We're not striving for perfection but embracing being works in progress. I'm so impressed by the diversity of families in Vermont, all doing different things to sow love for the planet. Being a parent has taught me to embrace seasons of life as they are. With a new baby at home, I was drawn to the challenge of reducing my household waste because I felt really stuck in this new, much smaller-seeming life. This was one way I felt I could make a difference without leaving home. Now that my kids are older, we're able to take on other challenges, such as gardening, hiking and biking together, and learning about how to work with our community to bring about systemic change.
Ultimately, I just hope that all of these small actions will add up. And I hope that we're showing our kids how our family works together with the larger community to protect and show love for our earth.