Earth Day: Start Them When They’re Young


by Lamar and Ronnie Tyler

I can’t get my son to stop using paper plates and cups. I really don’t blame him because when he lived at home we used them a lot. With seven people living in our household, I thought using paper plates would save time (from washing so many dishes), and money (as we would not be using as much water or the dishwasher as much). And just so you know…washing dishes is the bane of my existence.

Joining the Moms Clean Air Force has opened my eyes to the negative impacts that not only big businesses such as coal-fired power plants have on the health of our citizens, but I also see the impacts that individual families have on the environment as well.

“Almost ¾ of mercury air emissions come from coal-fired power plants; over 400,000 newborns are affected by mercury pollution every year.”

Mom On A Mission

This made me want to do everything in my power to minimize my family’s environmental footprint. I have become a mom on a mission to change our way of living and make our home environmentally-friendly, which in turn will decrease our use of energy from power plants.

We cut off lights that are not being used. In fact, I try not to even power on the lights until the sun goes down. We have started to replace our light bulbs with Energy Star qualified lighting. We stopped using paper plates and cups and plastic spoons and forks. And, the entire family is on board. The kids are in charge of the recycling, and they regularly police us when the lights are being left on. My mother in-law also joined in, even though she questioned me, “Are you sure you want to give up the paper plates?”

Unfortunately, my son moved off to college and missed our energy transformation. When I helped him pack for his dorm room, I purchased a four-pack of durable cups, plates, forks, spoons and bowls. I explained that he would be able to keep more money in his pockets if he did not purchase paper plates and such for his dorm. I did not even bother to discuss the impacts to the environment. I thought the money would be the only incentive he needed. Not so. He keeps calling me and saying, “Mom, I need more paper products.”

He’s addicted to them like we were. For some reason, we had a pack of paper plates in the house and I was surprised at how easily we slipped back into selecting those paper plates instead of real dishes at meal times. Thank God they’re gone…Thank God I didn’t have a total relapse by trying to purchase more paper plates when we ran out.

I remind my son about the dishes that I purchased. But he says: “Our dorm kitchen is so disgusting that I don’t even want to wash dishes in there.” I think: Yuck, but you want to eat in there! I can just imagine a dorm with four young men can get a little rancid. I don’t even want to think about what their bathroom looks like.

Everyone Must Do Their Part

I explained to my son that if they all did their part (he and his roommates) to keep the little bit of dishes they had clean, the dorm would be a much nicer environment to live in. The same statement applies to all of us. If we all did our part by taking even the smallest actions, together we could make a major impact on the environment.

If we all taught our children to be environmentally-conscious from a young age, could you imagine what type of world we would have? My dream this Earth Day is that in 20 to 30 years, when these kids became decision-makers, they will think about their impact on the environment and come up with with new solutions, implement sound policies, build ecological infrastructures, and raise healthy families!

So, while our THREE younger girls have become the recycle monitors and the energy police around the house, I still have hope for my oldest. I will keep working on him.

We have only one Earth, please teach your kids to protect it. Join Moms Clean Air Force and fight for our kids’ future.


Related Stories:

Trust the Experts on Climate Change

Fueling The Hearts of Others: Ways to Fight for Clean Air

10 Ways Walmart Fails at Sustainability


Photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video


Ann G.
Ann G5 years ago

This is a wonderful story, and I hesitate to say the next thing, but- why have four kids if you want to help the environment? While having children is your choice and should obviously be respected, too many people leads to severe environmental damage.

Estelita atti5 years ago


Philip Amos
.5 years ago

Rene L. raises a good point re her sister. I think the weakness in the article is that it focuses too much upon attempts to teach by example. This rarely goes far with children. Rather, I think the key is to inculcate the virtues and morality of caring for the planet and its creatures. If that is so, the key age at which to begin this process would around 13 years, at which point children are normally fully capable of conceptualizing and thinking in the abstract. If you can then imprint on their minds the deep importance of the practicalities and principles involved, those will stay with them through their adult years.

Rene L.
Rene L5 years ago

I disagree whit the belief that teaching youngsters to be green will make them more earth-conscious as they grow up.

Being green is not new, it goes back to the 70s. Over 40 years old !!!
My sister as a young girl used to be quite involved in saving the planet, now as an adult she drives her SUV around for recreation.

Saying "the clidren are our future" is just a cop out so we, the adults, dont have to do to much.

Colleen L.
Colleen L5 years ago

Great article. I agree with teaching them when they are young. It's important that the parents also set good examples each and every day, so their young ones will understand the importance of our Earth. Like it said, "We must all do our part". Thanks.

Jennifer C.
Past Member 5 years ago


Angela N.
Angela N5 years ago

thank you!

aj M.
aj E5 years ago


John B.
John B5 years ago

I learned at a young age and continue to care for Mother Earth. Thanks for the article and Kudos to Lamar and Ronnie Tyler.

Nimue Pendragon
Nimue Michelle P5 years ago

We in Australia got rid of the old type lightglobes and now they don't exist, the only ones we can buy now are the Energy Saver ones. Kudos to the government, they did a good thing :)