How to Introduce Kids to a Green Lifestyle

4 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Living Green with Children

The most effective way to teach your children to live a green lifestyle — with care and consideration for the environment, animals, and people with whom they share the world — is to live that green lifestyle yourself and become a life-size example. When kids see you picking up trash from the park even though you weren’t the one who dropped it, they see value in keeping public places clean.

Use these suggestions to introduce your children to green living:

  • Choose an active lifestyle. Walk, bike, and play with your children regularly.

    Biking together is one way to be a green family. [Credit: Corbis Digital Stock]
    Credit: Corbis Digital Stock
    Biking together is one way to be a green family.
  • Use public transportation. Use the car only when necessary; otherwise, demonstrate a commitment to public transportation by taking trains and buses with your children.

  • Ask for their help. Younger children in particular are often eager to contribute to grown-up activities. Have them carry a small bucket of vegetable scraps to the compost bin, or let them help sort your recycling, though you should handle the potentially sharp edges on cans and glass. Older children may want to get involved with cleaning up their neighborhood and organizing the household recycling. If they’re not enthusiastic, make eco-friendly activities a family-time priority.

  • Bring them to growers. Take kids with you to farmers’ markets and farms where you pick items yourself so that they understand that food doesn’t just come from supermarket shelves.

    Let children see that food doesn’t just come from stores. [Credit: PhotoDisc, Inc.]
    Credit: PhotoDisc, Inc.
    Let children see that food doesn’t just come from stores.
  • Introduce them to wildlife. Petting farms for younger kids may help them understand that there’s a whole world beyond their community and prevent farm animals from becoming something that they see only in books or on television. Although zoos are a contentious issue within the green community — many people believe that wild animals shouldn’t be kept in any kind of enclosures — they offer a valuable educational and conservation lesson. If you want to visit a zoo, look for one that’s actively involved in conservation, is accredited through the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, and provides its animals with as natural an environment as possible along with plenty of mental stimulation.

  • Create a family garden, and get the kids involved. Gardens are places where the whole family can practice being green.

  • Limit consumption. Choose well-made, durable, quality toys over quantity. Talk to family and friends about not overwhelming children with too many gifts and about checking with you first if they’re considering a big gift. Encourage kids to donate toys they no longer use to other children.

  • Encourage conservation. Let kids know that resource-conserving habits such as switching off lights and turning off water when brushing their teeth are expected.

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You don’t have to become a paragon of green overnight, and you shouldn’t expect your children to, either. Start with the things that are easiest to change and remember that every little bit helps. Add more changes gradually, and your family will soon be living greener without even realizing it!

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The Essentials of Living Green with Children

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