Keeping the earth clean and green may not seem like a priority today, especially when we need to fill the gas tanks of our SUVs in order to take our 30-minute commutes back and forth to work. However, the facts contradict what we choose to believe: air pollution kills about 3 million people worldwide and damages $1-2 billion worth of crops in the United States each year.
We consume more than we need-whether it’s paper, water, or electricity. We are responsible for keeping the environment clean. Reducing the amount of water we use helps sustain earth’s fresh water system. Decreasing the amount of paper we use saves trees, which reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in earth’s atmosphere. Cutting down on the amount of electricity we use decreases carbon emissions and eventually reduces air pollution.
Teaching our kids how to protect the environment is one of the greatest ways we can help save the earth. Each generation needs to become more eco-friendly than the next, so the earth can cradle the fruit of our family trees for many years to come.
Instead of using plastic and paper bags, encourage your child to reduce waste by taking cloth bags to the candy store. That way they can pack their chips and sunflower seeds in something more durable while helping the environment. Have your kids save trees by single-spacing their school reports and/or using both sides of the paper. (Check with your child’s teacher first to see if this is acceptable.)
Teach your kids to save water at home by turning off the tap whenever possible. Make sure your children have the water off when brushing their teeth and use a paper cup for rinsing instead of water from the sink. Although children love placing their lips under a running faucet on a hot summer day, have them fill a jug with water and place it in the refrigerator.
Encourage your children to opt for sunlight rather than electricity. Have them open the blinds during the day instead of flipping on a switch. Create an allotted amount of time each day for saving energy. So instead of playing video games, watching television, or plugging in the stereo, your children can ride their bikes, read a book, or solve a crossword puzzle.
Kids can also cut down on waste by reusing materials they normally throw away-such as containers, like yogurt cups, milk cartons, and Lunchables® packages-to organize small items in their rooms like paper clips, buttons, coins, and writing utensils. Have your child reuse newspaper in order to wrap presents and cover textbooks. Finally, let your child see that clothes and toys are reusable as well. Have them pack up their old clothes and toys and take them to Goodwill or Salvation Army. Not only will they help the environment, but someone less fortunate, too.
Recycling is easy and fun. If your family has never recycled before, start small. Begin with paper. Allocate at least one bin in your home for newspapers, cardboard, junk mail, etc. Line the bin with a blue recycling bag, which you can purchase from your local grocery or home improvement store. Have your child monitor the paper bin day by day, making sure it is free of other types of trash. After it is filled, have your child tie the blue bag closed and place it in a city-supplied black trash bin.
After several successful weeks, add other items you want to recycle, such as glass, plastics, and metals. (If you live in a building of five units or more, your building management should already have a recycling program in place.) For more information about Chicago’s recycling program, visit www.cityofchicago.org/environment and click on “I want to Recycle.”
Finally, if your child enjoys living green, expose them to careers where they can work green as well. Park naturalists, wildlife biologists, and environmental engineers all contribute to Earth’s beauty. Take your child to the library and read up on different environmental careers. Have them identify the ways they can train for the positions. You may be surprised at how many future football players want to become foresters.
To help your children learn more about living green, have them visit informative, kid-friendly websites, such as EPA’s Environmental Kids Club at www.epa.gov/kids; EEK! (Environmental Education for Kids) at http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/caer/ce/eek/index.htm; and NRDC’s The Green Squad at http://www.nrdc.org/greensquad.