13 Eco-Friendly Practices to Teach Your Kids at a Young Age
In a society built around mass consumerism, it can be challenging to teach our kids the importance of making eco-friendly choices in their daily lives. The irony is that it’s more important than ever before to raise children who are environmentally conscious. We should strive to teach our kids to be mindful global citizens who learn everything from how to perform CPR to how to compost food waste. If you are looking for ways to inspire your family to go green, here are 13 eco-friendly practices you can begin today.
Watch films like Wall-E
Kids, especially young kids, need to understand why it is necessary to protect our planet and why some of the choices we make can be harmful. To help you introduce this concept, watch the movie Wall-E, Pixar’s film that illustrates the effects of consumerism on humans and the environment.
Talk about where your food comes from
Often, kids just take food for granted (so do many adults). So don’t just feed your kids – talk to them about where their food comes from. Explain why it is important to purchase natural food instead of processed, make an effort to talk about good food practices.
And where your trash goes
Similarly, talk to your kids about where your trash goes. Kids learn very early that they should throw their trash in the garbage can, and the trash collector picks it up. However, that’s commonly where the lesson ends. Instead, teach kids about landfills and why we need to make efforts to create less trash. Introduce your kids to eco-friendly choices about what goes in the garbage.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
Following the lesson about trash, teach kids “the three R’s” to reduce their waste, reuse materials, and recycle what’s left over. Help kids understand that reducing what they consume and reusing products rather than buying new ones can be even better than recycling.
Support and eat local
Take your kids to local farmers markets and farm-to-table restaurants. Explain to them why it is important to support local farmers. Teach them why it is better to cook with and eat fresh produce than to make packaged meals or eat fast food.
Grow a garden or build a greenhouse
For an unforgettable hands-on learning opportunity, grow a garden or build a greenhouse as a family. Kids will see firsthand the magnificence of nature — and learn that food doesn’t originate in a grocery store.
Composting sounds scary to many families, but it really shouldn’t. Composting is great for the environment, and it is a wonderful way to teach children about making eco-friendly choices about what goes in the garbage versus what can be reused.
Kids need to be taught how to read labels. They need to know how to read packaging labels to see how to recycle materials. They need to know how to read food labels to make wise decisions about what they put in their bodies. And, they need to know how to read labels to make environmentally-conscious decisions about the goods they buy.
Take public transit
Teach your kids from an early age to choose a mode of transportation whenever possible that will do the least amount of damage to the environment. As a family, take public transit, ride your bikes, and walk instead of driving. At the very least, carpool.
Explain to kids why it is important to conserve water and show them how much water we use on a daily basis without even realizing it. Use shower timers and make rules such as turning off the water when you brush your teeth.
Donate gently used items
Throughout the year, have your kids organize gently used items and take them to a donation center together. Teach your kids that their clothing is not disposable, so it is better to pass it on to someone in need. Likewise, shop at thrift stores as a family rather than buying clothes new off the rack.
Think about eco-friendly alternatives before you toss it
Kids often throw things away without even thinking. Instead, teach kids to think before they toss: Can the item be donated? Can it be reused or recycled? Can it go in the compost pile?
Try something new each month
There is always something that can be done to make the world a better place. As a family, look for a new way to go green in your home or apartment each month, such as installing energy-efficient lightbulbs one month and planting a garden the next. Look for new ways to challenge one another to be more environmentally-conscious.
Kids learn by watching, listening and doing. If you make it clear to them through your words and daily actions that being environmentally conscious is just a part of normal life — and can even be fun! — they’ll be more likely to adopt eco-friendly habits of their own and continue them for the rest of their lives.
By Jackie Nunes, Wondermoms.org