Minnesota Mamaleh: Going Green in Honor of Tu B’Shevat

Happy Tu B’Shevat! It’s a new year for trees and that’s definitely something to celebrate in my book. Can you just see the beautiful almond trees flowering? Do you smell their sweet scent?

Maybe in Israel. But here in Minnesota, signs of spring? Not so much. A good time to be outside appreciating nature? Nope. Any sign of not needing mittens anytime soon? Nada. Zilch. So we look for things to plant, and other things to eat, to remind us that somewhere out there it is spring.

At our house, nuts will be eaten. Fruit will be tried. And parsley will be planted to be used at Passover. But the other side of Tu B’Shevat will also be explored. Loving nature. Admiring and being awe-struck by the beauty of the outside world. And learning how to take care of it.

Appreciating and loving should naturally lead to care taking and protecting. Kids are wired to love nature. They’re curious about our world and how it works. Run through the grass with bare feet? In a heartbeat. Spend an hour watching ants do their thing? Totally. Pick dandelions ad nauseum? Been there, done that. Even the smallest of babies love stroller walks. Well not necessarily in January in Minnesota. But in other, more reasonably temperate places, they do.

One of my favorite Mama of two says,

“I think that the way to get kids to protect nature is to first let them love nature. Once they love nature, it will make perfect sense to them why we want to protect it.”

The protecting our world part? That our kids need to be taught. While it’s definitely been a hot topic for awhile and a way of life for many, I haven’t exactly gotten on board with the “going green” movement (yet). Sure, we recycle, we have LED light bulbs and all five of us carry around reusable water bottles. But living our lives in a way that exudes love and appreciation for our earth’s resources? With that, I need some help.

I started looking for something green to implement with my family. I’m not 100% sure what I had in mind or what I was looking for, but I was having a hard time finding it. Meaningful. Impactful. Practical learning. With kids. I wanted something that our family could learn about together, incorporate into our everyday life and make a part of how we do things. How’s that for a tall order?

There was only one place to go: other moms (and dads!). Didn’t you know? All good ideas come from the parents next door. In this case, the ones with a compost pile and a low energy bill.

I turned to several families who strike me as already living a pretty “green” life and asked if they had any recommendations of what my family could start doing. Right now. Together. And, can I just say, that I got such an amazing response! All parenting questions should be handled this way. I clearly trust the source because they’re friends, they’re passionate about the topic and they’ve already tested out the ideas with their own kids.

I secretly cherish the fact that all of these amazing people, from all different parts of my life, now have a hand in better living for my family. *Shivers* The good kind.

So I compiled a “Green To-Do” list in honor of Tu B’Shevat. And now, Jason, the kids and I are ever-so-slowly learning about and incorporating many of them into our daily life.

Some are easier than others—washcloths instead of napkins? Love it! Friendly note: it’s way easier to clean up a messy one year old (and their five and three year old counterparts) this way. Reusable grocery bags? Much easier to carry anyway! Spend more time playing at home rather than driving to an activity? I don’t even need to explain why I love that one so much.

But some ideas are harder for me to wrap my mind around. Like a compost pile. I’m just not there yet.
And others, just take longer to take on as habits. Like turning off the lights. When I was little my dad used to follow my mom and I around room-to-room turning off the lights behind us. Today, things have come full circle as Jason does the same exact thing to the kids and me. It must be a dad thing!

One day earlier this week, I didn’t turn on any lights. At all. My plan was to discuss it with the kids as soon as they noticed; it was kind of like a lesson plan introduction. And you know what? They never noticed! Not even when it got dark. Like after-dinner-in-the-winter dark. In Minnesota! All this time I thought that the lights made everything cozier and lovelier for the kids. In reality, that was just me. We still haven’t talked about it, but we haven’t been using very many lights for the last few days and the kids have been turning them off without being reminded. I know, shocker! They do, as I do. I always left the lights on, so they did, too. I barely use any lights, and neither do they. Concept.

Our plan is to share this amazing list with the kids during our Tu B’Shevat Seder. We’ll let them know where the ideas came from in hopes that they’ll be excited to try what their friend’s families already do. We’ll pick one item at a time to learn and incorporate. Together. And once it’s just the way we do things around here, we can all choose something new to start. Talk about it taking a village, right? And that’s the way our family is “doing” Tu B’Shevat this year. But before all of that, I thought I’d share the list with you!

Going Green Family Style: Mom and Dad Approved


  • Kids help gather, sort and take out.
  • Recyclables become rainy day craft box materials.
  • Place paper scrap boxes in rooms where kids do projects.
  • Visit a recycling center.


  • Buy used kids’ clothes.
  • Do clothing exchanges with friends.
  • Outgrown clothes become new clothes for younger children.
  • Outgrown clothes become a sewing project such as pillow cases out of t-shirts.
  • Outgrown clothes get donated.
  • Package boxes can be made into dollhouses, forts, keepsake boxes, homes for lovies, and so on.
  • Grown ups’ scratch paper = kids’ artwork and project paper.
  • Old lumber becomes a makeshift balance beam.
  • Donate, give or sell used items.


  • Kids take turns being the assigned “Light Checkers” for the day.
  • Monthly “Lights and Gadgets Off Nights”—flashlights, campfire, games. ‘Nuff said.
  • Consider keeping your home cooler in Winter and warmer in Summer. Model and teach kids to turn towards sweaters, blankets, fans and tank tops (as appropriate) instead of the heater and air conditioner.
  • All errands done in as few trips as possible.


  • Use yard clippings from mowing.
  • Let yard clippings fall back onto the lawn for natural fertilization.
  • Add onto a neighbor’s compost pile.


  • Know where your food comes from.
  • Buy locally.
  • Join a co-op.
  • Make foods from scratch.
  • Make a big batch of homemade soup, share with friends and deliver in empty spaghetti sauce jars.
  • “Eat food directly from the earth.”
  • Go to a Farmer’s market.

Be Outside.Together.

  • Talk. Explore. “Experience awe.”
  • Talk about seasons.
  • Appreciate and understand the need for all weather.
  • Notice phases of the moon, buds on trees, sunsets, sunrises. Friendly note: Hopefully on-purpose sunrises. Not sleepless-baby-induced-sunrise-sightings.
  • Garden.
  • Play in the mud. For hours.
  • Catch worms.

You’ve heard it before, and so have I: Kids do as we do. In order to leave the world a better place for our kids, we have to teach them how to take care of it. And, of course, practice what we preach.

Special thanks to Jay, Jen, Kim, Lisa, Lisha, Todd and Tracey for already being green and helping my family (and yours!) do the same.