Raising Green Teens

Save money and raise responsible kids with these tips

To advertisers, teenagers look like a big fat bullseye – they’re less careful about their consumption, more responsive to marketing messages, and have a higher percentage of disposable income than almost any other group. Without guidance, teenagers are easily persuaded to adopt wasteful habits that are neither financially nor environmentally responsible. One of the best ways to counteract this influence is to walk your teens through the environmental impact of their consumption. Here are some little changes you and your teens can make to be smarter with money, and better stewards of the environment.

1. Think carefully about their first car

Increasingly, a car at age 16 is, if not a necessity, at least an expectation for many teens; but if teens learn early that bikes, carpools, and public transit are a perfectly good way of getting around, they’ll be less likely to become car-dependent adults. You can help defuse the notion that having a car is an obvious step on the way to adulthood by limiting your own car use; whenever practical, find another way to get around. Rather than making a gift of their first car, encourage them to pay for (or at least contribute toward) their first car, and cover their own gas. When they have a financial stake in their choice, they’ll buy it later, and almost certainly go for an economy car, while paying for their own gas will put a limit on aimless driving.

2. Steer them away from disposable culture

When your teen is making his or her first independent purchasing decisions, it’s important to talk about the environmental and economic cost of the single-use, over-packaged junk that advertisers target to them, including coffee, fast food, and bottled water. Instead of wearing prom dresses once and stuffing them in the closet, encourage them to donate, modify, or even dismantle used dresses for fabric if someone in the house is good with a needle. Old cell phones (even damaged ones) should be donated or sent to an e-waste recycling center rather than thrown away.

3. Stay vigilant about vampire power

When everyone’s ready for bed, enlist the help of the family to turn off all the lights, shut down computers, and unplug nonessential appliances. (Having multiple items plugged into a surge protector makes this a lot easier.) The important thing to communicate is that every little bit counts — overnight drain of cell phone chargers, laptop cables, and especially TVs can add up to hundreds of dollars a year, and it’s completely unnecessary. Practicing a little discipline early on can make a huge difference in establishing good habits.

4. Prepare healthy meals

Perhaps no other element of your parenting can make a bigger difference for the environment than the food you serve your kids. A person’s tastes and appetites are primarily determined in childhood, but especially adolescence as palates mature. For that reason, a person’s diet in adolescence has a strong impact on their long-term health and quality of life. Teenagers who are accustomed to meals with small portions of meat (or none at all) are more likely to cook and eat that way throughout their lives. Meat production uses ten times as much biomass and acreage as grain or vegetable production, which means ten times the chemical fertilizers and pesticides, as well as immense methane generation from the animals themselves. If you can raise a child who limits or excludes meat from his or her diet, you’ve effectively cut the impact of a lifetime of food production by 90%.

[About the author: Samantha Abrams is a freelance writer and fashion and celebrity blogger over at the Style Cynics fashion blog.]
Image: kamshots

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