Few things are less environmentally friendly than kids.

green boy

You know it’s true. They stand as examples of our populating an overpopulated planet. They need a lot of stuff, or at least that’s what other parents and Babies ‘R’ Us tell us. And nothing says “earth hater” more than the billions of dirty diapers now calling landfills home.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free.

But here’s the thing: Before kids, I wasn’t much of an environmentalist.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

It wasn’t until I birthed my children and moved them to suburbia that I finally made the decision to strive for a simple, sustainable existence. If I was going to stay home with them, I was going to enjoy it — and that did not mean driving around town all day looking for playgroups and sales on kitchenware. I didn’t need to drive a minivan or shop at Wal-Mart. Instead, I’d take the bus … to Target. Better, right? Maybe a little better?

I struggle with these decisions, and the most frustrating part is that even though I stopped driving (mostly) and made my life completely inconvenient, I still do virtually nothing to stop global warming.

Every day makes me wonder if it’s worth it. Sometimes — like when my girls and I leave story time in a thunderstorm complete with ice pellets, we miss our bus and the coffee shop clerk seems displeased that I don’t want my coffee to go — I think I’m making things worse. The minivan moms don’t seem concerned with the state of the world (but don’t get them started on stranger safety).

Then I think, maybe I’m not supposed to be the solver of problems. Maybe I’m the teacher.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

I just can’t help feeling that parents should do something, any little thing, toward a better future for their kids. When my girls get older and ask why we don’t just drive to the library like normal people, I can explain my motives. And for now, I can make small changes to green my household. It’s not all at once, and I have a long way to go (No Impact Man’s family in New York City has taken a decidedly more drastic road I simultaneously covet and fear), but I try.

In fact, I’ll try anything once. I want to live greener, you want me to live greener, I want you to live greener. Dare me to do something and I’ll let you know how it goes.