Consume With Care

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C = Consume With Care

Passing healthy consumer habits on to your kids prepares them for a life of fiscal and environmental responsibility.

In a world filled with disposable products and convenience packaging, it seems like it’s normal to get swept up in mindless consumerism and the cycle of buy, toss, and buy more. Stores are designed to guide us to make impulse purchases, product jingles fight for space in our brains, and we are tempted to think that new things will make us happy. We also tend to have busy lives, so our endless streams of laundry and things to clean can make the ease of one-use items sound appealing on the surface.

But if we pause, even for a brief time, we can see that we don’t want to be mindless consumers. Most things we buy potentially bring trash into our homes and ultimately into our home environment, and we’ll be more responsible consumers when we can see things from this perspective. Every purchase might mean looking at packaging (is it adding trash to landfills), sourcing (where was this made and by whom?), materials and more. Every consumer choice we make is like a stone thrown into a pond—the ripples of our actions are huge.

Consuming less and throwing away less frees up your budget, time, and space for the things that are most important to your family. Passing these habits on to your kids prepares them for a life of fiscal and environmental responsibility.

The average American throws away more than four pounds of garbage every day, or 1,600 pounds per year.

Simple Steps

  • Shop for clothes and household goods at thrift stores. Used goods mean that a whole round of packaging and transportation of items is avoided. Score! As your kids outgrow their clothes, donate the used items to your local thrift stores and restock their closets with pre-owned items. This saves your family money and shows kids how to extend the life cycle of their stuff.
  • Replace disposable items with quality products you can reuse. Start with your kitchen and take a look at what you throw away each day. Paper towels, plastic silverware and disposable plates and the wrappers they came in can all be replaced with washable items.
  • Get a smaller garbage can. Challenge yourself and your family to throw away less by making it less convenient to throw things away. Before you buy something, ask your kids how much trash that item would create. Make a game of seeing how little you can throw away and reduce the number of garbage cans you have in your house.
  • Fix what’s broken. Do you get rid of clothes, toys, or other household items that could easily be repaired? When you purchase an item, decide how long you think it should last and resolve to fix instead of replacing it if necessary before the set “expiration date.” Something amazing happens when you start to fix things—you start to care more about quality when you shop. Cheap items that look as though they’ll fall apart stop feeling so tempting. Children make great fix-it folks, so include them in some of your repair projects!
  • Give everyone an allowance. Having a set spending limit is a great way to encourage children and adults to rethink frivolous purchases and truly take ownership of their role as a careful consumer. It’s also a good way to get a handle on your family budget and teach kids about money management.

Learn More

Use the Imagination Factory’s Trash Matcher for a creative list of ways to reuse disposable items in craft projects with your kids. The blog is updated regularly with ideas for reducing consumption and waste.