Going green, or learning to live and work in a way that’s friendlier to the ecosystem, isn’t just a fad anymore. With irreversible climate change looming on the horizon — within 11 years, if we don’t start making changes — going green has become a societal necessity. As parents, that means we have an obligation to teach our children how to take care of the planet before they’re old enough to move out on their own. Here are some tips and tricks we’ve picked up along the way to help teach your children to grow into green-friendly adults.
1. Be An Example
With children — and you’ve probably experienced this yourself — the fastest way to get them to do something is telling them they’re not allowed to do it. Raising children and teaching them anything means that you need to become a master in reverse psychology — or you need to set an example for them to follow. Kids tend to do as we do, rather than as we say. If you want your children to grow up to be green adults, start making changes in your own life. Be the example that you want your little ones to look up to. If you start walking instead of driving or composting your food waste, they’ll want to do the same.
2. Leave The Car in the Driveway
Speaking of walking, start leaving your car in the driveway if you live close enough to walk for your errands. Now we’re not saying to sell your car and hoof it everywhere — no one wants to try to haul home a full load of groceries on foot — but saving the gallon of gas that you’ll burn driving to the grocery store can reduce your carbon footprint by 20 pounds of CO2. If you’re just going for one or two things, or live close enough to school that you can walk with your kids instead of taking the bus, you’ll be working to reduce your carbon footprint. This will also teach your children that they don’t need a car for everything. Make sure you break out the stroller for young children, and bikes or scooters for older ones to make the trip a little easier.
3. Reinforce Water Conservation
We get it — getting your kids to brush their teeth twice a day is a challenge in itself, but it’s also a good time to teach them about water conservation. While we’re not facing a water shortage — yet — more than 780 million people around the globe don’t have access to clean water. People living in sub-Saharan Africa collectively spend 40 billion hours a year just collecting water.
Teach them to wet their toothbrush and then shut off the water while they’re brushing their teeth. This little tiny action can save up to 200 gallons of water a month. Reinforce this as often as possible and it will become a habit that they’ll carry with them into adulthood.
4. Teach Them The Three R’s
You know the three R’s we’re talking about — reduce, reuse, and recycle. We’ve been hearing this mantra since grade school, and it’s become more pertinent than ever. Include your children in separating out your plastics and other recyclables. If your city has a curbside recycling program, all you need to do is move your bins out to the curb. If not, take a family trip to the recycling center every week to drop off your plastics, glass, and other recyclable items.
Look for things that are made with recycled plastic or other materials. They’re easier to find than you might think. Some companies have even started making playground equipment out of 100% recycled plastic and steel to reduce the environmental impact of your neighborhood playground.
5. Ditch the Paper Towels
Paper towels are convenient, but you’re throwing away non-recyclable paper every time you clean up a mess. American’s use 13 billion pounds of paper towels every year soaking up spills. While you can compost these towels, you’re still wasting paper and your kids will learn those same habits. Ditch paper towels, plates, bowls and napkins in favor of reusable options. Sure it means you have to wash the dishes and throw your cloth towels in the washing machine now and then, but you’ll stop contributing to the death of 110 million trees a year.
Lead By Example
The best thing you can do to help your children grow up into green adults is to lead by example. Make the changes in your own life that you’d like to see them learn. They’ll mimic you and turn those behaviors into habits that they’ll carry with them throughout their life.