Meet the Green Family

MM LocalBy Julie Bielenberg

Denver Life Magazine could dedicate many articles to “going green” as a family, but we wanted to focus on the top realistic endeavors one can pursue this summer. How did I compile this list and what makes me an expert? My first internship was in the ‘90s at The Nature Conservancy; fast forward almost 20 years and I’m now married to an employee of the Environmental Protection Agency. Honestly, what qualifies me best is my role as a mother of two children under five years of age. I know what’s practical and what’s too outlandish for a family schedule already booked full with summer camps, family vacations and sports.

One Denver mom, Dawn Bitz, founder of Grasshaven Outdoor, a Boulder-based family camping online store, puts it best: “I get asked all the time about ways to begin your green journey,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be overly complicated or completely life changing.” Bitz is correct. It’s difficult to make too many dramatic shifts at once. Take a simpler approach and living green will become much more than a chore. Here’s my realistic “going green” summer guide.

Cleaning

“Green cleaning today is not a fad; it is important for our children, our families and our co-workers,” says Rodney Lie, franchise
owner of Office Pride Commercial Cleaning Services. “The fumes released by many cleaners can cause problems for people, ranging from mild skin and eye irritation to serious illnesses.”

After a 12-year career as an educator and school administrator, Lie changed his path and became an expert in green cleaning out of his desire to help protect his own children. Enhancing his natural offerings became an essential part of his business model. “Choosing green cleaning for your home or office is very easy,” says Lie. “The only thing you have to change is the products you purchase up front. When you go shopping, choose the green-certified cleaning products. Use cotton or microfiber cleaning cloths that can be washed instead of paper that will be thrown away. Other than that, your cleaning does not need to change.”

CookingGrowers Organic
From packing summer camp lunches to popping waffles in the toaster, parents are on the go. It’s one thing to understand the value of green cooking practices; it’s another to find the actual time to attempt these momentous tasks. Instead, go simple and change small habits.

“Microwave food in glass or ceramic,” says Bitz. “Some plastics can emit chemicals that can be absorbed into food. Get rid of non-stick cookware; silicone works well and cast iron is a classic and efficient cooking material. And, with the right seasoning and cleaning techniques, cast iron will remain non-stick and last for generations.”

If you haven’t heard of Whole Foods Market, crawl out from under your rock. And then learn the names of Sprouts Farmers Market, Trader Joe’s, King Soopers and Safeway. They all carry local Colorado products that equate to greener consumption patterns. Heck, even your corner 7-11 has local milk. For the more advanced green foodies, there is Mile High Organics, Door to Door Organics, Royal Crest and other businesses that deliver local products to your doorstep.

Another contender, Town and Country Foods, provides bulk organic vegetables, wild seafood and more to your doorstep. You can even join a food co-op or a part-share of a local CSA. From novice purchases of a quarter-share of Colorado cow to food-forward families who raise their own goats, chickens and bee hives in downtown Denver, food is an abundant resource in Colorado, so take advantage of it, especially in the summer and farmers’ market seasons when there is a market in nearly every large town in the state.

What happens to some of the produce overzealously bought this summer? Learn to juice, can, pickle and store, and then take it one step further. “Save the pulp from the veggies you juice and whip it into cream cheese,” says Mary Nguyen, owner and chef of Olive & Finch, Parallel Seventeen and Street Kitchen Asian Bistro. “Or you can save the pulp from the fruits and bake it into bread, muffins and more.”

ParentingBike Depot

Teaching green is sometimes done in the reverse. Our children bring home techniques and methods they acquire at school. Reinforce a child’s eco-education with savvy applications and games that perpetuate learning and further “greening” of your lifestyle. “There are some fantastic gadgets and techniques out there designed to teach children about sustainable and efficient living,” says Jackie Insinger of Insigner Insights, a local company dedicated to coaching parents on how to motivate, communicate and place their children in ideal learning situations. “From simple monitoring to involved technology, there are numerous ways to get your children involved in living a greener life.”

Turn your house into a mini computerized green house. “EasyBLOOM is an incredible gardening gadget that is not only a brilliantly designed science experiment for kids to learn how to most efficiently and successfully create and maintain an outdoor garden or indoor plants, but the outcome is beautiful, efficiently grown greenery!” says Insinger.

Founded in Fort Collins, Sprig Toys is an eco-friendly toy company focused on keeping kids active. They make trucks, boats, dinosaurs, princesses and more from a durable, kid-friendly, bio-composite material made from recycled plastic and wood. All of their products are non-electronic to keep batteries out of landfills and encourage kids to get active with their toys. Sprig Toys is one example of “green” playtime.

When buying toys, look for products made from non-toxic, recycled and recyclable plastics free of PVC and polycarbonate. You can tell if wood toys come from sustainably managed forests if they’re certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Insinger’s eco-toy recommendations include the Thames & Kosmos Power House kit. Your family can conduct more than 100 experiments on this playhouse by building different energy-related models, such as a mini solar panel that generates electricity from the sun. She also loves Toylabs’ Volta Racers. “Toylabs wants to ‘harness the sun to power your fun’,” she says. “And what better way than with a cool, dual-speed, self-assembled race car to learn about solar energy and mechanical engineering?”

Clothing

Denver Life Magazine already covers innovative Colorado companies making local products from materials grown in-state. Therefore, we’ll suggest how to clean your own closet and what materials are more earth-friendly and long-lasting.

“Stop feeling guilty and give your clothes a happy home,” says Milena Joy of Milena Image Consulting. “While it might seem hard to donate expensive items that no longer fit or that still have the tags attached but you never wear, think about how much someone else could really benefit from those clothes that are taking up valuable real estate in your closet.” Facing the reality of what you need versus what you want will create a more efficient wardrobe. “Create a shopping list of key items that are missing, need to be replaced or would help to update your look,” says Joy. “A shopping list will ensure you only introduce new clothes into your closet that work with what you already have to create complete outfits.” Really familiarize yourself with what you already have. “Impulse purchases and buying more than one of the same item lead to a closet that is either a mishmash of stuff or simply boring,” Joy says. “Think long term investment versus short term reward and buy the best quality you can afford. High quality clothes not only last longer, but they will feel better, so you are more likely to wear them.”

Going green doesn’t have to be as complicated as it seems. If you do anything this summer, plant one consumable plant and remove one chemical from your family’s lifestyle.