Sure, we can buy organic foods and install solar panels, but what can kids do to help out the environment? Quite a bit, actually. Getting kids into eco-friendly habits is not only simple, but will pay off in the long run: you’ll save money now and it’s likely they’ll grow up to be more environmentally conscious adults. Whether they start by just turning off a few more lights or helping you plant a vegetable garden, it’s a win-win situation. Here are some other good places to begin:
- Have your kids walk, bike or carpool to school. Burning less fuel means less carbon emissions and less smog. If the route to school is safe and the weather permits, encourage your kids to walk or ride their bikes; not only will you use less fuel driving back and forth, but they’ll burn off some energy before sitting in class the whole day. For longer trips to school, consider asking around to see if any parents would be interested in carpooling. You can take turns driving once or twice a week – a routine that will not only help planet Earth, but also save you time and money in the long run!
- Back away from the computer! It’s not a secret that kids, especially teens, spend countless hours playing video games, typing up term papers and chatting on the Internet. Not only is it bad in terms of physical fitness, but Mother Nature isn’t fond of using all that energy either. Explain how much electricity is spent using these systems, and point out how hot a laptop or computer system gets after just an hour of use. Encourage your kids to limit their video game time and have them shut the computer off when doing something else. Want to really help the environment and save yourself some cash? Show them how to be eco-friendly students by printing on both sides of the paper – it’s easy and cuts consumption in half!
- Show them a super-easy way to save water. While your kids are busy brushing their teeth, put a bowl under the faucet and let it fill up with water. After showing them how much water goes down the drain while they’re brushing, set the right example by shutting off the water in between scrub-sessions. You may need to follow-up with a few gentle reminders, but once they get into the habit, your household will be conserving buckets of water in no time. To save even more, you can also show your little ones how to take shorter showers and avoid filling the bathtub up all the way.
- Sort, sort, sort. Kids won’t do something if they don’t know how. Teach younger kids, as well as teens, how to recycle, following the symbols and setting up separate waste bins in your kitchen or garage. Using pictures or a color-coded system is especially effective for younger family members. If they don’t already have a system like this set up at school, suggest that they bring in an empty box for depositing scrap paper or bottles. Looking for an outdoor project? Set up a compost pile – kids as young as four will quickly understand that it’s a good place to throw out their banana peel or apple core.
While starting “green” habits may be a matter of repetition, the absolute best way to teach your kids is by setting an example yourself. Be conscious of your own water use when doing dishes or washing your car, and don’t let them catch you holding the refrigerator door open for too long! Small changes go a long way, and the ultimate parent – Mother Nature – will thank you.