5 Ways to “Go Green” With Your Kids Year-Round

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News headlines let parents know that Mother Earth has some concerning problems. There’s depletion of the ozone layer, toxins such as metals or phthalates polluting our water, drought, overstuffed landfills and acid rain, to name a few.

Want to make a difference in 2016, but not sure how? It’s true that small actions when combined together can make a big difference towards protecting our planet. Join together with your kids and you’re on your way!

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We turned to Southern California’s Dr. Andrea Neal, a mom of two who has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics and lipid biochemistry. She also has a Ph.D. Swedish Agricultural University where she studied the effects of toxins on our soil. After going on an expedition for oceanographic explorer and environmentalist, Jean-Michel Cousteau, in which she explored 8,000 miles of pristine ocean; studying the devastating marine pollution, including the Great Pacific Garbage Patch off the coast of California and the aftermath of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power meltdown, she founded Hope2o, a company that enables consumers to test their tap and filter water for harmful toxins.

Here are 5 simple solutions for protecting Planet Earth together with your kids:

1. Do your best with the resources you have. Neal suggests simple, healthy approaches to “going green” that work for you and your family. Her family does not drink from plastic (plastic constitutes approximately 90 percent of all trash floating on the ocean’s surface, a whopping 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile. They eat local and organic when they can. And, she confesses, they have more reusable bags than anyone on the planet.

2. Support an environmental cause. Neal’s cause is anything that has to do with water. “I have been to the middle of the ocean and have seen our trash floating there,” she says. “This makes me a huge advocate for environmental solutions.” She supports many eco-conscious organizations, including Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society for which she is an advisor; Mission Blue, led by famed National Geographic Society Explorer in Residence Dr. Sylvia A. Earle; Blue Frontier Campaign, which inspired Neal’s Operation Water Legacy program (OWL), an initiative to chemically map the New Jersey water system; and Blue Marble Project, a program that links mental and physical health with a connection to water. She suggests finding a project that speaks to your heart.

3. Play outdoors! Nature is healthy for us both physically and mentally. Neal’s family enjoys hiking, camping as a family and they all play soccer. She and her husband surf, dive, and snorkel. “We don’t get in the water as much right now with a small baby, but I am very much looking forward to some board time with him,” she says. “As Jacque Yves Cousteau used to say, ‘you protect what you love.”

4. Develop critical thinking skills. Find accurate information and put your energy and time into real solutions to the specific problem that bothers you and real causes. “You can’t protect what you don’t understand,” says Neal, again paraphrasing Cousteau. “With so much information on the Web, it is hard to sort out what is real and what isn’t.” Share what you learn with your children and involve them with all of your decisions and efforts. Help them learn to easily articulate why your family makes eco-friendly choices.

5. Commit to your kids’ future. Neal says it is going to take a global effort to try to change the current path we are on. “I hope that my efforts help secure clean water and a clean environment for my children,” says Neal. “With the rate of population growth, our ability to support everyone with the resources we have is diminishing quickly.”

*Image courtesy of Kookkai_nak on FreeDigitalPhotos.*

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