Green Mama: Vacation from Greendom?

Hilltown Families Contributing Writer

Everything’s Changing, But Will It Still Remain the Same?

Nelson Mandela said, “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” As I journey towards greener habits, attempting desperately to take my family along with me, I realize this statement is truer than ever.

Wherever I go — sporting events, family vacations, the living room in our own home — though much remains the same, everything seems different. And I know this is because my view of myself in the world is changing.

For the first time in my life, I am truly aware of how my actions — environmentally speaking — affect everyone around me, most importantly my family.

Those three bags of garbage acquired in a mere two days because of our lack of recycling, are three more steps towards a larger problem in our local landfill. The cheaper non-organic chicken purchased in a hurry, means more antibiotics and growth hormones in my children’s little bodies and the longer we continue making those spontaneous purchases the greater the consequences to my children’s health as they get older. Composting leftovers, means less waste and a more efficient use of our food and money. Those plastic grocery bags which made life easier just months ago because those handles meant less trips to the car when unloading, don’t seem to make life that much easier when you think of them ending up in rivers or oceans or landfills for that matter. Not to mention that I am constantly making trips back to the car to get my reusable totes so I don’t take home more plastic bags.

But the most important changes I am seeing are the changes in my children and how their views of how they see themselves in relation to their environment are slowly beginning to change.

When we started on this journey a couple of months ago, it was merely an attempt on my husband’s and my part to eat healthier so all five of us would BE healthier. And my children, though reluctant at first, have begun to jump on that bandwagon.

After-school snacks now include trail mixes and fruit, yogurt and cheeses, or cereal even, instead of bowlfuls of processed fish crackers. A trip to the grocery store now elicits comments such as; “Hey mom, is this organic?” “Are Cheerios or Corn Flakes healthier?” “Can we buy some more pineapple? It was delicious.”

Recently, the whole family relished in the fact that an entire meal was completely organic — free-range chicken, organic beans, Swiss chard and red cabbage coleslaw — and delicious to boot.

One of my children even brought up the topic of recycling the other day and how we should really work at getting a better system in our house for this. It is a slow work in progress with many bumps and potholes along the way, but we are all changing.

At least that’s what I thought until we headed south for our annual trip to Florida (from which I am writing this column).

It seems my family not only saw this as a week-long vacation from the responsibilities of their everyday lives, but also as an opportunity to take a vacation from “greendom” as well. Candy and ice cream bars are the food of choice this week, beer cans (my husband’s not the kids’) are mysteriously appearing in the garbage can, every light in the two bedroom condo is permanently set to “on” and the kid’s berated me about getting an SUV when I was scheduling the rental car (I compromised and rented a mid-size SUV because we are looking to downsize from our Chevy Tahoe to a more fuel-efficient vehicle in the near future and I think we’re heading in the direction of this type of car).

It seems that to my husband and children, Florida has not changed at all and neither should their vacation repertoire of years past. This is the place where we have come every April since the twins were born, where we escape from home and all the responsibilities and rules of everyday life. Except there is one thing my family cannot escape this year … me.

Like the Nelson Mandela quote alluded to, Florida may not have changed much (although the coastline is slightly different this year) but I have, and vacation for me, does not mean a vacation from living more consciously.

Therefore, the grocery list not only included room for a few ice cream and candy treats (it is vacation after all), but also organic fruits and veggies for afternoon snacks, one of the kids favorite organic cereals and generally healthier foods than we have purchased in previous years. The kids may be having difficulty with the lights, but I’m spending an extra 5 minutes in the condo every morning before I head to the beach to make sure everything is off. And, without any encouraging from me, my husband has hung a plastic grocery bag (hey, they are good for some things) on a kitchen chair and the bottles and cans are being recycled!

And guess what? Despite the recycling, and healthier eats (and the rain), we are still enjoying our Florida vacation as much as any other year. Max is expending more energy in a day of fishing and bait casting than many of us expend in a year. Shea is having fun hanging with his older siblings, swimming in the pool and occasionally vegging on the couch. McKenna is reading and swimming and socializing as much as ever, and Mark and I are RELAXED!

Mom’s constant hounding towards a greener vacation has not, in turn, ruined vacation. Everyone is still reaping the physical and emotional rewards of our annual spring vacation, and regardless of what green changes my family will make in the future, I am sure that is one thing that will never change.


Kelly Bevan McIlquham

Kelly is a psychotherapist-turned-writer who resides in Hinsdale, MA with her husband, three children, two black labs, a cat, a turtle, and a few goldfish. She is the Features Editor for The Advocate in the Berkshires where she especially enjoys writing family- and education-related articles and her monthly “Parent to Parent” column. Kelly also dabbles in writing for children and has had her work published by Wee Ones online family magazine. Her new blog “Green Mama” chronicles her journey as a “green” parent in every sense of the word — from her parenting naiveté to living greener. When not writing, her favorite pastime is cheering on her children at various football, soccer, basketball and baseball games.

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