Teaching Kids to Think Green
Thursday, February 28, 2013 • 2:18pm
In this "use it and toss it" age, teaching children to respect and protect our natural resources will help them develop life-long healthy green habits, and will encourage them to use their own resources wisely. Talking about how to examine value versus cost, both environmentally and economically, will help kids develop an eye for value as well as nurture a more thoughtful approach to our world.
Explaining the "reduce, reuse, recycle" philosophy is an excellent way to start. Applying that approach at home is easily accomplished by involving kids in green chores and, especially for older kids, decision-making about buying, reusing, and donating toys, games, books, and sports equipment, among other things.
Recycling. Even the youngest kids can collect and sort recyclables, especially in Summit where we have curbside pickup for most items and only need to sort into two groups. Plastic, glass and metal go in one bin, and paper of all sorts in another pile. Take the time to explain to your children why garbage is such a problem and how recycling helps preserve the planet's natural resources.
Reuse/Donate. Most houses with kids wind up with an accumulation of toys, games, books, and sports equipment that the kids no longer use. A worthwhile parent/child activity is to form a group of several families who swap those items. Discuss with your kids how much money can be saved by not continually buying new things, and how swapping saves natural resources. A great place to swap, or simply donate or pick up quality used items, is the Summit Free Market. With events at the Transfer Station in the spring (April 20 and 27, 2013) and the fall, as well as a year-round online presence, Summit Free Market makes it easy to be green.
Vampire Appliances. How about designating one of your kids to seek out and unplug those vampire appliances in order to reduce unnecessary energy use? A vampire appliance is any appliance or electronic gizmo that uses energy even when turned off, including chargers, TVs, and any appliance with a continuous digital display. An efficient way to deal with vampire appliances is to plug them into power strips so that you can turn a bunch of them off with one flick--an easy job for any child. Talk to your kids about energy conservation, and why reducing energy use is important.
Light Checker. Designate one child, or shuffle them all in on a rotating basis, to be the light checker. He or she is responsible for turning off lights or, better yet, reminding everyone in the house (including Mom and Dad) to turn off the lights when they leave a room. For older kids, this can lead to a discussion of the relative merits of incandescent lights versus compact fluorescents (CFLs) and LED lighting.
Lead by Example. Whether we like it or not, kids pay more attention to how we ourselves behave than to what we tell them. Parents who demonstrate care for our planet will raise kids who do the same. Asking kids to remind you to be consistent with your chosen green initiatives will not only reinforce their own green habits but will afford them the occasional opportunity to correct you, and what child doesn't like to be on that end of the discussion for a change.
There are many ways to engage your kids in green activities and thinking, so look for something that suits you and your kids and do it together. You, your children and your community and planet will all reap the benefits.
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