Monday, January 28, 2013
Mini Stewards: Teaching the Tots to Go Green
Kids want to go green, too. They hear adults talking about caring for the planet, and they want to do their part. This is where parents, teachers and youth leaders can step in and get kids started on an earth-friendly path. As adults, we need to make the point that eco-friendly living needs to become the norm. There are many activities that will help instill this idea early while allowing your children to be directly involved in shrinking your household's carbon footprint.
Step 1: Empower them. Kids need to know that their efforts matter. This is where you do the research. You might be surprised to find small steps that lead to big changes. For instance, if every household replaced just one incandescent light with an Energy Star-approved bulb, the energy saved would provide light to three million homes for one year. Share these types of easily illustrated facts with your kids to help them draw connections between their activities and the big picture.
Step 2: Buy toys that last. Be aware that toys don't come from toy stores; they are made of resources taken from the earth, and these resources are finite. Next time you take your child shopping for a friend's gift, rate the toys on whether they are built to last or destined to quickly end up in the trash heap.
Step 3: Choose eco-friendly art supplies. Most crayons contain petroleum, which is nonrenewable, and most markers have chemicals in them like ethanol and toluene that are bad for kids to inhale. Buy beeswax crayons and water-based markers, paint and glue. Use recycled paper or scrap paper --- from junk mail to discarded wrapping paper --- for crafts.
Step 4: Reduce trash. Use towels and dishrags instead of paper towels. Reuse plastic bags, rather than buying new ones. Pack waste-free lunches --- invest in reusable lunchboxes and beverage containers, make fresh food instead of relying on prepackaged snacks, and pack all items in reusable baggies or containers.
Step 5: Take time to reflect. Once a week talk with your children about their experiences in reducing their carbon footprint. Find out what they learned and if they are ready to add another task to this effort. Identify areas for further research, and ask them to enter their reflections in a journal --- made of recycled paper, of course.