What Can Your Kids Do To Help The Environment?

By Guest Author: Marcela De Vivo

For some parents, making kids think about the environment is somewhere next to telling them the Easter bunny isn’t real:  it’s an implicit way of saying that the world is not perfect and that sometimes we have to take responsibility for things we’d rather not think about.  While such a philosophy is understandable, children should learn about the realities behind recycling and other green practices.  Here are a few ways of looking at taking care of the earth that will change kids’ thoughts and actions in a positive way.

Establish an alternative transportation paradigm.

In a classic scene from the Steve Martin movie L.A. Story, there’s a great gag in which we see a stereotypical Angeleno hop in the car to pick up mail…at the end of the driveway.  Sadly, this gag isn’t too far from how we now view transportation.  Indeed, many Americans can’t imagine getting from place to place without their cars, but that mindset is not sustainable.

Instead of viewing solo driving as a necessity and an only option, kids should see driving as one item on a bigger menu that includes public transportation, carpooling, and biking.  Not only will this cut down on gas consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, such an attitude leads to a more physically active lifestyle.  Set an example for children and embrace these alternative modes of mobility yourself.

Teach kids that utilities are not infinite.

Even adults, who should know better, needlessly use household utilities, but younger children may not yet have learned that freshwater does not just magically come from the faucet, or that electricity pours into our houses by itself.  By simply telling kids the truth as we see it—“the world might run out of that stuff someday!”—rather than scolding, we can instill in young people a sense of responsible conservation.

Turning off lights and appliances when we leave the house, taking shorter showers, and so on are all habits that are easy to put across to even young children.  For older children who can grasp a more complicated picture, explain the contribution of low-wattage light bulbs.

Show kids the ropes of recycling and conscious consumption.

Just as children should know that our resources may not last forever, they also need to be informed of the realities of waste disposal.  Make kids see the logic behind recycling, and then show them that it’s not that hard to do, even if your city doesn’t offer a pickup program.  Additionally, you should discourage them from using toxic, non-biodegradable materials such as styrofoam and excessive packaging.  Furthermore, appeal to children’s playful creativity and help them envision second lives in non-recyclable goods.

Even for meat-eating families, steering kids away from factory-farmed meats (and even many vegetable products) is another eco-forward goal. Without using scare tactics, you can use kids’ affection for animals to make them see the ethical problems of high-yield livestock practices, and older children can be easily made to grasp the ecological perils of overproduction.

Again, it’s good to put things in terms they can understand in order to make them want to do what’s best for the earth.  Keeping our planet healthy for subsequent generations and even our own futures should be something that seems logical, not just another thing to avoid getting punished for.  For this reason, if you live in a city, take them on nature outings to see the fragile wonders that need protecting.  The more nature and its complexity actually mean something real to kids, the more they will see themselves as its protectors.

Marcela De Vivo is a freelance writer and mother of three in Southern California. She enjoys teaching her children about how to keep the environment healthy, and works with Northwest to keep her family healthy, as well. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook to find out more!

Kids exploring and recycling images via Shutterstock.

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