Young children just want to be a part of everything so why not let them?
Digging for Worms – There’s nothing better than digging in the mud and being allowed to do it. Have your child help you dig in the dirt to plant container gardens for family herbs or veggies or even to dig a hole in the yard for a new tree (in their honor for good “green” behavior).
Blue Bin It – Encourage even the smallest of children to put plastic items and newspapers/magazines into the blue recycle bins. Make it a like a basketball game, trying to see how many plastic bottles or wads of paper they can “score” in the bin.
Water Wizards – Encourage children to turn off the water and “plug the sink” to wash their hands with a basin full of water. Playing in water is fun but the constant flow of water isn’t for the planet. Scrub, dip and rinse (repeat for extra fun).
Pick Up Treasures – One’s man’s trash is another man’s gold, or so they say. One fun way to get little ones involved with earth preservation is to go out on a trash hunt and collect as many wrappers, papers, etc. as possible, but remember to wash your hands when you’re through!
Plant a Tree, Bush or Flower – Kids love to play in the dirt, so let them. Include little ones in on the planting fun. They love to get close to nature and squish around in the mud and they like to help out.
Lo-Cal Motion – Children are never too young to get involved and help pick out food items at the local farmer’s market. They get to interact with all of the adults and they get to pick out their favorite fruit and veggies for the week. Let your child even hand the money over to the farmers for transactions, learning how to interact with adults and to learn about coins and paper money.
Grade School-aged children are very helpful and love to find ways to get involved and feel important.
Fill the Bowl – Have your child place a bowl of water underneath the water stream while he brushes his teeth. Time how long it takes to fill the bowl. Then, have him brush his teeth without having the water running (but still have a small cup filled with water next to the sink). Explain to him that every time you brush your teeth for XX seconds, he uses up a full bowl full of clean, pure water that could be used during his bath or next teeth brushing. Then, make it a rewarded task for your child to brush each day without running the faucet.
Eyeglass Savers – Have your children search around the house or ask friends for old eyeglasses to donate to the Lions Clubs International, in partnership with Airwear® eyeglass lenses to help put the world in focus for more people. Elementary-aged children will feel wonderful knowing that their efforts were put to worldly-good use.
Re-Bag It – Sometimes it difficult to NOT use plastic bags for school lunches, at times. Instead, offer points to your children when they bring the plastic bags back home to be rinsed and re-used later in the week. You’ll save money and keep unwanted plastic out of landfills! Point systems work well with grade-schoolers because they like to keep track of things. When the desired amount of points are earned reward them with a special movie night or plant planted in their honor. They can even help plant, making them feel their efforts created the opportunity.
Re-Distribute – Buy in bulk to save on packaging and have your child help you fill or refill up soap, cereal and snack containers around the house—reminding them that less packaging keeps our landfills less cluttered.
Walk it Off – Children love to discover outdoors, try walking with your child to school, the bus or even to the store when feasible, giving them extra fitness throughout the day.
Junk Mail Avengers – Each year, 100 million trees are cut down and turned into junk mail, with Americans receiving a total of 400 million tons of it every year. Earthworks Group, an environmental consulting firm, said cutting out junk mail is one of the most effective things people can do to reduce pollution. Don’t just let it keep coming…get on the phone and make it known that you want off their mailing lists.
Older children can really be helpful around the house when trying to green up the place! They want responsibilities to feel needed and you can always use the help.
Unplug unused appliance, computers, printers and iPod or phone chargers for a quick energy pick-me-up. Older children are capable and feel responsible when asked to do these trickier tasks.
Pack a waste-free lunch – Go a step further than re-using plastic bags, try to eliminate plastic bags all together, including, plastic utensils, disposable containers, and those brown bags. Instead use a PBA-freelunchbox, reusable drink container, and silverware. Have your child help you find odd pieces of used silverware at a second-hand store so you don’t lose parts of your good set. Sandwiches, fresh fruit, vegetables and treats packaged in reusable containers are healthy alternatives to cafeteria and prepackaged foods.
Walking Green – Older children are safe to walk to school alone, so have your older child ride her bike or walk with friends, reminding them that they get extra fitness along the way, saving you unnecessary driving to and from school five days a week!
Portable Music – Older children nowadays love to download music onto their portable music devices, so absolutely encourage them to download tunes instead of purchasing them at the store. Each month, more than 45 tons of CDs become obsolete — outdated or unwanted — and end up in landfills. AND, you can reward them with points all week long for recycling, turning off water, etc. so they can rack up enough points to earn a downloadable gift card for music, games or movies.
Donate Gently Used Sport/Activity Equipment – Older kids are involved in a variety of activities, from soccer to ballet. Encourage them to gather up unused or “grown out of” equipment to donate to co-op equipment shops, in exchange for larger equipment if needed. When kids see that they are helping eliminate landfill waste AND helping someone in need get outfitted for an activity it increases self worth and self-esteem.
It’s the Pits – When you buy deodorant for teens, try to avoid antiperspirants, which use aluminum salts to seal up your pores. In addition to being a potential health toxin, aluminum takes a tremendous amount of energy to mine. If you buy one stick of aluminum-free deodorant, the energy saved could power your laptop for 30 minutes—and any teen will tell you more laptop time is good time spent!
Green Investing – It’s never too young to teach your teen about green investing. Have a small amount of money set aside (perhaps from a child’s allowance) for eco-investing, where the teen can choose stocks or mutual funds that that buy environmentally friendly assets—with a little help from mom and dad. You can teach your child that green investing means buying into mainstream companies that encourage sound environmental policies and sustainability, such as energy efficiency, renewable energy and green building.
About the Author
Beth Aldrich is a Certified Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyle Counselor, spokesperson and author of the book, “Real Moms Love to Eat: How to Conduct a Love Affair with Food and Still Look Fabulous!” (Penguin Books, NAL, January 2012). You can read her blog at www.RealMomsLovetoEat.com; or follow her on Twitter @RealMomsLuv2Eat.