All parents want to leave the world a better place for their kids. It sometimes feels like we don’t have much control over what happens down the line. But teaching our kids about the environment, energy conservation, and recycling is one of the best ways to ensure that there will be a healthy planet for future generations. By doing that, little ones will grow up with an awareness about waste and an appreciation for preserving resources. The earlier good habits are ingrained, the easier it is to incorporate them into your daily life. Teaching your kids to go green at home is the best place to begin. Keep green extends to a wide variety of practices, that makes a small contribution to the health and quality of our environment, water, and air. Here are some ways to go green at home.
According to Annenberg Learner, 220 million tons of waste ends up in United States landfills each year and less than one-quarter of the total waste stream in the United States is recycled. It might seem like we can’t do much to help. But we can help significantly to decrease the number of the landfilled waste by recycling the landfilled waste at home. This would also reduce the demand on the virgin source of these materials and eliminate potentially severe environmental, economic and public health problems.
But what exactly is recycling?
“Reduce, reuse, recycle” is the mantra we often hear every time there’s a discussion about recycling. Recycling is, simply, processing used materials into new, useful products.
At its core recycling is a process. It’s a series of activities within a cycle if you will, that includes, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
“The separation and collection of materials that otherwise would be considered waste, the processing and remanufacturing of these items into new products, and the use of the recycled products to complete the cycle.”
If we recycle instead of throwing things away, then we can reuse our limited resources instead of taking them from already dwindling sources. This not only gives the used materials a new lease of life but also reduces the amount of raw material used to make new things from scratch.
By making changes in how we use used items, we can help to reduce the carbon footprint of many general manufacturing processes, and control water, air, and land pollution as well.
Tips for simple recycling
- Tape a list of items that can be recycled onto the refrigerator door.
- Set up a bin system in your house for your general waste and recycling.
Get The Kids On Board
Make recycling bins for paper, glass, and plastic and let the kids decorate them. Making recycling bins easy for the little ones to recognize by using images of what will go inside. This can be a great reminder and will help kids not get too overwhelmed. If you want, you can make a goal chart above each bin, keep a chart of who recycles the most each day and offer rewards for good recycling habits.
For more information about recycling, check some useful links below:
How Do I Recycle?: Common Recyclables
Recycling for Kids – Fun Experiments, Free Games, Cool Projects, Science Online
Tips on reducing, reusing and recycling from the LA Department of Public Work
Recycling basics by the US Environmental Protection agency
Recycling: Home Recycling Basics You can Teach Your Kids
Fresh and drinkable water is necessary to our survival, but it is a limited resource. More than 97% of the water on the Earth is salt water and must be treated before using in everyday life to cook and consume. The remaining percentage of water, which is drinkable, is mostly frozen or stored underground as groundwater. For these reasons, we all have to do our part to conserve the limited amounts of water that we have available to us.
Additionally, you can save an immense amount of energy by saving water. That energy would have been needed to transport the excess water through underground channels. Saving water also decreases the load on an area’s water treatment plants, making it less likely that they will spill over and pollute local water sources during storms or the times of excess use.
It’s also important to remember that millions of people need to use this water every single day. As long as you are aware of how important water is and how to use it efficiently, you are already one step ahead of the game.
Tips for conserving water at home
Discover how you can conserve more water and preserve the limited stock of water that we have on Earth with these simple tips!
- Instead of getting a fresh glass each time you need a drink, use the same glass throughout the day.
- Shortening your shower by one or two minutes every day.
- Switch to water saving showerheads and install a low flow toilet the next time the bathroom needs remodeling.
- Use the environmental setting on both washing machines and dishwashers.
- If you use a dishwasher, make sure it is full of capacity before you run it. If you clean your dishes in the sink, fill a small bucket in the sink with soapy water and use that to wash dishes instead of running a constant stream of water.
- Wash pans in a bucket of soapy water rather than under a running tap.
- Plug the sink and bathtub drains before turning on the water.
- Grow a garden that is drought resistant and that requires less water.
- Collect rainwater for plants.
- Check your water bill. If it is high, there might be a leak.
Get The Kids On Board
- Give kids their own unique glass to reuse throughout the day.
- Remind kids to turn the water off while they brush and only turning it back on when they are going to use it.
- Kids can help to conserve water by keeping their parents aware of any leaks they come across in the home. They may be the first one to notice the problem and telling an adult as soon as they recognize an issue can help to have it resolved more quickly.
For more tips and ideas, visit these resources:
- Ways Kids Can Help Save Water
- Water Conservation Improvement Ideas for Children
- Green Facts: Water Resources
- Water Saving Ideas for Kids
- 10 Things Kids Can Do to Protect Water (PDF)
- How Can I Save Water?
- Water Conservation Improvement Activities
- Fun Water Facts and Conservation Activities
Energy Conservation & Energy Efficiency
Saving energy, conservation, increasing efficiency are all terms used to describe ways we can reduce our overall energy consumption. But why energy conservation is important? Saving energy is an efficient way to keep the environment clean, save money, improve the economy, enhance the quality of life. In other words, energy conservation and energy efficiency benefit you, your country and the world. That’s why it’s important to learn how to conserve energy at home.
- Use energy saving light bulbs instead of less energy efficient incandescent bulbs.
- Don’t leave your computer in standby – turn it off at the end of each day
- Turn heaters and coolers off when you don’t need them
- Turn down the heater by a few degrees in the winter and use less air conditioning in summer months.
- Windows, doors, vents, and the roof can be insulated to keep the heat in when the temperatures drop.
- Open windows instead of relying on an extractor fan – no electricity used, no cost!
- Plug in “always on” electronic devices into power strips and turn off the strips with just a flick of a switch before going to bed or leaving the house. This will help to prevent standby drain.
- If your washing machine doesn’t have a half load setting – make sure you fill it with clothes
- If you’re looking for a new coffee maker, try to find a model that has an auto shut-off feature, which can help save energy as well as water.
- Consider installing solar energy system.
Get The Kids On Board
- Teach children to shut off the lights when they’re done using them. You can put friendly stickers near light switches to remind them.
- Remind kids don’t leave the refrigerator door open
- Find games and activities to play instead of playing game
- Help a grow-up put plastic sheeting on windows.
- Go out for a family bike ride or walk.
For more ways to save energy, visit the following links:
Composting has various benefits: it helps to keep stuff out of landfills, promotes healthy plants, reduces the use of pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizers, which can be harmful to the environment. Additionally, compost in the soil can help to prevent fertilizers from leaching into groundwater, some of the micro-organisms in compost can bind heavy metals in soil, keeping them from leaching into the water. That said, when done with care, food waste can become an excellent source of plant food for trees, flowers, vegetables, and the lawn. In fact, compost is now used to help remediate polluted areas.
- Have a separate sealed container for food waste and empty it frequently
- Choose a shady spot in the yard to start your compost heap or to position your compost bin.
- Dig it into your garden or spread it on top as mulch.
- Keep your compost moist, but not wet, and aerate it about once a week
Get The Kids On Board
- Teach your kids to scrape their plate into your food waste container after a meal.
- Get the kids involved in and learning about composting and gardening. Worms, soil, flowers, and plants can all become an interesting lesson in science.
For more information, check out these helpful articles:
Detailed guide on backyard composting
Advice on composting options that can be done at home – United States Environmental Protection Agency
Composting with worms | The Environmental Education for Kids (EEK)
Producing the foods has massive environmental impacts, it requires large areas of land and a huge amount of water. Besides, food production results in greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Food Ethics Council, agriculture accounts for 30 percent of all the greenhouse gases people release into the atmosphere each year.
So having healthy food choices available in the kitchen not only benefits your family member’s health but also helps to save the environment. For example, decreased consumption of meat could have a major impact on water usage.
- Shop and eat locally. By buying and eating locally, you are helping improve the environment because it takes less energy to transport to your kitchen table.
- Eat less meat, choose plant food instead. Try to exchange one or two meals of pork, beef, lamb or chicken every week with vegetarian meals.
- Choose fish from sustainable stocks in a sustainable way, for example, certified fish.
- Choose vegetables and fruits that store well, and choose sensitive vegetables and fruits after the season.
- Minimize food waste and store food properly.
- Learn more about eco-smart food choices and how to minimize food waste on the heading to the left.
Get The Kids On Board
- Eat fewer sweets, cookies, cakes, candies, and snacks – they have an impact on the environment but their nutritional contribution is low.
- Find your local farmer’s market and make it a fun day out with the kids.
To learn more about how our food choices affect the environment, check the resources below:
- Food choices, health and environment: Effects of cutting Europe’s meat and dairy intake
- How do our food choices affect the environment? – Science Journal For Kids (Pdf)
- Eat Local
Donating vs. Throwing Away
There are some household goods, which cannot be recycled, might be better off in different hands. Finding a new home for your old goods and clothing can help to lower the overall demand for the manufacturing of new replacement products.
How to re-home your unwanted items
- Find charities and thrift stores that accept donations of used clothes and goods.
- Sell or give away your items through local online services such as Craigslist (http://craigslist.org) and Freecycle (http://freecycle.org).
Get The Kids On Board
Have older kids go through their old clothes or toys to decide which ones are in good enough condition and which ones they no longer use to sell or give away.
For more information about going green at home, visit these resources:
- Teaching kids to go green | Care.com – one mom shares her tips for inspiring young kids to love the earth
- Advice on reducing waste | New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation
- Tips on what can be recycled | CalRecycle
- Teaching Energy Conservation Ethic
- The United States Department of Agriculture discusses reducing food waste
- Kids Environment Kids Health |The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
- Energy Conservation in the Home
- How You Can Save Energy