Going Green with Children
You are environmentally friendly, and you want to share your values with your children. You lead by example. You talk with your children often about the decisions you make and why you make them so that they will understand the importance of green thinking. But what can you do to make going green fun for your children?
1. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Invite input from your children about how to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Are there opportunities they can think of that your family is not currently using? Are there things they can do to help? Are there creative new ways to reuse an otherwise unused older product? Can unused older products (or parts of them) be used in any craft projects? If you have unused older items that you cannot re-use, could someone else reuse them? (For example, would these items be valued donations at your local Salvation Army? Would they generate income for your family at a garage sale?) Regarding recycling, sorting recyclables can be a “chore” for which the children earn allowance.
2. Limit the chemicals in your food. You can accomplish this in a variety of ways, from choosing organic foods, limiting your fast food intake, cooking on cast iron rather than non-stick surfaces, and planting a garden. Allow your children to help you select what you will grow in your garden, let them help you till the soil and tend the plants, and make these shared experiences a fun, bonding, and educational time for you and your children. If you buy food from the grocery store, ask your children where they think the food originated. Ask them what resources it took to get the food from its point of origin (perhaps a foreign country) to your home. Talk about the environmental impact of that.
3. Limit the chemicals on your body. Many products have needless dyes and scents. When you grocery shop, make an adventure out of exploring new products that are dye-free and scent-free. Laundry detergent, facial tissue, and many other products can be found in the dye-free and scent-free variety, and when your children find them in the grocery store aisle, make that a reason to celebrate your children’s discovery. When you get home and try the new product, encourage your children to be discerning consumers: ask them if they like the new product and why/why not.
4. Maintain a shoe-off household. If everyone leaves their shoes at the door, you limit the dust-borne pollutants in your home. Since little feet can get cold without protection, get your children involved in a fun craft project in which they make their own little slippers to wear when in the house. Or take your children shopping and let them select the slippers that they want . . . something that looks like a moose face or a bear claw or maybe a cartoon character.
5. Select clothing that is made of all natural fibers (i.e., cotton and wool). Encourage your children to choose their own clothing in an environmentally-responsible, age-appropriate, tasteful manner. Allowing your children voice in the selection of their clothes is typically a great experience for the children (especially daughters).
6. Encourage outdoor, active play. Spending hours staring at a computer screen is not good for either your children or the environment. In warm months, encourage your children to play on the swing set, play on a team sport, go on a nature hike, etc. Nature hikes can be wonderful opportunities to show your children the beautiful plants and animals in your environment and how all things in your ecosystem fit together. In winter months, build a snow fort, make snow angels, sled, ski, etc.
7. Seal wood structures. Wood swing sets, picnic tables, decks, etc. can leach arsenic. Have your children help seal the structures. Many children think using a paint brush is fun.
8. Tap into the environmentally friendly options available in your community. If your community has an adopt-a-mile program on its local roads, adopt a mile as a family and spend at least twice a year attending to your mile. Participate in a local volunteer recycling program. Or help your children start a recycling program at their school (if one does not already exist).
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