Environment: Growing Up Green

"We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children." I have known this Native American proverb for years, but it only really hit home when I became a mother myself. Thinking one day my kids will have to suffer the effects of our reckless dealings with this planet feels somewhat more tragic than imagining a sad utopia I won't live to see. Don't get me wrong, I am and always will be a true city-girl who loves to live in comfort, drives her car everywhere and who willingly accepts the massive carbon footprint left behind on this earth if it means she gets to fly somewhere south for her holidays. Yet, the way I go about my daily life and the example I want to set has changed drastically since I have children. I want my boys to grow up respecting, honouring and cherishing the soil they walk on, and if this means I have to get a little uncomfortable and dirty myself, so it shall be.

The first big change we made after our twins were born was a move to the outskirts, into a house with a nice backyard and lots of nature to venture into close by. We live near the lake, minutes away from a conservation area, and sometimes, on the way to the grocery store, I get to spot a beaver. Don’t get me wrong, Walmart, Canadian Tire and the Superstore are still in close proximity and I wouldn't want it any other way! The air is fresher out here though, and we love to open the windows and doors during the warm months instead of running the air conditioning 24/7.

In our garden, we – meaning my husband, as I'm the opposite of a green thumb – are growing our own herbs and some smaller vegetables like tomatoes, onions and carrots. Since the children have reached the stage where they are eager to help, they have become my designated weeding-assistants. And yes, I'm actually responsible for that part of the yard work! Although I may not be capable of nurturing the good, I'm an expert in extinguishing the bad, and dandelions have become my ultimate target for relieving some aggressions, especially since I found out that they can be made into delicious salad and even fermented to beer once they have been dug up.

This leads me to the subject of transportation, either on a daily basis or during vacation time. I can only say that: yes, I love my SUV despite the unfortunate fact that it eats a ton of gas, but even more I have come to love the giggles of my toddlers when I take them to the next playground or for a little excursion to the lake with our new bike trailer. It's fun, it's green, and oh so beneficial for those bum muscles – sore as I may be the day after.

I get even sorer whenever we decide to go further than a day trip, and I end up sleeping on a Therm-a-Rest… All of you who read my column regularly must know by now that I'm in a lifelong love-hate relationship with camping, yet married to a guy who loves the outdoors possibly more than his wife. Needless to say, the little ones already take after Daddy, and I have to admit, for them and the sake of our constantly empty wallets, I'm fine with going green even on our holidays now. They clearly were quite oblivious to their first tenting experience when they were five months old and most likely won’t remember any of it (neither do I due to the insane sleep deprivation, by the way), but they loved the dirt and the squirrels when we went back to the same provincial park a year later. This year, it looks like it may be Algonquin instead of Aruba again, but you know what, I'm almost excited about sitting by the campfire at night-time, telling them the old First Nations tales about totem animals, sacred soil and hunter gatherers.

What I'm trying to say in a nutshell: you don't have to be some hippie who only ever wears self-knit sweaters and hemp toques to live a little greener. You can love your Starbucks, your massages or a nice vehicle and still live with awareness of what we are doing to this planet and how we have to change our ways in order to save it. It always has to start with us, and with the children we are raising today.

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Sabine Ehgoetz Sabine is a successful correspondent, columnist and news writer as well as editor-in-chief for a parenting magazine. Her biggest and most important job though is raising her currently two year old twins.