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Sustainability Concierge Friday Apaliski’s Tips for Greener At-Home Learning

By Jillian Mitchell

Most people want to live more sustainably and do right by the planet, but who has time to figure out how? Enter Friday Apaliski, your personal guide to a greener home

Her comprehensive approach took shape while fielding questions at the Department of the Environment in San Francisco. She realized that people want to make the right choices, but lack resources and information. She’s expertly considered every angle and helps clients go green in their lives, from buying the right mattress or safest shampoos to composting.

Friday shares her top tips for parents who want to up their sustainability game:

 1. Choose sustainable/non-toxic products 

Every parent wants to do what is most healthy for their child. It’s important to choose non-toxic school supplies because kids use them every day. The most ubiquitous and readily available products are problematic for our health and the health of our planet. They are designed for the landfill, filled with harmful chemicals, and devilishly inexpensive. When we choose sustainable products, we work toward a healthy planet. 

2. Look at long-term costs

Sustainable doesn’t always equal expensive. If you only consider the retail price, it does seem more costly. However, when you calculate how long cheap products last and how often you replace them, they are absolutely more expensive. Multiplied by the environmental costs we pass on to our children, and the health costs we won’t pay for immediately, they aren’t just more expensive. They’re cost-prohibitive. 

3. Teach your little one to live sustainably 

All children inherently love nature. You can harness that. When they see plastic washed ashore at the beach, or visit the aquarium that exhibits the effects of plastic in the ocean, it’s a learning opportunity. When I tell my son that we don’t buy Crayola Markers because they are made of plastic, he says, “Yeah, mom. Because we don’t want plastic in the ocean!” Verbalizing the choices you make helps kids understand why you’re doing things differently than their school or other families, and they’ll get on board. 

Remember the power we have as parents. We don’t have to buy certain things just because they’re marketed toward us. Our kids are looking to us for inspiration and leadership, and they’re happy to follow our lead if we explain it. 

4. Gather insight as you go

If you don’t have tons of time to deep-dive into research, remain open-minded, and adapt as you go. Read labels when you can, and look out for messaging that sounds good but doesn’t fully deliver. One example is Crayola’s reference to recycling their markers. What they do is burn them, and call the energy created “renewable.” They consider it renewable because you will just keep on buying their products. 

One material to avoid is PVC/vinyl, a bendable plastic that smells like a shower curtain. That smell is harmful to our little ones. It contains phthalates which are linked to asthma, learning disabilities, diabetes, and other chronic health problems. Congress banned phthalates in children’s toys, but not in school supplies, so it’s definitely one to look out for! If something is clear or shiny plastic, you can almost guarantee that it’s made of PVC. 

5.  Opt for quality over quantity

Kids are super creative, and sometimes even more so when they have fewer things to work with! Don’t give in to the pressure to buy a ton of stuff. Get a few items that are versatile and that you know your kids will love. My father taught me to live by a few mantras, one being: “When the price is forgotten, the quality remains,” and that’s how I approach art/school supplies. You don’t need a bunch if you have quality. 

Get started with some of Friday’s favorite products and sources:

  • I LOVE the water-based pastels by Caran D’Ache. They glide just like markers and last for SO long. We’ve had ours for a couple years, and they aren’t even halfway used. I really fell in love with them when my son used a red one to draw all over my fabric chair… and I was able to remove ALL of it with just a little bit of soapy water. Amazing. 
  • Stabilo markers are excellent. We’ve been drawing rainbows on the window and coloring on paper. A touch of water gives you watercolors, and you can even use these on a whiteboard. Get the sharpener, and they’ll last for years!
  • Find a local creative reuse center, almost every community has one! In San Francisco, we have SCRAP. People donate items for art projects that others (mostly teachers) can purchase for very low prices. I’ve found gallons of poster paint, stamps, stencils, and more. 

You can keep up with Friday on Instagram at @sustainability_concierge and learn more about her on her website sustainabilityconcierge.com.

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