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Why Is It Important to Teach Children About Eco-Friendly Living?

You hear about everyone “going green,” and although it can get a bit repetitive to hear about it everywhere, it is a good thing. Hopefully, our efforts to be more environmentally conscious and friendly aren’t too late. With populations numbering well into the billions and fossil fuels being burned at an alarming rate, our earth is suffering the consequences.

It’s important we pass these concerns on to our children, as they will be the ones inheriting the damage we have caused. Teaching environmentally sound habits is important, but showing them will more likely assure they will embrace those same good habits. The why is because they and their children and their decedents have to live on the earth we’re polluting. Showing them the good and the bad will make them more conscious about the environment we live in.

Here are a few ideas to get your kids involved in protecting the environment:

  1. Teach Recycling

In a manner appropriate for your child’s age, explain where the containers we use come from. Metal has to come from rocks, paper from trees and plastic from oil byproducts. So much energy goes in to producing these containers, and when we simply throw them into a garbage can, they do not magically disappear. They go into a hole somewhere and many of the items — particularly plastics — never decompose.

Metal, paper, glass and plastic all can be reused again. You don’t want garbage all over your house, but you can use some of your waste items to create artwork with your children. Also, show them the recycle symbol and explain how these items can be turned into new products. Purchase products made from recycled containers.

  1. Pick up Trash

Volunteer with your church or social organization to pick up trash along roadways. Do it alone with your child if this is not possible. Explain that some people, mostly adults, just throw trash out their car windows and never think about the consequences.

Smokers throw cigarette butts to the ground, even though they are not biodegradable! Contrary to popular belief, the butts are not made of cotton. They are made from plasticized cellulose acetate, and they are hazardous to the environment.  

See if your children can identify trash which is still salvageable for recycling. Picking up a bag full of other people’s trash will give your children an appreciation of the willful damage we are doing to the environment. They will be less likely to engage in this type of behavior and more willing to correct it among their friends and peers.

  1. Grow a Garden

Gardening is a great way to get your kids outside and to have a direct relationship with the environment. You can easily get them to grown a tomato garden right at home. “Children will ultimately learn that the very food they eat comes from the earth,” according to Garden Goods Direct. “As they check their garden every day for new arrivals, they will notice so much about nature that each it will provide a new lesson, not just in gardening but in life.”

One of the best things about gardening is that children can help you through the entire gardening process, too, from planting all the way through harvest, depending on their age.

How big a garden you want to grow is up to you. Your limitations will be dictated by the amount of space you have. To make the most of your space, try the following:

  • Cut out a section of your yard that gets good sun.
  • Till the soil and add organic fertilizer such as cow manure or compost.
  • Plant seeds and plants that grow well in your area.

Even just a few square feet dedicated to a garden can produce an abundance of fruits and vegetables.

Your children will learn about the importance of nutrients in the soil, and you can teach them the importance of maintaining the garden as well. Teach them to water regularly, and to pull weeds before they take over your garden.

If you don’t have the yard space to give up, try growing tomato plants in pots. Choose varieties such as patio, cherry or grape tomatoes which do well in containers. Your kids will have fun plucking and eating the fruit as it ripens.

If gardening isn’t something you are interested in, try planting a fruit-bearing tree or an attractive ornamental bush or tree. This may teach the same principles as gardening with much less work. Just realize it may take years for trees to produce fruit.

  1. Conserve Resources

There is no need to run water while brushing your teeth — but so many of us do it. Break this habit, and don’t teach it to your kids. Turn water on when you need it, and turn it off when you don’t.

Unplug electrical items when not in use. Use your judgment and don’t make your life tedious. Just be aware that coffee makers, toasters, stereos and many other items draw current and use electricity even when not in use. The only way to stop this is to unplug them.

Other ways you can conserve resources include:

  • Walk when you don’t have to drive.
  • Bike to close destinations.
  • Teach your children about gasoline, where it comes from, how much it costs and how it pollutes our environment.
  • Buy environmentally-friendly dish soap and detergent.
  • Patronize businesses that demonstrate they care about the environment.
  • Buy from local markets that don’t ship in food on polluting trucks hundreds of miles away.

Lead by Example

Children generally learn better from your actions, not your words, but words are important, too. Talk to your kids about the environment and the dangers it faces from humankind and industrialization. Discuss the theory of global warming and the consequences we face as a result.

Examine your own habits and make adjustments where necessary. Your children will learn from you and emulate your actions. What you do and what they do will determine what kind of world we will give to future generations.

About the author: Emily Folk works as a freelance conservation and sustainability writer. To see more of her work, check out her blog, Conservation Folks, and follow her on Twitter.

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