The other day, while I was pulling out my recycle bins to the curb, T. asks me “Can I recycle?” I stand up, beaming with pride and a little bit smug thinking my kid is so brilliant and say “Of course you can!” Excited but a little expectant, he says back to me “Ok!…” But then, he gives me a blank look. “Um, hon, do you know what recycling means?” “Nope!” Oh, alrighty then. Its time he learned. Its time he understands what it means to be (yup, I’m gonna use it, the cool, oh so “Al Gore” word of the moment is…) GREEN.
Now I am no uber-green mom. I hate myself for it but sometimes I do buy things out of convenience rather than their level of “greeness”. I live with guilt wondering what sort of carbon foot-print I am leaving when I buy the individual packages of goldfish for playgroup rather than the one big pack. And how many times do I forget the cloth bags for groceries and use the plastic instead? I’d say that has happened 75% of time recently. Not cool of me. I try though, I honestly do what I can. I’m just saying I’m no environmental rock star. But that doesn’t mean I can’t start teaching my son how to be more aware of what he is doing and how he might make a positive impact on his environment. Plus, if I show my kids how to be better with the environment, this could be my way of paying back the universe for years and years of sort’ve, kind’ve doing only the basics.
To kick off getting my kids green, I thought I would put together a list of what I could realistically do with my sons. And selfishly, I think if I can succeed at teaching them to be more responsible with their environment, they can keep me on MY toes and maybe I will finally do a better job too.
But there are a couple things I want to do before I begin.
Firstly, I need to sit down and explain to my son what waste means. This is sort’ve a tough thing for them to get. What, there isn’t an endless source of everything like the endless source of crackers and water bottles in mommy’s purse, always there whenever I need it? Things actually RUN OUT!? I may need to sit down and physically spell this out to him. I might have to do some sort of demonstration or use a good website (I will get to those soon too) but it might break his heart to realize you can’t just keep going back for more of whatever you want. Honestly, its just a good old fashioned life lesson he needs to learn anyway.
Secondly, as I begin this process, one thing I absolutely DON’T want to do is make my children feel guilty or bad about the environment. There is plenty of time to feel bad about it as grown-ups (ugh, we’re screwed, seriously, my guilt is 100% “in check”, thank you very much…). Being a regularly green kid needs to be fun. It needs to turn into a habit. They can’t feel like the polar ice cap is melting JUST because they didn’t recycle that last water bottle. Lets make this a positive experience for them. If it makes them happy, they’ll actually do it right?
So here we go.
1) Turn the lights off when you leave a room. That’s not so hard to do! Maybe I could introduce a reward system? Or a glow in the dark sticker over the light switch that they can get excited to see? I think they can do this.
2) Be aware of water. Brush your teeth with the water off. Both kids should be in the bath at the same time and it doesn’t need to be “swimmable” full. Set a timer with the sprinkler or hose time. Have fun in it but, when you’re done, turn it off. Or even better, fill up the kiddie pool and play with water that way! Also, have them drink from a Brita or water filtering system and explain why.
3) Make a stack of recycle paper (usually left over from the printer) to color on. Make sure to use both sides before getting another piece!
4) Make the different recycle bins accessible and easy to identify. Make sure your child knows how to sort cans, plastic and paper (see cool websites again) and have them do this for you. Explain what it means to recycle and reuse. Point out everyday things that we can reuse (like the plastic grocery bags mommy always gets because she forgets her cloth bags – DARN IT). Even dropping off old clothes and toys at the salvation army is a way to recycle. Keep using these words in your vocabulary, they’ll get it.
5) When you go to the grocery store, have your child be the “bag helper”. Make it a big deal that he or she gets to bring the cloth bags into the store. A reward system for this would be good too. Because if they remember and are excited to bring those bags in – FINALLY – you won’t have to use those horrid plastic bags!
6) Walk and ride bikes! If there is a location (like a playground) that is bikeable distance, call this the “bike or walk park”. No cars allowed! It will force you to park the car and get your butt in gear too.
7) Have a NO MEAT night. Whether its a pasta night or bean and cheese quesadilla night, skip the chicken fingers once a week. Put it on the calendar and make it something fun to look forward to.
8 ) Have a monthly earth day. See how little electricity you can use in one day. Its like camping in your house! No TV, play outside, eat sandwiches for dinner, no lights at night, get out flashlights, tell stories, have fun!
9) Teach your kids to love the outdoors. This is a big one for me. Teach them that the trees and grass actually make the air we breathe – more trees, the better we can breathe! Teach them to appreciate bugs, and worms, and birds and all the parts of our eco-system that we actually depend on. I often do plant and animal scavenger hunts on walks: make a list of things they have to find such as a bug, 4 birds, 6 different kinds of leaves, 3 flowers, etc. If they grow up loving the environment and the animals in it, they will be much more likely to protect it.
10) Invest in a zoo or aquarium annual pass. Again, show them animals and have them talk to the zookeepers who are loaded with cool facts and ideas about how to protect and respect our wildlife.
So that’s a start. I do think these will work. Like I said, I am no expert here or HARDLY the green mommy of the year (cough, choke, hardly). But I am going to TRY putting these into affect. Wish me luck!
Finally, I found some really cool websites that might be fun to try with your kids. Check them out, make them favorites, sit with your kids and explain. There are some great games, interesting animations and cool learning tools. Have fun!
PBS Kids EEKOWORLD: Games, interactive fun, information
EPA Climate Change website for kids: Games, links, animations, explanations
EERE, Kids Saving Energy(US Department of Energy)
EPA Student Center (US Environmental Protection Agency)
Earth Matters: Games, information about Otis the Otter and the ocean
Ben’s Guide: U.S. Government websites for kids (Smithsonian, National Zoo, etc.)
I Buy Different: For Teen kids, sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund
Everyday is Earth Day: Starfall, a ‘learn to read’ website
Meet the Greens: Cool kids website about the Green Family, sponsored by Public Television.
Trees! Get into the coolness of trees at this website sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation.
Write it! Feeling passionate about this subject too? Here is how you and your kids can contact your senator, representative or even the Prez!
Cross posted on BlogHer.