This topic is near and dear to Enviro Girl’s heart, especially as we celebrate Earth Day this Sunday. All the great superheroes train up a new generation of crime-fighting warriors. The same must be true for those on the environmental front: we have an obligation to teach our children how to protect the planet and its resources and we have to explain why it’s an important value. In Enviro Girl’s mind, this boils down to a short list of 3 easy things we can do as parents and teachers:
1. Make your kids go outside. Quit sending them the message that being outdoors is dangerous (think of how often we do! Insect bites, rashes, allergies, sunburn–kids get inundated with the message that it’s safer to be indoors, in an environment sanitized for their protection). If children have no relationship with the earth, the Great Outdoors, nature, they’ll feel no obligation to protect it. You protect what you know and love and the best way to know and love nature and our planet is to get out and experience it. Whether you take your kids camping, hiking, fishing, Geo-caching, to the local playground or to a National Park, get your kids outside. Outdoor activities can include swimming, biking, gardening, playing kick the can with neighbor kids or gathering dandelions. The more time a kid spends outside, the more they’ll notice things, like how ants persevere to lift something five times their size or how all flowers begin with symmetrical shapes. They’ll learn to appreciate fresh air, fireflies, sunshine, lilacs, raindrops, birdsong and snowflakes. All love of nature begins with being in nature, so slap some sunscreen and bug spray on your kids and kick ‘em out the back door!
2. Hold your kids to your environmental ethics and explain why. “Turn off the lights! We need to save electricity.” “Help me get these clothes in off the lines–line drying is free and better for the planet than using an electrical clothes dryer.” “We have to pick beans today so we have some for supper–our homegrown beans always taste better than the canned ones.” Model behavior, and talk about it. Just as we explain “Don’t touch a hot stove, you’ll burn yourself,” we have to explain why we bring our own shopping bags, pass on bottled water and buy organic food.
3. Demonstrate to your kids that less is more. Any analysis of the big environmental issues–pollution, diversity, land use, shrinking resources–boils down to our habits of consumption. If we’re serious about addressing environmental protection, we need to use less, consume less, buy less–we need to embrace a simpler lifestyle. Turn off the TV, get off the computer/phone/video game, get out of the shopping malls, quit spending and getting stuff. Lower the bar–a kid will enjoy a trip to the library and baking cookies at home just as much as they’ll enjoy a trip to Barnes & Noble and a trip through the McDonald’s drive thru. Quality matters more than quantity. Start framing your children’s world in experiences instead of things–it’s easy enough to do. Start by asking your children what they’d like to do to celebrate a holiday instead of what they want to get. Make a list of free and cheap pleasures to pursue over summer vacation. Enviro Girl could go on and on about how indulging in a materialistic and consumption-based lifestyle is bad for both the environment, our economy and our character development, but she wants you to keep reading. Perhaps she’ll expound more in a different post. For now, she urges you to try it and see how kids can be just as happy to stay up late to read a story together as they are to stay up late to watch TV.
Tell the Eco Women: are you doing any or all of these things with the next generation? What ideas do you have for bringing up the next generation of Eco-Activists?
In honor of Earth Day 2012, the Eco Women are giving away an assortment of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange seeds to two winners. What better way to celebrate our Earth than by getting a little earth on our hands!
All you have to do to enter this giveaway is leave a comment on this post. You don’t have to say anything in particular, but feel free to tell us about a new eco action you’ve been trying or something you’d like for us to talk about here on this blog. This giveaway is open until noon on Earth Day, after which, we will randomly draw two names and contact the winners.
To learn more about Earth Day and what you can do to help Planet Earth, visit the official Earth Day website.