Starting When They’re Young
Adopting a greener philosophy and teaching kids the importance of reducing in a world that’s constantly clamoring for more can be quite the challenge.
Kermit the Frog once lamented, “It’s not easy bein’ green.” It’s not always easy to go against the grain and be truly green, but following these tips will help you teach your children the lessons that are so important to us all while raising them to be good stewards for the Earth.
1) Set an Example by Reducing Non-Green “Clutter” in Your Home
That doesn’t imply that your home is messy, just that you may have things coming into your home that aren’t exactly green. Reducing things that aren’t necessary or green from the home will help you focus your efforts to teach your children about what’s truly important in life – including leading a greener lifestyle.
These are just a few things you can do:
- Enroll in paperless billing
- Go digital for news and magazine subscriptions
- Invest in eReaders for the family and read electronic books rather than paper copies
- Compost leftovers and paper items to reduce waste
- Use reusable shopping and lunch bags and containers
2) Help Children Make Environmentally Responsible Choices for Clothing and Toys
Children WANT to be helpful members of society. They want to help the planet and they want to do things that make you proud. If you teach them these things at an early age, then give them room to make important decisions about the items that matter to them, you might find that they go with the crowd on occasion, but that the lessons you teach them are important.
The good news, though, is that a lot of the newer trends in toys and clothing are adopting greener manufacturing practices so children today can have the best of both worlds when it comes to making green purchasing decisions.
3) Create an Earth-Friendly Backyard – Let them Help
Teaching respect for the outdoors is a family affair. Kids love to be part of something big. Planning a major backyard renovation and transforming your landscape to a garden of green is a great way to fill many evening hours and create a lawn and garden your entire family is proud to be part of. Here are just a few things you can do to transform your outdoor living space into a green oasis for all.
- Plant a tree
- Build furniture from reclaimed wood
- Build a birdhouse
- Install a birdbath
- Set up birdfeeders
- Plant a butterfly garden to add bright splashes of color and attract beautiful butterflies
4) Make Green Decisions about Household Purchases
This sets an example that’s hard for children not to follow. There are all kinds of household decisions that may not seem like green decisions at first, but once you explore the products available, quickly become green choices.
Mattresses and upholstered furniture can be green buying choice. A 100 percent latex mattress for example is a planet-friendly bedding choice. Federal regulation requires mattresses and upholstered furnishings to meet certain standards of fire retardation. The current material of choice for most manufacturers contains Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) that have been cited by the EPA for human health and environmental concerns.
Weighing these choices and discussing them with your children is a great way to teach them by example how to make greener decisions even on major household purchases. Another way to do this is by explaining Energy Star ratings and what that means when buying appliances.
5) Buy Local – Take Your Children Shopping With You
This holds true when shopping for food products especially, though shopping local requires less greenhouse emissions in the buying process and, quite often, the shipping process too. Shop farmers’ markets in your community, local antique shops, and do business with local artisans who share your values and commitment to the environment.
Let them get to know the people you do business with and involve your children in the shopping process. The more they practice as children the more natural it will feel for them to shop locally (and green) as adults.
6) Participate, as a Family, in Green Community Activities
Most communities offer green events and activities throughout the year. From cleanup events at lakes and rivers to educational events and activities sponsored by local merchants and community groups, it’s important to show up in numbers. Your participation keeps these events going, helps the organizations operating them get funded, and helps you reinforce the importance of building green communities with your children. Most importantly, though, it helps your children understand how good it feels to help others and the planet.
7) Skip the Delivery – Make Your Own Pizza
Delivery pizza is expensive to buy, cheaply made, unhealthy, and delivers a ton of greenhouse emissions in addition to the pizza. It’s just not worth the toll to the wallet, waistline, or the planet.
Here’s what you should do instead.
Make your own. This way you know exactly what your family is eating and get to enjoy the great taste and fun of making pizza with the entire family. Consider allowing everyone to choose the toppings for his or her own pizza for even more fun.
8) Plan Vacations that are Environmentally Friendly and Earth Educational
Vacations are times of great fun. There’s no denying that. There’s no rule that says they can’t be green as well. There are plenty of resorts that cater to the earth-friendly crowd offering excursions that are green, such as:
- Bicycle tours
- Snow skiing
- Dog sledding
- Paddle boarding
It’s the educational nature of vacations, though that can really make an impact and get kids excited about being green. Make sure you include trips to places like those mentioned below during your vacation adventure:
- Animal Encounters (sea turtle hospitals, dolphin encounters, bird sanctuaries, other animal sanctuaries or refuges, and wildlife education centers)
- National Parks
- State Parks
These are all fun and exciting experiences that are educational as well.
9) 86 Bottled Water
When restaurants run out of certain menu item, that item is 86ed from the menu. It’s time to 86 bottled water from your household menu. Everyone needs to drink a lot of water each day, but that bottled water damages the planet in so many ways that the convenience it offers is not worth the high price Mother Nature has to pay to deliver.
Instead, choose colorful fun reusable bottles your child can be responsible for helping to fill each day and invest in filtered water pitchers for your home if you’re concerned over water quality.
10) Give Your Child Age Appropriate Responsibility for Recycling
Don’t just present this as a chore, but make it an important responsibility that’s beneficial for the family and the planet. Celebrate recycling victories. When failures occur, as they can with young children, let it go. The earth is important, but you do not want to hinder your child’s enthusiasm for recycling by harsh reactions or reprimands. Just make a point of showing your child again what needs to be done and moving forward.
11) Explain Why Being Green Matters
Children often do live on a “what’s in it for me?” plain of existence. In order to make them understand why being green matters you have to show them the direct impact it can have on them today. It’s true that the impact on the planet is immediate, but it’s not something children can see as real and true.
Dr. Sears recommends explaining the complexities of environmental issues, such as deforestation, by letting your children know that in addition to chopping down forests for paper and wood consumption, they are also cut down to make room for farms and ranches. It’s not about striking fears into their hearts, but letting them know that simple things like coloring on both sides of a coloring page or reading electronic books, newspapers, and magazines helps reduce our dependence on trees.
12) Make the Switch to Rechargeable Batteries
It sounds like such a simple concept until you realize just how many childrens’ toys rely on batteries. Disposing of batteries is a huge dilemma for families today. Rechargeable batteries solves two problems in one fell swoop. It eliminates the expense of constantly replacing standard batteries, and it eliminates the need to dispose of batteries once they’ve been depleted.
13) Invest in eReaders for the Family
It’s a great way to reduce the reliance on paper, clear out paper clutter, and to encourage reading. More importantly, it’s a terrific way to save money on books as many school and public libraries are beginning to include eBooks in their lending libraries. Websites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble often offer free books as well – some of them are even focused on green living topics for adults and children.
14) Plan Your Own Earth Day Party Each Year
Let the kids participate in the planning process and invite friends over to enjoy the event too. Making it an annual event allows you to build on the theme each year and educate friends and family about how easy it is to adopt a greener lifestyle.
15) Use Technology to Teach Your Kids about being Eco-Friendly
There are several great apps for tablet devices and mobile phones that teach kids great lessons about being better planetary stewards. The EarthPreservers website offers several recommendations about several earth mattering apps including:
Green Up is an app for iPhone and iPad that teaches children how to grow their own plants.
Nature Tap is an app that teaches kids about different species. A free version of the app offers 28 bird species complete with detailed descriptions of their chirps. In-app purchases reveal information about other species including mammals, flowers, and more.
JouleBug teaches energy saving tips by showing children small things they can do that will help them live more sustainable lives.
16) Plant a Garden
You do not need a huge backyard with tons of space to plant a garden. Even small apartments can enjoy container gardens or windowsill gardens as space allows. The point is that the benefits of growing a garden for children goes well beyond eating the vegetables they grow, which is certainly worthy enough. Children who grow gardens learn important lessons about the lifecycle of the fruits and vegetables they eat and the importance of watering and caring for their gardens. Don’t forget to grow herbs, such as parsley, dill, and cilantro, as well.
17) Invest in a State Park Pass for the Family
This is a great way for the family to get out together and explore Mother Nature’s splendor year round. State park passes generally last for one year and allow the family free access to all state parks within the state.
This means that you can explore different areas of the state at very little expense. More importantly, each park offers a series of educational environmental programs throughout the year, many of which are hands-on learning opportunities for families like yours, and you have access to them all.
18) Use Your Local Library
Community libraries are a tremendous resource for people who are committed to the planet. Not only do they allow people to reuse beloved books, music, magazines, and more, but today’s libraries also offer lending programs for DVDs, electronic books, and audiobooks you can enjoy while working in your garden and simply cleaning house with the family.
19) Clean Green
If you want your children to go green, you must set the example. From cleaning with green products from stores or making your own cleaning greening products to making major buying decisions, every green step they see you take provides an example for them to follow.
20) Conserve Energy at Home
There are many ways you can do this. It’s important to teach your children the importance of energy conservation by example. The actions listed below are a few of the highlights.
- Unplug chargers, televisions, electronics, and appliances when not in use
- Switch to LED light bulbs.
- Consider switching to solar powered, motion detecting lights for the exterior of your home.
- Use collection barrels to harvest rainwater for watering your lawn and garden.
- Install low flow shower heads and toilets.
- Turn off lights when exiting a room.
- Set thermostats lower in winter during the evening when everyone is sleeping and the days when everyone is out.
Teach your children to do these things too, and these lessons will remain with them as they become ecologically responsible adults — and one day teach these same important lessons to their children.
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