Fall: Family, Fun – and Green

Fall is the time for family funFall has always been my favorite season: the days shorten, everyone comes in earlier for more time together, the food changes to warmer, more comforting options, and the air simply becomes alive with the feeling of festivities, with a crispness and hint of apples and pumpkins. But in the end, I think maybe I love fall so much because fall just seems made for family time. 

As an adult who desires not only to make the most of this time but to inspire and/or teach a little about the “green” aspect of fall outside those brilliant oranges and reds, I find it to be the perfect season for greening up the home with the family. If your family could use some activities that not only bring you together for fun and giggles but would enjoy a lesson to go with them, here are a few of my favorites:

Pumpkin, Take 2

While carving is fun and the opportunities for decorating are plentiful, there are also many green things to do with a pumpkin. Consider skipping a purchase at the grocery store and head out to a local pumpkin patch instead. This will give you the chance to talk to your children about supporting local farmers. (The older your kids, the more you can get into why we try not to buy produce that’s been shipped from afar.) You can also talk about getting pumpkins that haven’t been sprayed with pesticides and are safer to eat because of this.

When all is said and done and you don’t need the pumpkin anymore?  Try not to toss it into the trash where it will just hit the landfill.  Scoop out the insides and bake something! Kids love making things like chocolate pumpkin Halloween pancakes or pumpkin muffins.You can then teach them how to remove and clean the seeds.  Sprinkle lightly with sugar and cinnamon and then roast for a delicious and healthy afternoon treat.

Take a Saturday afternoon and spend it breaking the pumpkin (pumpkin smashing games are always a hit) down into pieces and compost the pumpkin.  If you don’t have a compost bin yourself, see if your friends or neighbors do or even the community garden.

Another super fun idea?  Take the pumpkins to your local zoos! Many animals, lions in particular, love pumpkins, and this is the time of year when zoos will accept donations.  They may even let you watch as they feed the pumpkin treats.

Backyard Dance Off

While you could take a leaf blower, blow the leaves into piles, and stuff garbage bags full for the trash, why not involve your family and choose to be greener in your removal method of the leaves? Here’s why: one hour of leaf blowing uses roughly the same amount of emissions as a car driving 350 miles. This means the whole family should grab a rake! Turn on dance music and have a dance party in the backyard (air guitars or rake guitars!). After you’re done dancing/raking/having a blast, compost the leaves or take them somewhere where they will be composted. You’ll be rewarded in the spring with rich soil, just dying for your children to plant some tender plants in.

Homemade JamJamming Craze!

Fall is the perfect time to take advantage of all the produce that isn’t going to available for awhile, or at least not locally grown. Head out to local farmers’ patches and stock up on fall fruits. Then have a jam party! You can opt for freezer jam varieties to avoid having to deal with typical canning. You’ll be able to talk about the green benefits behind making things from scratch, as well as not purchasing things out of season. And the best part: nothing beats homemade biscuits with freshly made jam (especially in the middle of winter!)  Plus, your kids will just get a big kick out of squishing the fruit into proper jam consistency.

Other Fun Stuff

What else? Fall is perfect for family hikes to explore and appreciate nature. Walk to school and the grocery store while it’s still feasible. Make your Halloween costumes as much from scratch as you can (whoever said closet dress up parties weren’t the most fun ever?). After Halloween?  Recycle your costumes if you can, and save up those wrappers, because you can donate them to be recycled!  (Check out Candy Wrapper Brigade by Terracycle; you’ll even get 2 cents to donate to a non-profit of your choice).

Craft door draft blockers!  If you’ve got extra long socks, some rice and basic craft supplies (buttons, felt cut-outs, googly-eyes), your kids can fill a sock with rice and decorate it to their heart’s desire for the cutest little sock animals that will help insulate your home and save energy.

Grab your family, plan an afternoon of fun, and make sure to tie in some easy green lessons that will last well beyond the day’s pumpkin bake-off and stretch into forever.

Freelancer Tara Alley writes primarily green focused articles, most typically geared towards families.  At the moment she’s also writing alongside a green heating company helping them write content for their eco-friendly oil heater selection.  To read more, follow her on Twitter @hopesiempre.