Tag Archives: family

20 Things Your Kids Can Do for the Environment

It’s not just adults who should be doing the best they can for the environment. Kids can help too. Take some time and teach them to do their part.

1. Reduce

The 3 Rs apply to your kids, and reduce is the first one to teach them. Help them to learn the difference between need and want. When you go shopping with them, and they start begging for whatever it is they see on the shelves, discuss why they want it. If it’s needed, talk about what makes it needed. If it’s just something they want, talk about when you buy things you just want and when you should skip them.

2. Reuse

Kids who enjoy crafts are great at reusing things. They can make wonderful projects from things you might have otherwise thrown into the recycle bin or thrown away.

3. Recycle

Teach them from a young age to sort items into the recycle bin. Once they’re old enough to recognize the types of paper, plastic and metals that can be recycled in your area they can help put recyclables in the right place rather than in the trash.

4. Walk or Bike to School

If your child’s school is at all within a reasonable distance, why not have them walk or ride a bike there. Odds are good that you did the same growing up if your school was near enough. It never ceases to amaze me how many people I see driving less than a block to bring their child to school. With the crowd of cars around the school, walking would be faster for many of them, including the time to return themselves home if the parents went with the kids.

5. Pick Up Trash

We love to go hiking as a family. One thing we include in our hikes is picking up trash if we pass some. It’s easy to carry a bag for trash as you go walking. This can be done at neighborhood playgrounds as well.

6. Turn Off Extra Lights

There are some ages where kids will be really good at this one. They’ll give you a hard time anytime you forget to turn off a light as you leave a room. Other times, they won’t be so good at it.

7. Turn Off Electronics When Not in Use

Kids these days spend a lot of time with electronics these days. Television, computers, video games, kids love them.

Some of these you only need to teach the kids to turn off when they’re done with them. For others, you may want to consider adding in a power strip so that the electronics can be turned completely off, and not use any extra power at all, even for displaying a clock. You can also buy a smart strip so that when certain electronics are shut down, associated items are turned off as well.

8. Plant a Garden

Whether you plant a serious vegetable garden, a few herbs, some flowers or a tree, it’s all good for the environment if you keep it organic. Kids usually love gardening, and any produce grown is good for them too. Remember the bees when you choose your flowers!

9. Help Compost

While dealing with much of the compost pile may be an adult or teen job, kids of any age can throw fresh vegetable scraps into the compost pile.

10. Volunteer

It can be hard to find age appropriate volunteer opportunities when the kids are young sometimes, but it gets easier as they get older. Volunteering helps your children to see how fortunate they are in what they have and that others make do with far less.

11. Use Reusable Containers to Bring Lunch to School

Many school lunches aren’t so healthy, so having your kids bring their lunch to school is a great idea. Don’t use paper bags or plastic bags for their lunches. Buy reusable lunch containers for them. I particularly like my daughter’s Klean Kanteen water bottle.

12. Donate Old Clothes and Toys

Have your kids help you to go through their old clothes and toys and find the ones in good enough condition to donate to a worthwhile charity.

13. Shop Resale and Thrift Shops

If you don’t teach your kids this one while they’re young, you can get a lot of resistance at first. Keep it up and they will realize how many great outfits are available for a lot less money. This teaches them to be thrifty and to look for used items before buying new.

14. Use Homemade Cleansers

Kids should start doing chores around the house as soon as they’re old enough. But why expose them to the harsh chemicals of store bought cleansers when you can teach them how to clean with healthier products such as baking soda and vinegar? Better for them and for the environment.

15. Eat Less Fast Food

Kids love fast food, but most of it is bad for them and the environment. Talk to them about why eating out too much is a bad habit.

16. Close Blinds and Curtains

This is most important during the summer, when the heat comes in through windows. Closing the blinds or curtains helps to block much of that heat. It’s also a help in winter, to keep heat from escaping the house, however there are times where having even the winter sun come into the house is a benefit, so help your kids know when to let the sunlight into your home.

17. Open a Window

As the day cools, teach your kids to open windows rather than run the air conditioner during the summer. It works really well, keeps the power bill down and doesn’t create any carbon to open a window.

18. Set Up a Bird Feeder

Feeding the birds in your area not only can help them, it lets the kids see the range of birds that live in your area. You may have to explain about predators, however. My sister has a bird feeder, and sometimes sees hawks chasing the smaller birds.

19. Use Fewer Toys that Require Batteries

Many children’s toys require batteries. The problem isn’t just the batteries, it’s that many of these don’t encourage creative or active play. Do get rechargeable batteries for those toys that do need them, but have your kids think about playing more with toys that don’t need batteries at all.

20. Eat Less Meat

This comes easier to some kids than others. Some may be ready to go for complete vegetarianism or veganism. Others will struggle to cut back, just as many adults do.

Have regular meatless meals. Explore new recipes as a family. Be amazed at how wonderful some meatless meals can taste.

How to Cope with Family Who Won’t Recycle

Keeping the recyclables out of the trash in some homes can be as difficult as keeping the trash out of the recyclables. Some people really just don’t care, even when it’s as easy as picking which of two bins, trash or recycling, their discards go in.

When you have things set up, that can be quite frustrating.

My family in general is pretty good, although my oldest of late has taken to accidentally throwing food into the recycle bin rather than the trash. So much of what she throws out can be recycled that I think it’s almost a reflex to pick that bin. I don’t think it’s a rebellion.

But it did get me thinking about how to cope with people who don’t want to recycle even when it’s easy.

Talk About It

The first step is the simplest and sometimes it even works. Just talk about the issue. Talk about what gets recycled in your area. Talk about why it matters to you.

Ask why they don’t recycle. Ask if there’s anything you can do to encourage them to recycle.

Make Sure It’s Convenient

You can cut down on excuses if recycling is as convenient as throwing out trash. It won’t stop everything, but it can help.

The kitchen is the most obvious place to have a trash can and recycle bin side by side. But any other room where you find there to be a problem, consider adding in a recycle bin.

If people print at the computer a lot, for example, you need a recycle bin there for any wasted paper. It happens. If you only have a trash can there, that’s what will be used. A convenient recycle bin can be a huge help.

Put In Some Extra Effort

If just talking about it doesn’t make any changes, put in a little extra effort yourself and make sure they know that you’re doing it. Pull their recyclables from the trash and put them in the recycle bin. Be upfront that you don’t like the inconvenience of having to do so. Keep your comments appropriate to whoever you’re having the issue with, of course.

Try “An Inconvenient Truth”

Watching “An Inconvenient Truth” isn’t going to convince everyone, but it’s one place to take things. Even if they disagree it’s another conversation starter. Or argument starter, depending on the beliefs of the family member. I do have some relatives who would blow up over even the suggestion to watch this movie.

It’s either get them thinking or arguing. If you want to change someone’s mind sometimes that’s what you need.

Great Books for Green Parents

Whether you read them enough to make them worth buying, or just borrow for a quick read from the library, books are another great resource for parents wanting help in taking care of the environment and their families. There’s so much to know!

Free Range Kids
I was lucky enough to be sent a review copy of this one for one of my other sites. Great book, and while it’s not about environmentalism, there’s a lot to it that can be combined with teaching kids to care about the environment.

Healthy Child Healthy World: Creating a Cleaner, Greener, Safer Home
I reviewed this one a while ago. Lots of tips on living cleaner and greener, and broken into separate sections so it’s easy to pick the areas you want to get started with.

Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder
Another book I got to review a while back. Lots of fun and a great reminder of how very important it is to get your family outside.

Books I haven’t read that sound promising:

The Green Teen: The Eco-Friendly Teen’s Guide to Saving the Planet

The Green Parent: A Kid-Friendly Guide to Environmentally-Friendly Living

Raising Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care

Keeping Kids Green and Busy While School’s Out

With the kids at home more, summer is a time that can be a little bit challenging for green parenting. Somehow you have to combat all the boredom that comes from having more free time, while facing the fact that the weather is warmer. Here are some of the things I do:

1. Try to get the kids outside early and late in the day.

I have a lot of sympathy for them wanting to be inside during the hottest parts of the hottest days. Who wouldn’t prefer that?

But even on the days that it breaks 100 degrees F around here there are times that they’ll willingly play outside. Rather than let them turn on the TV first thing in the morning, as they would love to do, I boot the kids outside to play. They can come inside when it really starts to warm up. Then I do it again when the day cools off sufficiently.

This also has the advantage of limiting the need for sunscreen. My kids generally aren’t out in the most powerful of the sun’s rays, so I don’t have to apply sunscreen to them so often.

2. Make homemade popsicles.

Sure the store has cheap ones, but they’re often little more than sugar water.

I prefer to make my popsicles from smoothies, but you could use regular juice or pudding if you prefer.

3. Hit the library.

Hot days are great for spending at the library. Get some new books for your kids to read while not having to run the air conditioning in your own home. The library’s there, after all!

4. Combine lawn watering with running through the sprinklers.

We have water restrictions starting up in our area, which means watering only on certain days and only after 6 p.m. and before 10 a.m. and only for 10 minutes per section on timed sprinklers.

On hot enough days, 6 p.m. is still plenty hot enough for running through sprinklers!

And of course there are always local swimming pools, beaches and so forth if you want to cool off during other parts of the day.

5. Crafts!

Within certain age ranges, it’s easy to come up with kids’ craft ideas. My kids love saving magazines and other things that might otherwise go into the recycle bin for a path through their crafting table first. Saves me a lot not having to buy everything they craft with, and the reuse is a great habit.

As kid get older, they may have particular ideas about what they will be willing to do, but if you find something they really enjoy making, try to encourage it.

6. Have friends over.

It won’t necessarily help to keep the kids cool, but having friends over certainly helps with the boredom factor. I always tell mine no TV or computer time with friends over.

7. Know when to give in on TV and computer time.

Really, it’s not the end of the world if kids watch a bit more TV or spend more time playing on the computer during the summer. What matters is that they get enough activity overall.

Make Green Easter Baskets for Your Kids

It’s just a couple of weeks to Easter, and I’m thinking already on what I want to put in my kids’ Easter baskets. It’s a holiday they have a lot of fun with, and I like to keep up the excitement without overdoing the spending.

With that in mind, I thought I would offer some tips on keeping Easter a bit greener for the kids.

1. Buy Easter baskets that can be reused.

Our kids’ Easter baskets get reused every year. We didn’t get the cheapie ones from the store. We found nicer ones that will hold up for many years. The kids love them.

You can find good baskets at thrift stores or any store in your area that sells baskets. It’s been a few years, but I think ours came from Cost Plus.

You can also consider using a bucket as a basket. This is great for kids who are still young enough to really enjoy playing in the sand.

2. Reuse other supplies from year to year.

Sure, you don’t like all that ugly plastic stuff you may have bought for Easter in years past, but if you have it there is no further harm in using it. Just don’t go buying new plastic eggs or plastic Easter grass.

Build up your supply as needed with more environmentally friendly Easter basket supplies.

3. Real grass in the Easter basket.

Two ways you can do this. The first would be to take lawn clippings the day before and use them in the baskets. It should be simple enough to time mowing the lawn so that you would have the clippings ready when you need them.

Another would be to line the basket with foil, add dirt and grass seeds, then grow the grass in the basket. Best to get started now if that’s what you want to do, as it will take a couple weeks to get things growing tall enough.

4. Skip the egg dying kits.

Nothing wrong with dyeing Easter eggs, but the little kits are relatively wasteful, especially if you have what you need to dye the eggs already at home.

I like to dye the eggs with food coloring and vinegar in a colander. We did this last year, and it turned out really beautiful.

You can also use natural food colorings. You can start with the raw eggs and boil them with the dye agents and some vinegar, using:

  • Carrots or turmeric for yellow,
  • Red cabbage leaves or blueberries for blue,
  • Beets or cranberries for pink,
  • Yellow onion skins for orange,
  • Red wine or purple grape juice for purples.

5. Think about what you put into the basket.

Go easy on the candy and think more about what the kids will use. As it’s spring, seeds and small garden tools can be fun. Books can also be a good gift.