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Helping Kids Help the Environment


By: Margaret MacMillan

One of the most serious conditions our planet is dealing with is pollution. All our resources: air, water, and land are affected by it. Gasses we emit into the air are gradually creating climate change. Our oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams are becoming choked with plastic and filled with noxious chemicals. Harmful substances from industrial waste leach into the ground contaminating groundwater and soil infecting humans and animals with disease.

Our modern world has created many amenities that have improved our lives, but the consequences of these luxuries are being felt by the Earth and making it sick. We must all become environmentally responsible if things are going to change, whether it is by using less or no plastic, recycling, composting, using less fossil fuels, or embracing alternative forms of power. And if we are to continue into the 22nd century, we must encourage our children to do the same.

Some of us may consider going green to be a pain. We may think it’s much easier just to go with the flow and let what will be, be. I don’t think that’s most of us, though. Since the 1970s, when the term “acid rain” was coined, we’ve become increasingly aware of the dangers of every type of pollution to the point where some not only live green, they dress green. If we start our children thinking green at an early age, perhaps they won’t think it’s a pain either.

How do we get children to care about the problems we’re facing and become involved in their future? Perhaps creating a home environment that helps children understand what pollution means, how it affects us all, and the harm it’s doing is a good place to start.

This is how we begin:

Set a Good Example
It starts with us. From the moment our children are born we ask ourselves, “Will I be a good example to my children so they will grow up knowing right from wrong and become caring responsible human beings?” To ensure we are, we live our lives adhering to certain tenets we believe are important. Not only do we tell our children what we believe in, we practice what we believe in.

The same thing applies to raising environmentally concerned children. By witnessing us practice environmentally friendly habits daily, our children will see them as part of a natural routine that benefits us all. We can achieve this easily in all facets of our lives by doing things like creating compost mixtures to fuel our gardens; recycling paper products; donating used clothing, furniture, and electronics; conserving energy; riding a bike or taking public transportation to work; and not using single-serving water bottles.

Give Them a Good Reason
Let’s be honest. I believe most of us are. Our ailing planet and the reasons it is that way should be explained to our children in a manner they can understand. There is no need to be heavy-handed or frightening in our approach. Honest discussion can develop around the fact that one of their chores might be to take out the recycle bin. When they ask why they have to and why the family needs to recycle, simply tell them. If they are studying the environment in school, engage them in conversation about it, and mention some of the things you’ve learned and how you’re doing something about it. When they see ads on TV about shrinking natural habitats, use that as a time to explain a little bit about why it’s happening and what we can do to reverse the problem.

Do It Together
Involve them. Make it part of your regular routine to include your children in your efforts. When they are young, make a big deal about helping mommy or daddy put clean paper and plastic products in the recycle. As they get older, get them to help sort through their items of clothing to find what no longer fits so it can be donated. You can do the same with toys and books that are no longer being used. When they are school-aged, encourage them to work on science projects related to saving the environment, and help them if they need it. But don’t do it for them. Involve them in the gardening by letting them distribute the compost, plant the seeds, and tend the produce as it grows, then celebrate the delicious food you’ve created together.

Being green isn’t just responsible, it’s crucial and should be a natural part of the way we live our lives now. One of the best things we can do is pass on environmental awareness to our children so they will be able to bequeath a healthy and happy planet to their children. Getting our children to care about the environment early, by talking to them honestly about the problem and involving them in the solution, will make being proactive come naturally to them. It may even create a generation intent on reversing the damage done in the past and preventing it from continuing.

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