Since having kids, holidays have become a little more exciting for me, and Easter is no exception. I like putting together baskets for my kids, dying eggs, eating candy, and generally just getting in the spirit of the season. But for a holiday that's so tied to the trappings of the flora and fauna of the natural world, it's not always so eco-friendly. Artificial dyes, plastic, clutter, plastic, plastic, did I mention plastic? Figuring out how to have a green Easter isn't necessarily easy. It is, however, more than possible.
"Easter and Earth Day are just a few days apart," Carolina King of the green-living parenting site Mama Instincts tells Romper via phone. And, thankfully, there are ways to integrate the spirit of both holidays into your springtime festivities. It's not just moms and individuals taking heed, either. A growing number of companies, from Starbucks to Apple, are seeking more eco-friendly practices and smaller carbon footprints, so getting sustainably-sourced chocolate bunnies, for example, is easier than it was in the past.
But going green doesn't have to mean shopping exclusively in the "natural section" of your local stores. "There are easy ways your family can celebrate this glorious season and still be good to Mother Earth," King says. "It can be as simple as raiding your crafting nook and spice drawer." So if you're looking to have a minimal environmental impact this spring, here's how to facilitate a green Easter:
Reuse Your Child's Basket Year After Year
It can be tempting, when you see the Easter displays go up, to pick up a cute new basket every year, but the truth is those things have pretty good staying power! My kids are 7 and 4 and they've both used the same cheap, boxwood baskets their entire lives. So go ahead and reuse your baskets year to year. "If your children like to have new baskets every year, you can just decorate your old basket," suggests King. "Use tulle fabric, ribbons and any other decorations they might like to make their Easter basket look like new."
Just Say No To Plastic Grass
There are several good reasons to nix that green, plastic travesty this (and every) year! First and foremost, from production to the fact that it doesn't biodegrade, it's bad for the environment. But it's also bad for your home environment because that crap gets everywhere. Seriously, I used it once and I was digging little strips of green plastic out of every crevice in my home (including my baby's mouth) for months. No thank you, please.
King suggests shredded paper to fluff up and cushion your basket, ideally made from colorful junk mail. (You had it anyway, right?) Another option is to use cotton yarn. "It’s soft and cradles eggs gently," she says. "Plus, it can be knitted or crocheted into something new when the season is over, or simply reused next season."
Or, honestly, you can also just skip it all together because if your kids are anything like mine they only have eyes for the goodies.
Don't Wrap Items
Not only is it a hassle, but most wrapping paper cannot be recycled. (I didn't know this until recently, either. Whoops.) "If you do want to wrap items, there are definitely eco-friendly wrapping paper options out there," Kings says. "But something I do with my kids is use colorful paper from magazines or newspapers. Or they color a picture and we use that."
Look For Sustainable Candy
Agricultural practices and food production are big factors in one's carbon footprint, and more and more companies are making efforts to be more sustainable. King suggests looking in the "natural" section of a store (rather than the seasonal section where you'll find most Easter items) to find organic/fair trade/sustainable items.
Dye Your Eggs Naturally
My mom was and is a big ol' hippie, so, growing up, we often used natural ingredients to dye our eggs. I won't lie: they're not going to give you the same vibrant jewel tones or perfect pastels you may be used to, and they often take more time, but naturally dyed eggs can still turn out really beautifully.
"There are many all-natural dyes that you can make with ingredients you will find in your kitchen," King says. " Three tablespoons turmeric or cumin for yellow; one cup finely-chopped spinach for green; half a cup red beets for pink; one cup thinly sliced red cabbage for blue; and peels from two yellow onions for orange.
Simply simmer the food or spice with three cups of water, two tablespoons of white vinegar and one teaspoon of salt for 30 minutes or until desired color is reached. Strain the mixture, and then add your hard-boiled eggs to the dye. Leave your eggs in the solution for at least 20 minutes or even overnight (in the fridge) for a deeper color. If you want a more vibrant, shiny color, rub your eggs with a small amount of Malaysian palm oil once they are completely dry."
Buy Eggs From A Local Farmer
Obviously this may not be an option for everyone, but with backyard and urban chicken keeping on the rise, you might have better luck that you may have in the past.
I love getting my eggs locally. I know that the chickens are well cared for, that the environmental impact of raising them is minimal, and OMG you guys, they come in such pretty colors depending on the breed of chicken who laid it. Green, blue, pink — so whimsical. Also you get to know more people in your community. (My "chicken lady" is the coolest.)
"I like going to thrift stores to get decorations and things that will enhance my kids' baskets," King tells Romper. She points out that it's also a great way to find items that are not meant to be thrown away, but used over and over. "Avoid things that are cheaply made. Look for things that will last," she advises. "We have enough in landfills."
Get Your Kids Stuff They Needed Anyway
That's not to say you can't get fun items, but look for items that you were going to wind up getting anyway that you can use throughout the spring and summer at least: seasonal toys like bubble wands or sidewalk chalk, for example. Swimsuits and flip flops seem to be a popular choice as well.
Do Not Buy A Pet
OK, this may not be strictly speaking green, but animals are part of the environment so it totally counts.
Chicks and bunnies are popular Easter gifts, but they're also eight to 12 year commitments because that's how long they live in captivity. If you've been seriously considering getting a pet rabbit or chicken before this blessed spring holiday and it seems like a good time to take the plunge, fine, but don't just buy a bunny or chick on a whim because they're Easter themed.
Decorate With Native Plants
Easter celebrations often mean reveling in the fact that spring has finally arrived, which can inspire many of us to decorate with all kinds of beautiful flora, inside and out. But while certain flowers may look beautiful, the truth is that nature knows better than we do and indigenous plants that are better for your garden... and all the creatures (furry, feathered, fluttering, buzzing, and leafy) that live in it. The National Wildlife Federation has a wonderful native plants finder that can help you find the best species for home and yard.