Getting “Green” Kids

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.



Filed under Animal appreciation, Getting green, Parenting, Recycling, Teaching kids, Unnecessary stuff, Wildlife

15 responses to “Getting “Green” Kids

  1. Great post! Just wanted to let you know about a new Kids site that really encourages kids to recycle things from around the house to use for their craft projects. makes use of lots of things that would normally be discarded, such as paper tubes, cereal boxes, yogurt containers, bottle caps etc. And the projects are some neat original things that kids can use or give as gifts!

  2. Ziggity – Thanks for the site and link! It has some great ideas. Especially for right now when our kids are out of school and needing some projects to do.

    I hope ppl will post any other links out there of cool ways to get our kids green!

  3. B

    Great ideas! Here’s my list of top 10 green ideas:

    We can a be a small part of the solution. Keep up the great work!

  4. Mommy of Mayhem

    This was really a great post! I’m working on this very thing with my young’uns. My son is now in charge of my remembering the green shopping bags that are normally forgotten on top of the fridge. My daugher also now follows me around the house turning out lights rainman style…. makes a mama proud! We also spend TONS of time digging in more dirt than I would like to mention…big worm fans.
    FYI, if you see posts from Mommy of Mayhem (like this one), it’s me! I needed to change my id b/c of my secret government “Mrs. Incredible” style job…. nah…hubby just thought it might be a better idea if I didn’t give my name and address to everyone passing me in cyberworld! Go figure….
    Thanks for the fantastic ideas!

  5. I LOVE your ideas. Thanks for writing them. I will be sure to be using some of them.
    It’s funny though, I JUST wrote an entry called Stop the “Going Green” Madness about how green consumerism is out of control, leads to more waste then needed, and isn’t really green at all.

  6. You should totally submit this post to!

  7. The bag thing totally trips me up. When I shop, I come home with about 13 bags. Who has 13 cloth bags to take to the store? Where do you put 13 bags while you’re going up and down the aisles? These are the things that worry me. Gah! I am with you on trying to teach kids not to feel guilty, though. I have enough guilt over my bag issues….. 🙂

  8. B – Awesome link! I hope ppl visit from here. Thanks for posting.

    Pamela – I have taken to stuffing my purse into the cloth bags as I get in the car so I won’t (or better not) forget them at the store. It STILL doesn’t always work. Grrr… I honestly think my son would do a better job at remembering! 🙂 Love the worms, they particularly love to hear that they poop dirt. Boy giggles and hysteria always follows.

    Corina – Loved your post, I know you saw my response too.

    Damselfly – Cool idea!

    Holly – I hear you on the # of bags. BUT I have found those cloth bags actually hold more than I thought. I can do a decent job with four – so far. And I also try not to bag things like milk which I can carry anyway. What kills me is when they plastic bag it and THEN put it into the cloth bag. Um, wha…???

  9. Great links! One of my sons’ first chores at home was to take out the recycling (nothing glass, however). They put it in the bin and learn about what we can reuse and recycle. And we never use plastic bags anymore. I take my Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s bags with me everywhere.

  10. Here is a site that may have an idea for getting rid of unwanted stuff. The site has just launched. Do you think this can work?

  11. Al great tips. I am with you on the guilt trip- I am an ease girl over a green girl. Teaching my kids helps me be green a little more (and reading other mommybloggers doesn’t hurt either!

  12. What a great list of things you can do. We continue to add what we do on a daily basis.

    We used to forget our cloth bags 75% of the time. Now, we almost never forget them. Some tips to quit forgetting:

    1. when you go to the store, place them on the passenger seat before you ever leave.
    2. once in the store, take the 2 minutes to leave the store, get the bags and come back.
    3. ask the cashier to not bag anything, but to put it all back in the cart and then you’ll bag it once you get to your car.
    4. as soon as groceries are put away, get those bags either on the handle of the front door so you’ll take them out next time you leave or take them out to the trunk now (this was huge for us, we’d always forget to even bring them back to the car)

    My kids are both really into recycle and green.

  13. Great post. And while you’re teaching him about recycling and also having him “drink from a Brita or water filtering system,” you could both log on to and sign the petition to urge Clorox to take back and recycle used Brita water filter cartridges.

    Did you know that Brita filters are recyclable in Europe but not in North America? That’s because the original German Brita company has created a take-back recycling program for them. Customers return their used filters to collection bins at the stores where they bought them, and Brita dismantles and recycles all the parts of the filter.

    But in North America, Brita is owned by Clorox, and Clorox has not followed Europe’s recycling model so all those filters just get chucked in the garbage.

    Take Back The Filter has a petition to sign and is also collecting used filters to hand deliver to Clorox in a direct action. Will you sign the petition and help us spread the word?

    Thanks! I read your post on Blogher, by the way.


  14. Great list! Thanks for the ideas. Have you see “The Lorax” book by Dr. Seuss? It helps kids to understand conservation. The newest printing (on recycled paper) benefits Conservation International. And there is a web site to help educate kids:

    I’ve been thinking of doing a n0-meat night, too. If you have any good recipes, I’d be interested. So far, we’ve only done soup & grilled-cheese sandwiches 🙂

  15. That is a great list of ideas! We try to talk about it with our son too, and we do “most” of those things.

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