Are Big Families Really the “New Green”?

Welcome to April edition of the Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival, hosted by Authentic Parenting and Mudpiemama. This month’s topic is “Celebrating Our Earth – Green Living”. Please scroll down to the end of this post to find a list of links to the entries of the other participants. Enjoy!
***

So…ARE big families the “New Green”???  I like to think so!  So many people scoff at large families and try to argue that they are hard on the earth when actually, large families often tread even more lightly on the earth than many average-sized families — by necessity!

Below are my thoughts in response to this article.

~*~*~*~*~*~

“Cars Count”

I have often thought about how “efficient” it is that we cram 7 people into one vehicle on a regular basis. Sure, our 10-year-old minivan gets a measly 15mpg on average (city), but that’s actually better per capita than a family of four driving a 45mpg hybrid (if my mental pseudo-math is correct). We do go places often, unlike the author of the article suggests. I try to get out of the house every day, even if only to the grocery store (and that, preferably with just one or two children in tow). We go to parks, homeschool events, the library, and playdates at friends’ houses. And these things are located all over the metropolis, which isn’t very green, perhaps, but at least our metropolis is relatively small compared to most — the furthest we ever go is 25 minutes or less away from home, most being 5-15 minutes.


“Economy Size”

Yes, it takes the same amount of electricity to light and cool (or heat, for a very brief part of the year) our home, no matter how many people inhabit it. We definitely use more water than most families, at least for laundry. I estimate that we have 10-15 loads of laundry to wash per week. We do, however, have a “super capacity” washing machine, and I am a stickler to “run only full loads” rule.

When the children were younger, we would combine their baths, to the point that the water consumption probably equaled an average-sized family’s bathing habits. Nowadays, we still combine baths, but are now transitioning to showers often, which, with our low-flow shower heads, I’m hoping use even less water than their “up to your belly-button” baths.

“Cozy Quarters”

There are 7 of us living in a 3 bedroom house (well, 4 bedrooms of you count that tiny room in the addition that I use as a studio…but I don’t).  Yup, that’s the same size as an average  house for a family of four.  But our children don’t each have their own rooms, obviously.  Right now there is a kids’ bedroom, and a playroom, and it works great for our current needs.  When they are older (like, when the older ones hit puberty), there will be a boys’ room and a girls’ room.  I like to think that having one’s own room is overrated.  😉  I have heard many people who grew up in large families talk about how much they loved it, and how close they are to their siblings.  I imagine being crammed together like sardines contributed to that!

“Reduce & Reuse”

We definitely have a tight budget, especially since my husband got out of the Marine Corps and went back to college.  We are currently subsisting on a military housing allowance, grant money, and student loans, so our money must be stretched.  I am a big fan of thrift store shopping.  One of my favorite thrift stores runs daily specials, the best one (in my opinion) being the “Fill a bag for $5” days.  I am able to cram 10-15 pieces of clothing, often brand name, into one of those bags, and then pay less than the price of one new baby outfit from Walmart.  Now that’s thrifty!  I have gone out thrifting and spent $50 total for 2 garbage bags full of stuff.  So much cheaper than buying new!

As for reusing, we definitely do a lot of that around here!  We are almost entirely paperless; the only paper product we buy is toilet paper (well, and printer paper, but that is recycled!), and even that may be on the menu for (at least partial) extinction down the road, although we do use disposable storage bags as well (something that is on my list of things to remedy; I plan to make some reusable food storage bags eventually).  We use real dishes (our original supply is supplemented by thrift store replacements to compensate for children breaking them), and drink out of repurposed pickle jars.  Our babies’ bums don real (cloth) diapers, and cloth baby wipes are used for diaper changes as well as “field showers” for dirty/sticky little hands and faces.  I use cloth menstrual pads that are washed with the diapers.  Instead of paper towels, we use cheap washcloths, bought in bulk.  I think we must have 50 of them, and I go through at least 5 a day, or many more depending on the level of mess!  We use sturdy cotton napkins as napkins, and thin, soft, thrift store ($4/dozen!)  cotton napkins as handkerchiefs!   So that just leaves us with toilet paper, and I have been known to use a dry flannel baby wipe in an emergency, or a wet one from the warmer in place of those flushable wipes.  I love cloth!

Other ways we “reduce” is by me breastfeeding the babies (I finally made it without using a drop of formula with baby #5!), and eating leftovers.  I don’t understand why some people won’t eat leftovers; so many things taste better the next day!  I am a big fan of one-dish meals, so that is especially true for us!  And food that doesn’t get eaten in a timely manner often gets either composted or fed to the chickens; either way making its way back to our table, whether through eggs or garden harvest!

“Make Do”

Our house is almost entirely furnished with hand-me-down furniture.  Seriously.  It boggles my mind when I think about it.  The only things we have bought new (over the course of several years) are our king sized mattress, one twin mattress, one crib mattress, our entryway table, 3 cheap book cases, 6 folding chairs for our dining table, the folding tables in my craft room, and some patio/camping chairs.  EVERYTHING else is donations from family and friends.  Everything.  And I would venture a guess that at least half of our other possessions are either hand-me-downs, gifts, or bought second-hand.  Yes, we are terrible consumers, but it is mighty friendly to both the earth and our pocketbook!

“Pass it on”

We are happily involved in the hand-me-down loop.  We don’t have as many sources for receiving hand-me-downs as we really need, because most of my children are older than most of my friends’ children.  But, when they outgrow things, I enjoy giving things away to friends who can use them.  As I have said, though, most of my childrens’ clothing is secondhand or gifts.  Within our family, however, it’s pass-down central!  I have 3 boys and 2 girls, so technically (though not completely in practice), I should be able to get away with only buying/acquiring clothing for the oldest boy and the oldest girl.  Things are then passed down from sibling to sibling.

I love it when I put something on one of my younger children and mentally count how many children have worn that particular piece of clothing.  There is, for example, a pair of size 2T Old Navy denim overalls that I purchased used when my oldest was a baby, and every single one of my children has worn them since (it helps having twins who are different sizes because then some clothes can be handed down between them!) — so those overalls have been worn by at least 6 children!  To keep the system organized, I use dots, marked on clothing tags with a black Sharpie.  The oldest boy gets one dot, the middle boy gets 2 dots, the youngest boy gets 3 dots.  (I don’t do that for the girls [yet] because they are 6 years apart, so it is pretty easy to tell which clothes belong to whom at this point.)  This dot system helps avoid confusion come laundry time.

All of that said, clothes do wear out, so we do need to acquire “new” clothing (and shoes) for the younger children as well.  That is where thrift store shopping comes in handy.  For example, I have found high quality shoes in excellent condition for $1-3 many times!

“What the Future Holds”

I like to think that the lifestyle we live will make an impression on my children that they will carry into adulthood.  Urban homesteading, something that we aspire to but I haven’t mentioned yet here, is another “green” practice we have.  We are not there yet, but we have chickens and a decent-sized vegetable garden, and there are many many things planned for the future as far as our urban homestead goes.  That, combined with all of our other earth-friendly (and frugal) practices, are a way of life for us.  When my children are grown and gone, they will have these practices ingrained in their minds and hearts, and will carry on the legacy of protecting our earth and saving money at the same time, no matter how many children they end up having.  I, for example, learned a lot from my grandmothers, who were teenagers during The Great Depression and carried many of the penny- and resource-pinching ways of their childhoods into the next few generations.  The things I learned from them made an impression, and I hope to do the same for my own children.

~ Michelle

***

Visit The Positive Parenting Connection and Authentic Parenting to find out how you can participate in the next Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

3 thoughts on “Are Big Families Really the “New Green”?

  1. Pingback: Get Green Quick: Gone Wrong | the other baby blog

  2. Thank you for sharing your ways of going green! Love the idea of wash cloths instead of paper towel. I used to get so much from a thrift store with a similar fill a bag deal too!

  3. Pingback: Celebrating the Birds | lovenotesmama

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s