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Go Green and Get Out (With The Kids)

by Karen Ung
How to make being green part of your daily life.
Being outside is natural when you live in the country. The best forts are in the bushes, the best place to cool off on a hot day is in the creek down the street, and the neighbors’ horses need company and exercise (and maybe some apples). Going green is easy too. When you want to go to a friend’s house, you transport yourself because you have no choice: parents too busy to drive and no public transit. As soon as I could ride a bike, I rode my bike everywhere. It was freeing! No matter that we lived on the side of a mountain and I had a BMX bike with no gears. I simply stood up on the pedals and smiled as I passed spandex-clad weekend warriors riding fancy 26-speed mountain bikes. It wasn’t a hardship; it was life on a tree farm. It made me independent and strong.
These days, living in a city, with kids of my own, I still prefer to take my bike out rather than get in the car for a short trip. It’s better for the environment, your pocketbook, and your body and mind. I like to think I’m setting a good example for the kids, too. Here are some ways you can go green while getting outside with the kids:
    1. Incorporate exercise into your daily routines by committing to walk/bike if the travel distance is less than 1 km (or distance of your choice). Forced exercise is better than no exercise! Aim to self propel rather than use your car once a week, then increase frequency as much as possible.
    2. If the grocery store is within walking/biking distance, leave your car at home. Plan a route that has a playground/pond/park en route so the kids associate shopping trips with fun (and not just cookies, though if that is the carrot that works, go with it).We used to put the kids and groceries into our oversized double MEC stroller/bike trailer, but now that they ride their scooters/bikes, I carry a backpack for the groceries. It’s great backpacking training and weight bearing exercise is good for your bones.  Tip: In warmer months, play before shopping so your milk doesn’t sour. 
    3. Walk or bike to preschool/school/activities. If you live fairly close, it’s actually quicker to do pickups and dropoffs by bike because you don’t have to deal with the parking lot/roundabout mess. If this is not an option, walk to the schoolbus stop. I see people drive their kids 100 m to the bus stop and then idle their engines for 10 minutes – so disappointing for so many reasons!
    4. If you already walk or bike to school, take the long way home once a week. We like to take different routes to discover new playgrounds, find geocaches, or meet up with friends. It keeps things interesting and gives the kids a little more exercise and time outside. Tip: Start a crockpot meal in the morning so you don’t have to rush home to make dinner. 
    5. Ride your bikes to the train station and go on an urban adventure by public transit. The kids will love it! In Calgary, take the train to 3rd St SW and go to Prince’s Island Park, or carry on to the Calgary Zoo.
Hiking in Edworthy Park (note to self: wear rain boots next time to splash in the puddles)

6. Seek out microadventures! You don’t need to drive far to have an amazing time. Quality time together is so much better than time behind the wheel while your kids watch DVDs in the backseat. By seeking out new trails and parks in our city, we have more time to throw rocks in the river, build a sandcastle, get an ice cream, do some geocaching, or just relax in a beautiful spot without worrying about getting home too late. (We love the mountains, but find we get more bang for our buck – and feel less guilty about polluting – by staying overnight so we don’t drive back and forth as often.)

Geocaching in town
Biking at Nose Hill Park
According to Carbonify (www.carbonify.com), every mile (1.6 km) not driven saves over one pound (0.45 kg) of carbon dioxide! Track your self-propelled mileage and feel good about your shrinking carbon footprint. You may be pleased to find your waistline shrinking as well. Carless grocery shopping is how I lost the baby weight on maternity leave.

Do you try to minimize car use to maximize physical activity? What strategies work for your family?

Learn More

Climate Reality Project 
Geocaching with Your Smart Phone
I Am Pro Snow Non-Profit Organization
Let’s Go Green, Canada!

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Playoutsidegal October 18, 2016 - 4:52 PM

That's awesome to hear, Sarah! My kids LOVE the grocery run – free cookie at the store and playground on the way home. Nothing better! 🙂

Sarah October 18, 2016 - 4:19 PM

If I need to pick up only a few groceries, we will often walk to the grocery store. There are two playgrounds on the way (though if we have refrigerated goods we will only stop on the way there and rush back home). Groceries can be carried back either in a stroller or a back-pack.

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