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Yesterday Little Girl and I took a mommy-and-me art class. When we got there, we played Play-Doh. Okay, easy enough. Not a huge environmental impact. But then came the projects.

The first one was drawing with creamy crayons on a piece of paper. I couldn’t find the ingredients online, but I can tell you that they were not organic, and they definitely weren’t going to last very long with ten 18-month to 30-month kids playing with them. Impact: About 30 small plastic lipstick-like tubes. The teacher then brought around foam rollers, asking the kids to “create a rainy day scene” by rolling water over the creamy crayons. She handed out more construction paper to put underneath the original drawings. So now we’re up to two pieces of paper times ten kids or 20 pieces of paper. Then we all washed our hands and dried them using paper towels. Two towels per parent/child pair.

Once we were done with our very wet, very colorful painting, we went back to the table where ten napkins and ten paper cups had been laid out for snack. The kids ate pretzels and drank juice while listening to a book. Once that was done, the smocks went back on. The teacher handed out more construction paper and more paper cups — this time, the cups were filled with glue. (Plus 10 pieces of paper, plus 10 more cups.) She also gave us cut up cotton balls, felt, and yup, about 10 more napkins torn to shreds. Once we glued the assorted felt and napkin “clouds” to our paper, everyone needed their hands washed again. (Using 20 more paper towels.) When we came back to the table we got another cup filled with blue paint. The kids then painted rain coming out of our “clouds.” Blue paint everywhere, we all filed back to the sink to wash hands yet again. At the end of the class, here was our approximate environmental impact without the paint and the glue included:

  • Construction paper: 30 pieces
  • Paper towels: 80 pieces
  • Napkins: 20 pieces
  • Paper cups: 30 cups
  • Felt: About a foot
  • Cotton balls: About 40

Most of the projects were super-gluey and super-wet from paint. They were left behind and, according to the teacher, they would be thrown out if they weren’t picked up by the following week. As much as I love going to that class, and really think art is an important part of a child’s development, I left the place feeling as blue as the paint now smeared all over Little Girl’s pretty leopard-print top. Especially when I saw the once-empty-but-now-overflowing garbage can. What’s a mom to do? Seriously?

I want Little Girl to have the same fun experiences as Big Girl did, but I want to be more mindful of the environmental impact of our fun, which is why I’m asking my readers this: How can I balance fun with being green? How have you handled this type of experience? Am I simply taking my quest to be greener too far? Sound off and let me know what you think.

6 Responses to “Mommy and Me: An Eco Disaster Area”

  1. MarthaandMe says:

    Wow – that really does add up doesn’t it? I think that if you concentrate on being green at home that’s the best thing you can do. You don’t want to miss out on these experiences.

  2. Shari G says:

    Maybe you can save egg cartons, milk cartons, cereal boxes, etc and donate these for use on future projects.

  3. Julie says:

    Here are some green crafts I used for Earth day at school.

    http://crafts.kaboose.com/holidays/earth-day/earth_day_crafts.html

  4. Jen Haupt says:

    I used to worry about this when my kids were younger, constantly saving scraps of paper and ribbon that they never really did use again. I love Shari’s idea of reusing cartons and boxes, recycling as much as possible. Kids really don’t care as long as they can draw on something or cut it up!

  5. Dee says:

    Oh, yes, I have dealt with these issues myself. All these projects with so much waste. I try and tell myself that I cannot be preachy mom (which I am not) or try and ruin a good time for others. My daughter is very *artistc* and we have turned over our dining room as our creative room. When I have items that cannot be recycled, such as certain egg cartons or what have you, I save those for her projects. I save scrap paper for her to do her homework on. I also use scrap paper when I need to send a note to school for the teacher. There are many ways I try and ‘make up’ for other waste around me. I believe it is all about balance and not driving yourself crazy. It is so easy to get bogged down and not enjoy the moment, I have found for myself. I am working on me!

  6. Amy says:

    Our preschool loves to reuse household items…. When my youngest was eating baby food, I would bring the containers in, great for glue and paint– and once washed they can still be recycled… As far as paper towels go, maybe bring your own hand towel with you (to dry your hands) you might just start an art class revolution! Also suggest that they use a small tarp to cover the table, washable and re-useable. These suggestions don’t take away from the art projects, just the eco-carnage!

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