1196007_fun_in_the_parkGood news: Going green does not mean spending a lot of green. In fact, you may end up saving money. Think it’s too complicated because you have kids and not enough time to figure it out? Even better if you have kids! It’s your chance to empower them to reduce their footprint–and improve their future–on the one and only planet available.

1. Reduce Screen Time | Shut Down.

This is a big one in our household. Setting limits on TV, computer games, DS, etc., not only reduces your carbon footprint–it will save you money in the long run and allow your child’s imagination to ignite in ways you may have never dreamed possible.

And when the TV and computers are not in use, unplug them entirely. My computer is plugged into an EcoStrip surge protector which draws less energy and automatically turns off the peripherals when the computer is shut down, saving as much as $150/year per computer! Have your kids research environmental causes and donate a portion of your savings to one or two of your favorites.

Pick one day a week or month to go cold turkey on screen time. Tack on an evening without lights and play games by candlelight (make sure to use toxin-free candles). Take part in the global event Earth Hour, March 27, 2010.

2. Eat & Drink Consciously.

Soda, bottled water and ready-to-go meals, single serve and/or processed food items consume more energy and add unnecessary cost to your grocery bill–and waste to the landfills. Not sure about your water? Invest in a water test kit to determine whether there’s any reason for concern. If there is, a simple water filtration system and reusable water bottles will save you money in the long run (but don’t jump into the filtration system without getting your water tested first!)

Challenge your kids to find recipes that use in-season fruits and vegetables and cook from scratch as a family–even once a week can make a difference. Talk about how food choices impact the planet and our health. Frequent the farmers market. Let your kids pick out their own fruits and veggies, talk to the farmers and get suggestions about what would be easy to grow in your own backyard.

3. Re-use Movies and Books.

Checking out movies and books at the library can be an adventure in and of itself—plus it saves money and can reduce your impact on the environment. If you know someone who can’t resist buying the newest book or DVD release-see if they’re willing to lend! To instill a greater appreciation for our natural resources and how we can help preserve them, select a documentary film like FLOW or Food Inc.  Discuss the movies with your children. I also love the award-winning book What’s It Like Living Green? Kids Teaching Kids, great for 8-14 year olds.

4. Reduce Water Consumption

The average American uses 170 gallons of water per day. Wow. That’s a lot. Using less water is easy and you can even make it fun. Keep a timer near the shower and have a weekly contest: Whoever keeps their showers to five minutes or less that week gets to pick out a special dessert for the weekend.  Simple things like flushing the toilet only as needed (if it’s yellow, keep it mellow), turning the water off while soaping up dirty hands and brushing teeth, saying no to water refills when out if you don’t plan to drink, etc.  It all adds up! Drive the point home by taking a long walk—millions of women and children walk for hours each day to collect water and use only 5 gallons a day on average. Talk about what that walk would be like if you were carrying 40 pounds.

5. Reuse Containers & Plastic Bags

You can save hundreds of dollars by taking plastic sandwich and storage bags off of your shopping list. If you pack a lunch for your kids, there are plenty of handy stainless steel reusable containers, perfect for sandwiches and snacks. For storage, use glass containers. Plastic can leach harmful chemicals into your food, especially if you pour in something hot. I reuse the bags that come with bread and other foods—turn them inside out to get the crumbs out and they’re good as new! Have your kids create art—or even art supply containers—out of things you would otherwise toss in the garbage.

These are just a few simple steps you can take to raise green kids on a budget. I also recommend the short online animation The Story of Stuff which illustrates why it’s so important to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Quick Eco Facts

The US tosses out enough disposable water bottles to circle the equator every 2.9 days!

25% of  your TV’s lifetime energy is consumed when OFF!

By reducing time in the shower, scraping instead of rinsing dishes and installing aerators on taps and using efficient appliances, you can reduce your water consumption by over 25%!

About the Author.

Lynn Hasselberger is the founder of myEARTH360.com – a website offering eco-friendly tips and products—and the I Count for myEARTH blog. She is also a contributor to Just Cause Magazine.