Leading By Example

The Clean Up Kids aren’t just passionate about roadside cleanup, they are environmental stewards every day. They subscribe to the approach, “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” A robust sample of daily activities, mostly focused on reducing, that we embrace to make the world a more beautiful place follows. We still live our lives pretty normally, but we try to do a little bit wherever it makes sense. We hope that you can try a few of these when it won’t completely mess up your routine. We hope you’ll enjoy some LOL moments at some of our extreme measures by US standards. Email the Clean Up Kids to let us know what you think of our approaches or what new ideas you are adopting. We’d love to hear from you!


  • Eating well-balanced meals at home with washable dishes & cutlery rather than take-out that creates so much garbage.
  • Maximizing efficiency of car trips – we run errands when we are otherwise going out for a scheduled event plus we schedule get-togethers around when people will otherwise be nearby or vice versa.
  • Turning off car engine when not driving to prevent idling.
  • Carrying reusable water bottles everywhere we go.
  • Saying ‘no thanks’ to most all single-use items including straws, bags, extra napkins and condiments, etc.
  • NEVER buying bottled water! We don’t even accept bottled water at events or when offered to us. Just say NO!
  • Asking guests of outdoor parties at our home or other venues to BYOB (bring your own bottle)….reusable of course…that we’ll happily fill from large pitchers of lemonade, iced tea, water, etc.
  • Turning off interior lights every time we leave a room to conserve electricity, minimize light pollution, lower electric bills, and avoid confusion to migrating birds.
  • Turning off exterior lights as soon as all family members are home for the night.
  • Skipping landscape lighting which looks pretty but…..
  • Conserving water by only running full loads of laundry and full dishwashers; turning off water while doing dishes, brushing teeth, shaving and even when taking longer showers with extra hygiene steps. Did you know that the average American uses 100 gallons of water daily? When we are all home, our family of seven uses on average 150 gallons daily – that’s 550 gallons less than if we used the average American over-consumptive amount. X365 days, that is a whopping 200,000 gallons of water conserved by our family every year!!
  • Embracing the tropical quote, “When in the land of sea and sun, we never flush for number one”…..OK, we admit that this is kind of out there, but especially at night when a toilet flush might awaken other sleeping family members, it does make good sense. And toilets, especially older, inefficient models, account for ~30% of indoor water consumption. Here’s an article that debates the concerns and merits of the practice.
  • Using t-shirt scraps, single socks where the match is lost, and old kitchen towels no longer in good enough condition to be displayed, etc. to clean our home and cars. They make for great rags that we then wash and reuse.
  • Declining use of plastic bags at most every store we patronize either by using reusable bags we were given through life and carry with us nearly everywhere or by just carrying a small number of items in our hands. Note that at stores like Walmart, this often gets us the stink eye or inspections from the greeters. But that’s OK, we know we aren’t stealing, so we happily show our receipt. Our family was doing this years before it was accepted in grocery stores. Cashiers used to hate us for ‘slowing down the process even though we’d always offer to bag our own groceries. Sheesh!
  • Using plastic grocery bags as kitchen garbage bags. Despite our efforts, like everyone, we still occasionally receive plastic bags when shopping. We use those for our household garbage rather than buying kitchen garbage bags. They don’t fit our kitchen garbage cans great, but well enough. Our large family fills up approximately two to four grocery store bags weekly…that’s it! Our garbage bin is typically less than 1/3 full each week.
  • Minimizing shipping boxes, packing material and deliveries by limiting online ordering when possible and electing to delay delivery if it means items can be packaged and shipped together.
  • Buying items with the least packaging, of course after choosing what we need/want and for a good value. Often the item sold in bulk is the best value and has the least packaging. Win-win!
  • Keeping all those extra napkins, condiments and cutlery you inevitably get even from occasional fast food or meals out in the car when needed or at home to use there, take on picnics, use for a party, etc.
  • Extending the life of socks with our family’s two-hole sock rule. Keep using it until it has two large holes in the sole or several smaller holes. It becomes a big joke in our house whether a sock has enough coverage to keep wearing or warrants being discarded. We don’t wear shoes inside our home so we even try to wear hole-free socks when friends are over.
  • Wearing clothes that aren’t soiled, sweaty or stinky for more than one day. The constant showering and laundering is really a U.S. anomaly compared to practices in most of the world. But somehow, our family is weird on this?! We know, because our friends have laughed at the approach. Our family term is “half dirty” but that’s kinda negative; it should be “half clean.”In between wearings, we typically shake our clothes outside to get off any skin, dust, and hair and often we leave them outside for a while to freshen up. This way, our mom will still do laundry for all seven of us but only has to do about five large loads every couple weeks.
  • Minimizing our expenditure on food and use of packaging while maximizing our pride by growing some of our own food and canning or freezing some too. We are still learning and don’t do enough, but we do have five blueberry bushes and three apple trees that are prolific and mature at different times of the year so we can eat, share, can, cook and freeze. We also have a 15′ square garden where we are excellent at growing leaves (we must have nitrogen-rich soil – we wonder if it was all those bags of Black Kow we spread a few years back?!) So we’ve embraced the reality and grow lots of herbs and leafy veggies like kale, swiss chard, lettuce, spinach, etc.
  • Minimizing herbicides by pulling weeds. Oh, we have pulled so many over the years that one person referred to our family property as a North Korean work camp. Not quite, but we’ve pulled a lot of weeds.
  • Buying mulch and soil/compost in bulk by the yard rather than in bags. Recently, our family bought bags of soil and compost to spread in our garden. But then we realized that each bag was, on average, only one cubic foot. One cubic yard of soil is 27 cubic feet (ya know 3′ X 3′ X 3′). So we were going to be tossing 27 plastic bags into the landfill. We borrowed a friend’s trailer instead, bought the soil at a garden center nearby and returned all the bags of soil and compost. It was MUCH less expensive and saved all those bags.
  • Refrain from idling in the car. In the winter, when our mom is waiting for us to finish an activity, she would turn on the car to heat up for 5 minutes every hour. Then she would use a blanket to try to keep warm.


  • Composting all organic and other eligible scraps every day.
  • Cleaning aluminum foil and plastic storage bags to be used again. Yup, this is kind of a Depression Era behavior. But you’d be surprised how many times these items can be reused, how slowly we go through boxes of aluminum foil or zip-top bags, and how luxurious it seems when we use a brand new bag or piece of foil. It’s the little things in life….
  • Reusing paper towels that have only just dried our hands or done a similar ‘clean’ job. We keep them to use again for increasingly dirty tasks until they are totally soiled. Our large family uses maybe one roll of paper towels every two months.
  • Our older sister saved many of her t-shirts for years and made a huge t-shirt quilt that she loves after she graduated high school. She just graduated from college and plans to make another one. It’s a great conversation piece, heart-warming, filled with memories and pride, comfy and warm too. We plan to make one or more someday too!
  • Reusing butter wrappers to grease pans rather than using spray oil.
  • Reusing paper that comes in the mail to use for writing anything down, and using some for printer paper.
  • After minimizing packaging, whatever boxes and packaging we do get, we use to line our garden to minimize weeds and we periodically post them on NextDoor or Craigslist to give away to people who can use them for moving or shipping.
  • Using single socks where the match is lost to make doggie toys – just tie a bunch of knots to make a good chew or tug toy. You can also stuff with poly-fill or tennis balls and tie off.
  • We are the youngest two of five children so can you say, ‘hand-me-down’ clothes and toys? And when we are done with them, our mom makes sure they are in great shape and then gives them directly to friends or acquaintances who can use them. It takes her more time, but it’s worth it to ensure items really do get used, sets stay together, etc.
  • Shopping at thrift and consignment stores. We have only recently started to do this when we needed clothes for concerts and when hand-me-down pants from our older siblings don’t fit. But we’ve had some excellent luck!
  • Repurposing old flip flops, sandals and tennis shoes to garage/yard-work shoes when they are beyond ‘prime time’.
  • Using butter wrappers to grease pans instead of cooking spray.


  • Organizing tours of our local landfill and recycling facilities to learn and then spread the word about their great work.
  • Staying current on what items can be recycled in our community vs. what should be discarded and NEVER putting plastic bags or dirty pizza boxes in commingled recycling.
  • Recycling everything we can including all plastic wrap/packaging in bins specifically for plastic bags like at Food Lion and Target.
  • TerraCycling our chip bags and other packaging lined with aluminum foil by depositing them in the bin at Whole Foods. Click here to learn more and find the nearest TerraCycle location.