Preserving the planet: Teaching kids about being green

By Tania MacWilliam

Environment

April 16, 2012

Link to original article here.

Passing on the sustainability torch to our children can help us preserve our planet.

Earth Day can be a great way to introduce children to environmental awareness, but how can we keep them involved all year long? The good news is if you are looking to increase your children’s awareness and get them involved you are already on the right track.
Talking to them is the first step. Children can begin to be introduced to the concept as young as toddlerhood.
“Even our two-year-old understands,” says Maureen Dennis, mother and president of WeeWelcome.ca, a website that helps parents find baby-friendly places. “Her understanding compared to my eight-year-old is different, but to her it’s the norm. I think the earlier you start, [the sooner they learn that] it’s just the way you do things.”

Live life outdoors

A great way to introduce any child to environmental values is to help them appreciate the outdoors, says Jed Goldberg, Earth Day Canada’s president.
“Playing outside, maybe having them involved when you’re gardening or going on nature walks – all of this kind of stuff contributes to making kids appreciate and understand how valuable our natural environment is.”
  • Visit your neighbourhood trails or check out a local conservation area with your children. Not only is it a teaching opportunity, it’s a great way to get your family moving.
  • Try geocaching. Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game where you hide and seek treasures using a handheld GPS device. Sign up with geocaching.com to upload coordinates directly to your device.
  • Remember to practise Caching In, Trashing Out (CITO), by bringing a trash bag  to pick up the odd piece of trash while on your hunt or nature walk.
Children may already be environmentally aware, thanks in part to teachers at school. And sometimes our children are the ones who end up inspiring us to make positive changes.
“I find that kids can be even more educated than we are sometimes,” says Maureen, whose son came home from school with green suggestions of his own.
“They learn a lot about it at school but sometimes we’re the ones that don’t make those changes in our daily lives at home.”

Make changes indoors

“One of the biggest challenges that we face is poor modelling,” says Jed.
“If we want the message of caring for the environment to be top of mind with youth and kids, then we have to be able to practise what we preach,” he adds.
  • Change the products you use at home. Maureen suggests breaking it down room-by-room and seeing what you can comfortably swap out for a more environmentally friendly option.
  • Use 100 percent recycled paper towel or clean with baking soda rather than chemical cleaners in your kitchen, she adds.
  • Replace incandescent light bulbs for more energy efficient ones.
“We’re starting to see better quality, green products,” says Maureen. “It makes it easier to make those changes because you’re not sacrificing quality or convenience or anything that moms need to make it through the average day.”
While it’s important to teach our kids all the ways we can help the environment, such as putting food waste into the compost bin, having them understand why we make those changes is equally as important, says Maureen.
“It really is [about] making every day Earth Day … so it’s not just something we think about once a year.”
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