5 Best Ways to ‘Green Out’ Your Town

Weekly recycling, home composting, grocery shopping at the farmers’ market – you’ve made some good changes to live greener. So what’s next? It’s time to take your eco-friendly inspirations out into your local community to inspire and support others in lightening their footprint, too.

Making a difference doesn’t have to involve a boatload of time or money, either. These five ideas make a big difference for the environment — and they’re among the most likely to succeed in any type of neighborhood. Start simple, start small, start making your community a better place to be.

1) Organize a Walk-to-School Group

According to Mother Earth News, almost a third of the air pollution in the United States comes from passenger vehicles. “More than 12.5 million children and adolescents 2 to 19 years of age are overweight,” says U.S. Surgeon General Rear Adm. Steven K. Galson, M.D. It may seem like a lofty goal, but addressing two issues (automotive pollution and childhood obesity) with one solution is easier than it sounds. Organizing a walk-to-school program within your neighborhood or entire school is as easy as getting the word out. Talk to your neighbors about getting together at a certain time each morning to walk your kids to school. If you want to go bigger, talk to the school’s principal or ask to take the idea citywide at the next town meeting (see #5). You and your children get some much-needed exercise — plus you’ll be reducing harmful vehicle emissions.

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2) Create a Monthly Swap Get-Together

Any season is a good time for spring cleaning, but what to do with that collection of unwanted stuff? Swap it! Arrange a once-a-month get-together with your friends and neighbors to exchange anything you’re ready to part with.

A monthly swap event in your home or at a local community center can help to divert countless amounts of waste from landfills. Eighty percent of all clothing will end up in landfills, 75% of which is still wearable. As your kids grow, give their outgrown garments to a new mother on the block. Don’t know what to do with that broken coffee maker? The tech-savvy guy two doors down could probably find a use for it.

For anything that you and your neighbors can’t make use of, visit Earth 911’s website to find locations in your area that will recycle everything from batteries and bottles to mattresses and makeup.

3) Engage an Eco-Moms Club

Being a sustainable parent presents unique challenges: diapers, school lunches, plastic toys, travel to and from school, video games … the list goes on and on. Where do you turn when you have questions? Who do you talk to when you need to vent about your family’s eco-anxieties? Bring together your fellow friends to create an EcoMoms club.

Meeting face-to-face weekly or monthly helps to foster a sense of community and take part in intelligent, planet-saving conversation. “I have always loved bringing people together who would not otherwise meet,” says EcoMom Alliance founder Kimberly Danek Pinkson. “I began to imagine what could happen if every mother began to make small changes in her home, and I realized we mothers could seriously change the world!” Consult the EcoMom Alliance website for information on how to set up your own EcoMoms club, green living tips and more.

4) Start a Community Garden

Whether you live in the rural Southwest, downtown New York City, or anywhere in between, growing your own garden is always within reach. If space or agricultural knowledge is an issue, consider joining a community garden. None in your area? Start one! As the American Community Gardening Association puts it, “any piece of land gardened by a group of people” is to be considered a community garden. With the dangers of pesticides begin touted daily in the news and food recalls becoming commonplace, taking your family’s nutrition into your own hands is both intelligent and empowering. The American Community Gardening Association website has extensive resources on how to find or start your own community garden. Feeling adventurous? Talk to your child’s school about starting a garden on their property.

5) Dabble in Local Politics

Maybe you’d like to see more bike lanes or a compost pickup service in your area. But getting involved in national politics can be time-consuming and stressful — it may seem like you are running in circles without getting anything significant accomplished. Try turning your attention to your local government, where you may find it less intimidating and easier to inspire change. Search your city’s website or call your town hall and find out when the next public meeting is. Stop by, take notes and find out what the city is planning. Everything from new traffic laws to reducing designated park space is covered during these get-togethers. Held once a month on average, town meetings are the perfect place to bring your ideas and concerns to the attention of people in a position to make change. Want to make a larger impact? Draw up a petition and visit your neighbors for possible signatures. Take your completed petition to the next town meeting. It’s a powerful way to get your local government to look at an issue and take action. eHow features a simple guide on how to start circulating a petition in your own town. For the more tech-savvy, you can start and promote your petition online with Care2’s Petition Site.

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