Author: Cindi Lou Grant
Being an environmentally conscious family is now more important than ever before. Our kids are growing up in a world that absolutely needs to get on top of these issues. It’s a matter of survival and their world will look a lot different from ours if we don’t take it seriously. I’ve put together a few very simple and implementable tips for increasing your family’s awareness of environmental impact.
In our plugged-in world, kids are starting to trade physical toys for electronic equipment. Stop power vampires, or so-called “vampire appliances” that suck power even when they’re off. By unplugging TVs, DVD players, computers, cell phone chargers, iPod docking stations and video game systems when they're not in use you could keep thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere annually.
Play outside, learn about nature, and save electricity. Even if your outing is as simple as putting the kiddos in a stroller or going in the backyard, getting out and about will prevent using electricity and therefore lowering your environmental footprint.
Always ask for paper grocery bags or bring your own reusable bags. Here in Park City, plastic bags were recently outlawed. It has the whole community shopping differently and more mindfully. Even if the plastic is available where you are at, you can ask for paper, bring your own, or occupy those little hands by having your kids help carry bag-less groceries.
While you’re at it, why not use being environmentally friendly as an excuse to eat healthy as well? By having the whole family eat more fresh fruits and veggies you will have less packaging to throw away. Need that food to go? Use tupperware instead of plastic baggies. Food stays intact longer and you won’t have any litter to clean up.
Host a hand me down clothing swap get together. Gather all the parents and kids to swap clothing. We highly encourage hand me downs at Sawyer and hope our tees make it into the hands of many outdoor kids! Plus, a clothing swap is a fun way to come together and everyone comes away with something new to them.
Take a trip to the dump and a farm. Seeing where our food comes from and where our garbage goes makes a huge impact on parents and kids alike. I went on a school field trip as a kid to see both and it has stayed with me ever since. Understanding the process will make it much easier to get those recyclables in the right bin and to the right facility.
Kids understand much more than they are typically given credit for. Climate change, endangered species, and overflowing landfills might feel overwhelming but the world they are inheriting requires that they understand these problems need fixing from a grassroots movement.
Start talking with your kids about why taking care of the planet is such a good idea. Although you may feel tempted to make the material more child-friendly by telling stories about how trees “magically” make pollution disappear, research shows those overly simplified explanations don’t work that well. Our heroes over at PBS explain a few ways to explain science to kids:
- Use Analogies: Wasting the Earth’s resources is like spending all your piggy bank money and not being able to replace it.
- Outline Relationships: If you dump trash down a storm drain, it can make ocean animals sick.
- Define New Vocabulary: Like “biodegradable,” or “renewable energy.”
- Make Connections to Prior Knowledge: Just like plants use sunlight to make food, solar panels use it to make electricity.
Keep these conversations short and sweet, not full-blown lectures. Encourage questions and let them add in their ideas to clean up the earth. Who knows, maybe it will be our kids who will fix these problems after all?
These tips are simple enough that I think we can all incorporate them easily. They may not be the solution to our huge problem, but if everyone starts somewhere we will all go somewhere.