Ever since world-inspiring Greta Thunberg took the international stage to fight for better environmental laws, young adults, teenagers and children everywhere have started to get invested in slowing climate change. With determination and fierce dedication in tow, young people have turned towards advocating for stricter policies and procedures, including on a federal, state and local level.
However, some children have hesitated because they don’t really know where to start. As adults, we play a unique role in helping our children to learn how to be more environmentally friendly. Children model our behavior, so it’s important that we pay attention to the choices we make and how they might affect our children’s decisions and thoughts. It doesn’t take a specialized degree in biochemistry to take better care of your carbon footprint.
Here are some ways to teach your kids how to be more environmentally friendly.
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- Use Alternative Materials: Rather than using materials that aren’t recyclable, look for items that are made using recycled materials! This isn’t just for clothes or storage containers, though. Even switching out your metal rings for silicone wedding bands can be a great way to model using an alternative materials for your kids. Showing them that they don’t always have to go with the status quo for available products can help them on their journey to being more environmentally friendly.
- Volunteer for Cleanup: There are plenty of organizations that focus on different types of pickup and cleanup. Whether it’s cleaning up the beaches or picking up litter from the side of the highway, there are tons of ways you and your child can volunteer to help pick up litter. Plus, if your kids have to earn community service hours for any student organizations they’re members of, they can double-dip their interest in saving the environment while working towards their service hours.
- Create a Garden: If you have the yard space, why not create a garden? This option is perfect for kids of all ages. They get to play in the dirt! Gardening also teaches children other qualities, such as patience, and teaches them some science lessons. Another bonus is that you’ll save money on produce because you’ll be growing your own. This is especially advantageous if you decide to grow your own fresh herbs. Those can be very expensive if you purchase them in the store, and then if you don’t use the whole bundle you purchase, you end up wasting them. With a garden, you can pick as much or as little as you need, depending on the recipe or the season. Before getting your hands dirty, swap your gold rings for silicone rings that are perfect for outdoor activities. A good place to start with gardening can be a raised garden bed.
- Compost: Composting is the process of using natural food waste to provide better food for growing produce. Most of the time, we throw food out without realizing that it can be used in composting, including coffee grounds. This is definitely one that parents and kids alike can contribute to, and you can easily set up a compost bin in your backyard. By keeping a list of compostable items on the fridge, you can remember not to throw out the eggshells and instead add them to the compost pile. Then, when it’s ready, add it to the soil of your growing garden to make the plants grow stronger and faster.
- Reduce Your Electricity Consumption: Combine loads of laundry to do one large load instead of five smaller ones, turn off the lights when leaving rooms, limit showers to 10 minutes and unplug all appliances when you’re not using them. While they’re not large activities, it’s important to do even the smallest of tasks to really hammer home the idea to your kids that the largest environmental changes can sometimes be the small decisions we make. If you aren’t sure where to start, you can always get an electricity consumption meter to measure your use.
- Study Up: There’s power in reading! It’s important for your children to learn about the different ways climate change can impact different areas of life. There are lots of magazines and books that your children can read (or you can read to them) that detail how climate change affects the world. Who knows? You might even learn something, too.
- Take a Walk: Your kids can’t appreciate the environment if they don’t spend time in nature. Take a walk through your local park, go to a living museum or even walk through the neighborhood to get your kids interested in the outdoors. Encourage them to play outside with their friends, or take a couple of bike rides to get smaller groceries from your local convenience store to encourage them to use alternative modes of transportation, including walking, biking, carpooling. etc.
- Learn to Really Recycle: Recycling can be confusing! With so many regulations and rules, it can sometimes seem easier just to throw everything in the trash and not even bother with the hassle of sorting your recycling properly. However, if you want to truly teach your kids to be environmentally friendly, then it’s important to properly recycle. There are plenty of resources out there to help you understand what’s recyclable and what’s not. The more you do something, the easier it’ll get to remember what to do and what not to do!
- Celebrate: April 22 of every year is Earth Day. Chosen to signify the birth of the modern environmental movement, Earth Day is the time you can celebrate the Earth and all it has to offer with your kids. Bake cupcakes and frost them to look like globes, paint old glass sauce jars and turn them into decorations or simply make a home video about why Earth Day is important to share with your family and friends on social media. Even though climate change is scary, it’s important to have something positive to think about to remind them that the fight is about saving a place as wonderful as the Earth.
No matter your children’s ages, there are things they can do to practice being environmentally friendly. As they get older, they can start to make more environmentally conscious decisions, so it’s important you get them involved in doing different green things. No matter what, remember to incorporate elements of fun into each lesson about the environment you give. That’s what they’ll remember the most!