Growing up I didn’t truly understand the need to reduce and save. It wasn’t until many years later and living on my own that I realized being wasteful and careless of what I spent and purchased could affect my way of living. For instance, one could easily pick up takeout food ten times a week without thinking of the impact these take-outs could affect our bodies and our environment. Consider the plastic packaging, the miles driven just to get the food, or even leftover, uneaten food because in all seriousness, takeout food isn’t very well kept in the refrigerator.
As we’re approaching a new era of being more environmentally conscious, we’re beginning to see the detrimental effects of global warming and climate change. Unlike decades ago when it was perfectly normal to grow our own food or reuse our items many times until they get thrown away, our society slowly became a “throw away” society and a means for anything that is convenient and easy. But I always have bright hopes for our future generations because they can still be taught to make the right choices when it comes to protecting our planet.
I’ve taught environmental practices for many years and I’m still learning and trying to improve my craft. There are ever expanding knowledge and new techniques on how to save our planet. But can we truly save our planet though? Is it too late? Do we all need to make bigger changes to really see a positive impact? Perhaps. But every little step can lead to bigger ones.
This new year, let’s help our children understand the need to be more environmentally aware and to make little steps to help clean up our world. Below I’ve listed 10 easy ways to be an “environmentalist”.
10 Ways to Help Children be Environmental Leaders:
1 – Sit down with your child and visit some helpful websites to start their process: https://earth911.com/
2 – After you’ve visited these sites, write a list of what you’ve learned and what you want to achieve.
3 – Learn these 5 important “R’s”: Recycle, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, and Refuse
Recycle – Look for packaging that are recyclable and check your local recycling municipalities for accepted packaging. Typical recyclable packaging for plastics are labeled with numbers 1, 2, and 5.
Reduce – Reduce your usage and purchases. Do you really need new toys? New clothes?
Reuse – Before you throw something away think about how you can reuse it. Some items can be repurposed or upcycled into something else. For example, plastic bottles can be used as planters or seed starters, old tires can be turned into colorful planters in your garden, or ripped shirts can be cut into pieces for cleaning around the house. There are endless possibilities for bringing new life to your old items.
Repurpose – This is much like upcycling or finding a new use for an old or about to be thrown away item. As stated above, you can find tons of new and useful ideas for plastic bottles, old clothes, and cardboard boxes that your purchases came shipped in.
Refuse – This one is perhaps the most difficult to accomplish, but it’s also quite easy once you get into the habit. Refuse plastic to-go utensils and bring your own instead. Refuse to-go containers especially if they’re in Styrofoam which is detrimental to our health and the environment. Refuse bulk buying unless they’re storable, you’ll use them in a reasonable timeframe, or you plan on giving some away. Bulk items might seem like a great monetary deal, but if you don’t have use for them then they can get forgotten and end up in the trash.
4 – Grow a home garden. This is perhaps the most fun project for a child. When you grow your own food garden, you are saving money and your health. Start off small if you’re new at gardening and limited on space. You can grow an edible garden in planters or in ground. Check out one of my for favorite kid-friendly gardening websites: https://kidsgardening.org/ easy and achievable tips.
5 – Start a Green Team club at school. Children as young as 5 years old can learn about saving the planet. I’ve run a Green Team at an elementary school for many years and I’m always amazed at how eager children are to learn and protect their world. Talk to the school principal and administrators first and get everyone on board!
6 – Visit local conservation sites such as the water and power department and recycling centers. If they give tours to the public, you will generally learn how different types of energy are used. Recycling centers are fun and educational and you’ll walk away with new knowledge on how to reduce and recycle.
7 – Start an environmental campaign. It could be as small as a group of like-minded friends or as large as a citywide movement. Your goal is to help people be more aware of taking care of our planet and the proper steps to make small changes that can lead to bigger changes.
8 – Start Composting. Each year, approximately 108 billion pounds of food is wasted in the United States. Consider that amount ends up in our landfills causing horrendous amounts of greenhouse gas. The air we breathe gets contaminated due to the pollution caused by food waste and our beautiful oceans can hardly contain all the waste that ends up there. Compost is a great way of reducing leftover or unused food. The energy produced by composting the right materials can turn into healthy fertilizers for our plants.
9 – Support local and small businesses. While we still need to buy from conventional brands now and then, consider supporting local businesses that also supports a cleaner planet. But don’t just take their word for it. Look at their website and do some research. Visit their stores and see what they sell, their philosophy on using clean materials that can be traced to their origins, and how they produce and package their products.
10 – Take a stand on helping the environment and don’t let naysayers deter you. Children are wonderful learners and have the ability to see things in a clearer light than most adults. Allow them the room to grow into little environmentalists and they (and you) will be proud of their positive influences in the world.
Remember – the goal is to realize there is a problem with waste in our world. Food waste, energy waste, water waste, product waste, and the list goes on. Start with one or two goals and then the more comfortable you are with what you’ve started, the more you can expand.
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