Want your kids to protect the planet? Teach them these unique ways to care for the environment that the whole family can do!
“Reuse, reduce, recycle.” You hear this all the time, from kindergarten classrooms all through adulthood. You’ve also heard to turn electricity off when you’re not using it and to conserve water by turning it off while you brush your teeth.
But what about other ways to care for the environment you don’t always hear about? Those that may not be so obvious but make just as much impact (if not more)?
You see, caring for the environment is less of a thing to “do” and more a lifestyle. You and your family can adopt many ways of living that all contribute to preserving the planet.
Because I’ll be honest. Any time I’d see or hear efforts to convince the public to protect the planet, I felt paralyzed with fear. I didn’t want to think about a planet in worse condition that my kids would inherit and have to deal with. Stats about pounds of plastic in the ocean and the depletion of our clean water scare me.
6 unique ways to care for the environment as a family
As parents, we have the important role of modeling and teaching our values on to our kids. Shocking headlines can drive many of us into fear and despondency, making us think we can’t do much to make a dent.
If you can relate, focus instead of action.
It’s all too easy to hear frightening numbers about pollution or to feel anxious about natural disasters going on across the globe. Maybe your child feels down about the state of the environment, worried about the tragedies she hears all around her.
Point her to what she can do to fight it, or the efforts you’re making as a family to turn things around. By banding together as a family, you can take these simple and unique ways to care for the environment to help everyone feel empowered:
1. Borrow books, movies and music from the library
I read a lot of books… but hardly own any. Sure, I have two bookshelves stocked with favorites, and I still buy a few here and there, but these days, I borrow most of them from the library.
The library—an eco-friendly option? Yup. The more you borrow instead of own, the less materials you consume. Rather than piling books at home you’ll read just once, you can borrow and return them for someone else to use.
And the same is true for movies and music that are best shared, especially if you only watch or listen to them once. Besides, borrowing from the library not only helps care for the environment, but promotes learning and literacy as well.
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2. Take your child to nature outings
Your child will only take genuine action to protect the earth when he understands what’s at stake. A nature outing is both a relaxing and beautiful way to be together as well as a necessary step to show him exactly what we can continue to enjoy.
He’ll be able to explore and see for himself the importance of nature, driving him to appreciate all it has to offer. And the outdoors is simply a fun and open-ended way to play and spend the day.
Even if you live in a city like me, plenty of nature spots are still available to visit. Below are a few of our go-to outings, both simple and grand:
- Hiking trails
- Botanical gardens
- Parks (even your local ones)
- Nature centers
3. Grow a garden
I’m a little obsessed with gardening these days. From growing in raised bed gardens to chipping branches into mulch, gardening at home is one of the best ways to make an impact on the environment.
In fact, here are just some of the benefits of gardening related to climate change. By gardening and especially growing your own food, you:
- Grow local food, cutting down on mileage that trucks drive to bring food to the grocery stores.
- Eliminate pesticides that are harmful for both planet and people.
- Sequester carbon in the soil. So long as you don’t till and shovel your soil, your plants are actually sucking up carbon from the atmosphere and keeping them in the ground.
- Provide oxygen and moisture through photosynthesis. The more plants we have, the more humidity we get.
A garden is also a fantastic way for your child to understand the growth process of a plant. She’ll learn that seeds sowed in the soil will later grow, all with a little help from water, the sun, and good soil.
And you don’t need a backyard, either—container gardening works just as well. Back at our old apartment, all I needed were a few containers, potting mix, organic fertilizer, and seeds. Within days, all the seedlings grew and thrived. We were able to harvest the spinach and prepare a few recipes with them.
Bonus tip: Compost your old kitchen scraps! Carrot peels and apple cores combined with fallen leaves make for a great compost that you can then cycle back into your garden.
4. Instill values of “enough”
Frugality isn’t only about saving money or pinching pennies—living with “enough” ties in so much to our environment.
After all, less excess and consumption mean we use just enough resources without being wasteful. And it’s not about never buying clothes or patching a hole for the tenth time. Instead, you could teach your child the values of:
- Fixing broken items first before replacing them
- Making do without an item
- Using only enough and no more
- Teaching them not to be materialistic
- Taking care of our belongings
- Promoting open-ended toys and crafts with simple materials
5. Shop at farmers markets
Every Sunday, my family and I make a short trek to our local farmers market for fresh food. Sure, we still head to the grocery store to pick up the items we can’t find at the market. But by shopping at farmers markets, we’re helping to care for the environment.
Farmers markets provide high-nutrient food in an eco-friendly process of growing and buying food.
How? Local farmers travel less distances to bring you food, using less gasoline. They also tend to practice safe farming with no pesticides. They grow a variety of food and animals, creating an ecosystem that relies less on human intervention and more on nature.
And you’re also able to use less plastic and packaging at the farmers market. For instance, bring your own reusable containers to pack strawberries, or return honey and jam jars.
6. Read about the world
My family and I don’t travel a lot, so exposing our kids to different parts of the world isn’t exactly feasible. So, we compensate by reading and learning about the world and the planet.
We’ve read books about countries and their customs, and my kids have a “travel list” that includes South America, Egypt, and the Grand Canyon. Learning about the earth’s landmarks and resources enforces stewardship for a planet we need to care for.
Even if the books don’t talk about saving the planet, the very exposure to the wider world instills the importance of caring for and appreciating it.
7. Buy reusable household items
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Think about all the items we use once and dispose of. Now, consider whether there’s a reusable version you can try. For instance, here are a few items my family and I have bought to replace disposable items:
- Sponges: Ditch disposable sponges and use these washable ones instead (they’re also more hygienic since you wash them often).
- Snack bags: Replace flimsy plastic with these reusable bags.
- Straws: Regular and boba or smoothie straws cut down on plastic.
- Produce mesh bags: I always hated using those plastic bags at the grocery store. Mesh bags are much more versatile!
- Rags: Cut down on paper towel use by re-purposing old burp cloths and dish towels into rags.
- Mason jars: The next time you go out for smoothies or boba, ask the staff to pour the drink directly into your mason jar.
And if you happen to have a plastic bag (from restaurant take-out, for instance), reuse them! Even if they’re dirty, wash them in the sink and reuse them to line trash cans.
Living green isn’t just recycling, hugging trees, and living off the grid.
Teach your child to appreciate nature’s beauty by reading books and exploring natural spots. Instill the values of “enough” and living within your means to avoid excess. Support systems that protect the earth like buying from farmers and borrowing instead of buying.
And don’t fall for the disposable lifestyle—invest in items you can reuse over and over to cut down on pollution.
It’s simple changes to your family’s lifestyle like these that can make a big impact on protecting our earth.
p.s. Check out Old Enough to Save the Planet by Loll Kirby. You’ll meet young climate change activists who remind us that kids can make a difference:
Get more tips:
- Top Educational Activities for 3 Year Olds
- Children’s Books for Earth Day
- 2 Year Old Development Activities to Do with Your Child
- 10 Frugal Tips for Moms that Actually Save You Money
- 9 Children’s Books about Peace
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