Raising Earth-Friendly Kids
Whether you're a diehard recycler who shops with canvas bags and
keeps a compost bin in the corner of your backyard, or a busy
parent looking for some quick tips on sorting glass from plastic,
it's easy to get your family on the path to greener living.
But the best earth-friendly practices require the cooperation of
everyone in the household. So, how do parents get kids invested in
recycling, reusing, reducing and the other basics of environmental
As with most good habits, the best way to teach them is to be a
good role model yourself. By showing that you care about and
respect the environment, your kids will do the same.
It's a Family Affair
Here are some suggestions you can try as a family:
Teach respect for the outdoors. This can
start in your own backyard. Help kids plant a garden or tree. Set
up bird feeders, a birdbath and birdhouses. Kids can clean out and
refill the bath daily and clean up seed debris around feeders and
On a larger scale, you can plan family vacations that focus on the
great outdoors. Maybe a summer trip to the Grand Canyon or
Yellowstone Park appeals to your adventurous clan. Shorter trips
might include a day at a state or national park. Even a couple days
at the beach can offer plenty of opportunities for you to point out
and discuss the plants and animals you see and why it's important
to protect their habitats.
Recycle. Recycling is easy, and in some
communities, mandatory. Check with your local recycling office and
be sure you know all the rules. Some communities allow co-mingling
― all recyclables can be placed in one container ― while others
require sorting into separate containers. You may need bins for
each type of recyclable: one for plastic, one for glass, one for
paper, and one for cans. Kids can sort (and rinse, if necessary)
items, place them in the correct bins and take the containers out
to the curb for collection. After the bins have been emptied, ask
your kids to rinse them out (if they're dirty) and bring them back
into the house or garage.
Drink your own water. Bottled water is
expensive and, experts say, not any cleaner or safer than tap
water. In fact, much bottled water is actually tap water that has
been filtered. The water that comes out of home spigots in the
United States is extremely safe. Municipal water supplies are
monitored constantly and the test results made public. And unless
they're recycled, the plastic bottles ― most commonly made from
polyethylene terepthalate (PET), which is derived from crude oil ―
can end up in landfills. So have your kids tote water from the tap
(you can add a filter to improve its taste) in reusable
Clean green. Many natural products can
replace commercial - and possibly hazardous - cleaning
preparations. Just a few examples: to deodorize carpets, sprinkle
them with baking soda, wait 15 minutes and then vacuum; use vinegar
and baking soda for everything from oven cleaning and drain
clearing to stain removal and metal polishing. Lots of websites
offer green cleaning tips, and many stores carry premade nontoxic
cleaners for those who don't want to make their own.
Lend a hand. Many communities sponsor
green activities such as pitching in to help clean up a local park
or playground. Maybe the area around your child's school could use
Getting Kids to "Go Green"
In their own day-to-day activities, encourage kids to find ways
to limit waste, cut down on electricity, avoid unnecessary
purchases and reuse items that they already have. Here's how:
Conserve energy. Remind kids to turn off
lights when they're not in use, power down computers, turn off the
TV when nobody's watching and resist lingering in front of the
refrigerator with the door open.
Hoof it. If kids can safely ride a bike
or walk to school or to visit friends rather than catch a ride from
parents, encourage it! Or if safety is a concern, consider
organizing a "walking school bus" ― this activity allows kids to
walk or bike to and from school under the supervision of an
Let there be (more) light. Older kids can
help replace regular light bulbs with energy-efficient ones.
Compact fluorescent light bulbs provide about the same light output
as incandescent bulbs, but they last much longer and use a fraction
of the energy.
Reuse and recharge. Buy rechargeable
batteries for your kids' electronics and toys and teach them how to
care for and recharge them. This reduces garbage and keeps toxic
metals, such as mercury, out of landfills.
Pass it on. Ask kids to gather toys,
books, clothes and other goods that they no longer use or want for
donation to local charities. Have them ride along for the drop-off
so they can see how groups such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army
use donations to help others.
These tips are just some ways to get your family to become more
earth-friendly. Once you get everyone on board with conservation,
challenge your kids to come up with new and interesting ways of
Can your grade-schoolers cut back on the amount of paper they
print from the Internet? How about your teens: Can they agree to
take shorter showers?
Engaging your kids in this way will get them to start thinking
about how their individual efforts affect the world they live in,
and how little changes can ― and will ― make a difference.
Reviewed by: Mary L.
Date reviewed: December 2008