Horner Park, Chicago
It's not easy being green. Lots of lip service is given to green living, and greenwashing (fake eco-friendly product claims) is rampant. Here's a short list of simple actions you can take as a family, to truly have a green holiday.
1. Nurture Nature--Northerly Island has free skis and snowshoes to check out, and North Park Nature Center is a deer filled urban oasis with wooded paths, ponds, and a cheery crackling fire in the lodge. Even many neighborhood parks have big, beautiful outdoor spaces. We particularly love Humboldt Park and Stearns Quarry. Check out The Chicago Park District and Nature Oasis Programs for Polar Adventure Day, Winter Solstice celebrations, and open hours when you can avoid crowds and wander as a family.
Children who experience and enjoy nature when they're young, grow to respect and preserve nature as adults. It's free to hike, play in the snow, and explore outdoors in the city's wooded spaces, and the experience is priceless.
Roots for Christmas--sustainable trees that keep on giving back to the community!
2. Green Trees--Roots For Christmas, a brand new program in the Chicagoland area this year, brings fresh live trees right to you for $100. Their initial pick up celebration is this Saturday, December 11th and delivery dates continue through the 19th. After the holidays, Cob Connection will come pick up your tree and plant it in a tree starved area of the city.
If you choose to buy a cut tree, there are numerous tree farms within a short drive, where you can make it a fun, family outing and pick your own. Fresh trees don't need to be treated with toxic, flame retardant chemicals, and you can even choose organic. Click HERE for tree farms near your zip code as well as puzzles, games, and tips on recycling trees. In Chicago, check with the park district for tree recycling dates and locations in early January.
3. Green Gifting--The holidays are the perfect time to give gifts that help reduce waste, like reusable BPA free water bottles and bright BIN lunch boxes. ****ChiIL Mama will get you started with a review and give away of bright BIN's eco-friendly, waste free lunch box before Christmas.
Our friends over at Park & Vine in Cincinnati also have great links to eco-friendly suppliers on their web site. On our last visit to their store, we got a fun paw shaped dog food scooper made of recycled plastics and Eco lips Vegan Bee Free lip balm that comes with it's own carabiner clip--great for stocking stuffers. You can follow them on Facebook at Park + Vine.
It's also a good time to go treasure hunting in thrift stores and organize free toy swaps with friends. Teach your children that new is not always necessary.
4. Green Wrapping--Reusable bags are great, especially cloth ones that can be reused for more than gifts. We like to recycle the kids' art works into creative, homemade wrapping paper or bag stuffers. Also consider popcorn and other natural materials as packing, instead of Styrofoam peanuts.
5. Cultural Gifting--As we tell the kids--it grows your brain....and entertains...and doesn't clutter up your home or waste natural resources. Consider giving museum memberships, theatre season tickets, or yearly on-line learning game memberships to sites like Club Penguin or Webkinz. Look for a full feature with our favorite local theatre troupes for kids' shows and for adults, coming soon.
6. Give Back--We make it a point to donate bags of gently used puzzles, learning toys, stuffed animals and grocery gift cards to shelters and soup kitchens. Recycling toys keeps them out of the landfill and teaches creative reuse.
Depending on the ages of your children, they may be able to volunteer and serve in a local soup kitchen as well. There's nothing that will cure a case of the gimmies faster than serving and giving to children who have less. Teaching and valuing community service and volunteerism is one of the best gifts you can give your children, and the next generation.