Editor’s Note from Cara Ryan: I find this article to be really fun! Stacey shares some easy ways to “greenify” children’s lives early on for a lasting impact.
Parenting is tough. Not only are you charged with raising a child to be physically and emotionally healthy but also socially responsible. In this age of melting ice-caps, overflowing landfills and dwindling natural resources , it’s more important than ever to raise an eco-friendly child.
Here are some ways you can instill environmentally conscious values:
Start them young. Even before they are fully aware of the environment around them, make them “green” babies. Consider using cloth diapers and invest in organic baby blankets and organic baby clothing to keep your baby chemical-free and eco-friendly from the get-go.
Make your house an eco-friendly house. Choose non-toxic cleaners for your household needs or take advantage of the cleaning power of baking soda and white vinegar! Take a good look at your household energy use and choose organic towels whenever possible.
Green their play time! For babies and toddlers, choose wooden toys over mass-produced plastic toys or buy second-hand instead of new. For older kids, take a break from electronics and lead a nature walk. Choose some fun bamboo craft projects to show them how to utilize sustainable projects. Play in a local park, find a nearby creek to splash around in or take the entire weekend and go camping! Teaching kids to appreciate and enjoy nature will make them more determined to preserve it.
Make recycling fun! Recycling is an accessible activity for young ones in the house. Let the kids decorate the recycling bin to make it their own! Reward them when they remember to place their cans and bottles in the bins. Make sure they know what a difference they are making with one simple step.
Teach the importance of conservation. You’ve already done what you can to conserve energy in the home but let the kids help out in conservation efforts where they can. Start a rain collection system that lets them see how much water they can catch. Encourage them to turn off and unplug lights and electronics not in use. On a nice day, let them help you hang clothes on the clothesline instead of using the dryer!
Get dirty! Growing your own food teaches kids to appreciate what is on the table and lets them see how important it is to maintain a healthy planet so all our gardens can grow. Encourage them to plant seeds and tend to their plants (they can use the water they collected!). Help them build a compost pile so that less waste is heading to your trash bin. Take them to the farmer’s market so they can take in the local food movement! Consider growing a bamboo garden and make sure they know that bamboo is incredible at taking in CO2 and converting it to oxygen for us to breathe.
Volunteer. Teach kids the importance of giving back! If you’re already a member of an environmental awareness group, see if they have a youth membership and let your child become an advocate for a greener world. If you don’t have a garden for them to grow, find a community garden in your area that needs help. And while they might not thank you for it now, sign them up to help at local park clean-up day.
As important as these tips are, remember that a parent is the strongest role model most kids will have. Make sure to lead by example – conserve water and energy where you can, choose alternative fabrics when possible and know that even the smallest gesture will teach your kids that being environmentally responsible is a responsibility that we all share.