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7 Ways to Refresh Your After-School Routine

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From sports to scouts to (violin) strings, your kids’ extracurricular activities can make the right kind of impact. Here are 7 game-changers.

With school in full swing here in Atlanta, extracurricular activities have started up already too. Both my daughters are in ballet class, plus my eldest is in Girl Scouts. In other years there’s been tennis, baseball, gymnastics, music classes and more.

With all the equipment to buy, team snacks to coordinate, and practice sessions and meetings to drive to, it’s easy to turn an after-school activity into a gas-guzzling, stuff-acquiring boondoggle.

A few tweaks to your kids’ extracurricular routine can minimize your impact on the earth in a variety of ways. Here’s how:

1. Buy used sports equipment or swap with neighborhood friends. When you know your fast-growing kid is going to outgrow his or her soccer shoes by next season, why buy a brand-new pair? Hook up with a friend whose children are a few years older, or scout out athletic shoes and equipment at yard sales or used sporting goods stores like Play It Again Sports. Extending the life of equipment by passing it along is a super-green move. I always make sure to keep my children’s equipment in good condition so that I can pay it forward too.

2. Wash uniforms in eco-friendly detergent. Grass and dirt stains are tough to get out, but there’s no need to use environmentally-harmful detergents, that contain chemicals that have been shown to be harmful to humans and marine life. There are plenty of greener detergent options that work just as well and have a more minimal impact on the earth.

3. Choose eco-friendly musical instruments. If you’ve got a budding musician on your hands, nurture her talent while protecting the environment. Many guitars and stringed instruments are made with old-growth wood and rare, endangered varieties. Instead, keep an eye out for green instruments that are made with FSC-certified wood, or perhaps not with wood at all! Or, as with the sports equipment, consider renting or buying a used instrument to minimize the resources used to make a brand-new instrument.

4. Opt for waste-free snacks (they’re often healthier, too). When it’s your turn to provide the team snack, look for options that have little or no packaging, so you can reduce waste. Apples, oranges and other fruit are healthy and don’t need to be wrapped in packages, or you can bake up a big batch of healthy homemade granola bars and serve them right out of the pan.

5. Focus on eco-friendly activities. Service organizations like Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts or 4-H are the perfect chance to instill the importance of being environmentally responsible early on — all of these organizations offer environment-related badge programs. Offer to help the leaders with eco-friendly activities or service projects, like cleaning up trash in a park, starting a community garden, organizing an electronics recycling day, or raising money to donate to an environmental cause.

6. Choose an activity with a closer-to-home location. For a while, my daughter attended gymnastics lesson at a studio a good 15 miles from my house. While I loved the program there, I certainly didn’t like the half-hour commute… or the guilt I felt using so much gas. Now that we’ve found a ballet teacher right in our neighborhood, the commute is only minutes away.

7. Carpool, bike or walk to activities. Another advantage to after-school programs that are within a mile or two of home? You can ditch the car altogether and bike or walk instead, a great way to get some fresh air and to reduce your carbon footprint (by conserving gas and reducing automobile emissions) as you head from, say, school to music lessons. Another possibility is to join forces with a couple of other families to carpool.

What will you do to green your kids’ after-school activities? Share your ideas in the comments below!

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan

I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.