When you think about teaching your kids to be eco-friendly, it's easy to focus on symbolic gestures like going to the beach to participate in shoreline cleanup efforts. But like most everything else in life, it's the little things that can matter.
Kids can learn early on how to be earth friendly in simple ways as part of everyday life. And isn't that the way it should be anyway?
Check out these five easy ways for kids to start on their merry, green way:
- Turn off the lights. I can hear my dad's voice saying this to me from the time I have memories until just recently when I was visiting my parents. Teach your kids to turn off lights when they are not in use...like when they leave their bedroom, the bathroom, the garage. So long as they're not leaving anyone else in the dark.
Ease up on the water use. Okay, I'll even admit this is a tough one since most kids -- especially young ones -- love playing with water. If my kids are in the backyard it's only a matter of minutes before there's a water fight going on. But we put a limit on how long the hose can be in use. Same goes for toddlers playing in the kitchen sink. My littlest guy loves to pretend he's washing the dishes but with only the tiniest dribble of cold water. You can also point out that the sink faucet doesn't need to be blasting when your kids are brushing their teeth. And that your teen isn't trying to set the world's longest shower record.
- Keep the refrigerator door closed. I cringed when the recent issue of Parenting magazine had a blurb (and accompanying photo) on how to "keep your kid safe while he explores the frigid zone" of the refrigerator. Are you nuts? It takes but a few seconds for even the most energy-efficient refrigerator to lose its coolness with an open door. Yes, keep your kids safe but start by teaching them that the refrigerator is not a playhouse. Scoot on over to the big drawer with the pots and pans. And tell the big kids that the need to be quick on their food scan when looking for snacks.
- Recycle plastic, glass and paper. Teaching your kids to recycle is probably the easiest habit to create because even at the preschool level, children are learning to put glass, plastic and paper in the correct "bins." But if want to get your younger kids jazzed up about it, check out your local grocery stores to see if they pay for recyclable goods. Kids can bring in a bag of glass and plastic containers and they get paid based on the weight. (This is also a really easy way to start working in a simple chore and allowance...they get to keep the money they earn from recycling.)
- Freecycle toys and books. As the Freecycle mantra goes, one person's trash is another person's treasure. With your help and supervision, turn your kids onto Freecycle where you can help them give and get gently-used toys or books for free.
You should also check out these tips from Dory on how to go green without breakin' the bank. And Yahoo! Green has an awesome Earth Day guide to Freecycling.