The “Do as I say, not as I do” mantra couldn’t be more disingenuous, and it couldn’t be more ineffective when it comes to teaching kids valuable life lessons. To show your children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews how to live green, you have to make the effort to live green yourself. Lead by example, and get the kids in your life involved using these simple techniques which are both fun and effective at teaching green living.
Teach kids not to contribute to the landfill problem by donating all useable items, even if they’re broken – sometimes charity organizations can refurbish an item or sell it for parts. This is especially important for the large items, like old cars that take up space in your driveway, garage or backyard.
Choose an organization that supports a cause your child will especially connect with to pick up your old, unwanted items. Organizations that use donations to support children’s causes are especially good choices because kids can better understand helping kids who are just like them. Ask your kids to help you sort through old items and talk to them about how a large donation is especially important to keeping junkyards clear of salvageable goods.
Water conservation is simple and effective. According to UNC Charlotte, turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth saves as much as three gallons of water a day. Talk to your kids about saving water by:
- Turning off the tap while brushing their teeth
- Turning off the tap while lathering hands with soap
- Not taking more water in their cups than they can drink
- Dumping unused water on houseplants, not down the drain
- Taking shorter showers and fewer baths
Teach kids that not every child in the world is fortunate to have easy access to clean water and that water and waste treatment plants use energy to process the water we do have. The less we use, the less damage we do to the environment.
Involve kids in sorting recyclable waste. Make it easy for them to understand by having accessible bins or baskets for glass, plastic, tin, paper and cardboard as necessary. Or, if you can put the glass, plastic and tin together in your curbside or complex recycling bin, a single bin for all of these items is fine.
When it comes time to bring the recycling to the curb, ask the kids to help you tie paper bundles, put the bottles in a bag or whatever tasks your city requires you to do to get the recycling ready.
You don’t have to recycle everything – reusing is another great green lesson for kids to learn. Make crafts out of old, unwanted items or those cardboard, papers and bottles you were otherwise going to recycle. Encourage kids to get creative and make works of art, or you can make the message about reusing especially pertinent and craft useable items, such as:
- A pencil holder out of cardboard cylinders, bottles or cans (make sure there are no sharp edges)
- Magazine holders or book ends out of cardboard boxes
- Planters out of milk jugs
Kids get to decorate their crafts however they like, and you both keep the item out of the landfill and the recycling processing plant.
Local farmers’ produce is fresher than what you’d find at a grocery store. The food tastes better and is less likely to have been treated with chemical pesticides and preservatives. Take the kids to local markets with fresh produce on a regular basis. Before you go, plan a meal together that’s heavy on the fresh fruit and veggies. Have the kids take charge of the shopping experience and pick out the produce to purchase.
You don’t have to make drastic changes to your life to lead a greener lifestyle. When the kids you love see how easy it is to do the right thing, they’ll be more likely to participate. Make living green something fun and something for the whole family to do together. Your children will grow up with a greater sense of responsibility and concern for our world.
About the Author: Maddie Rockwell is a green-living blogger and a mother of two.
Earnest Parenting: help for parents who care about setting green examples.