I have the good fortune to have parents who were “environmentally aware” long before it was popular.
Words like eco-friendly, environmentally friendly and eco-tourism weren’t in our vocabulary when I was small. The choices that were made were simply the way my family did things.
Always avid readers and DIY types, our kitchen table held Harrowsmith magazines, Foxfire books, and newsletters from various back-to-the-land type groups.
Looking back, I realize there were many things my parents did consciously or otherwise that encouraged us to be environmentally friendly – most of which involved some aspect of reduce, reuse, recycle. Here are some suggestions to encourage your kids to be more aware of their environment.
Reduce Reuse Recycle For Kids
In our recent quest to enjoy the health benefits of drinking more water, the world has been using and throwing away millions of plastic water bottles. Our landfill sites are full of them. Bottled water is a great example of a place to start teaching your kids about reduce, reuse and recycle.
- Reduce the amount of bottled water you buy.
- Rinse out and reuse the bottles.
- Be sure to recycle them or repurpose them (here are some water bottle crafts to try at home) when you are finished with them.
- Don’t buy them at all! Instead, choose a water bottle for each child (bright coloured stainless steel ones work well) and fill them up before school and sports practices or outings.
- Remind your kids that each time they use their refillable water bottle they are saving a plastic water bottle from cluttering up the environment.
Recycling Games For Kids
As soon as children are old enough to learn to sort their toys and put them away in their proper place, they are old enough to start learning how to sort household waste. The whole idea of reduce reuse recycle for kids is a lot more fun when presented as a game.
A Weekly Garbage Goal Challenge
Try using a black or brown garbage bin for garbage, a green bin for compostable items, and a blue bin for recycling. The colour coding makes it even easier and fun to learn….for pre-schoolers, anyways. Try to set a goal to minimize the amount of refuse that is garbage – when my older children were small we began by trying to produce just one full garbage bag a week. Once that was accomplished, we tried for just one grocery bag full. We then tried for just one ice-cream container full….sadly we never could quite make it, but I felt the lesson was learned as the exercise made them a lot more aware of the excessive packaging of so many grocery items.
January 2014 update: Today our family has grown (again) and we now live off the grid near Yellowknife, NWT in northern Canada. I’m happy to say our garbage production has been drastically reduced – it’s a real pain to cart garbage out of here to the dump. Watch for my upcoming post on the tricks we use to minimize our household garbage production.
Reward Your Children’s Recycling Initiative
A quick and easy recycling game for older children is simply a competition to see who can identify the most ways to reduce a household item. Some examples are ice cream cartons, pop containers, and milk jugs. Set a time limit and allow the winner to choose the after school snack, family movie or dessert.
Recycling Facts for Kids
Every day there is at least one story in the news regarding the state of the environment. Discuss these stories with your children. Depending on the school system your children attend, they may be covering various green and environmental topics at school, and if you homeschool, make it a unit study.
There are some fabulous websites full of recycling facts for kids that are a wonderful resource for green family activities and school projects. Two of our kids had assignments on reducing their carbon footprints while still in elementary school. Number Four was a member of the Environmental Club at his high school, and took part in various community projects with a “green” focus. Have teenagers? Grab their attention with a movie based on potential environmental fiascos. This is a great way to encourage your teenager to become more environmentally aware….and ultimately more environmentally friendly.
We’d love to hear from you. What’s your best tip to encourage kids to reduce, reuse, and recycle? Let us know in the comments below.