Bringing up Green Kids

When our little ones are growing up, as green parents, it’s just a matter of time until we start to feel that nudge of panic. Will our children be green? Will they be shining beacons radiating a little “sustainable” light wherever they go? Will they tell the mom at the sleepover that she should be recycling the pancake batter box? OR. Will they throw trash out the windows and grow up to be the boys down the street who drive the monster trucks and accelerate from 0 to 60 before they go traipsing all across the county in races with their friends and skyrocketing their carbon footprints on a weekly basis?

Teach your kids to recycle

Children’s minds are as pliable and moldable as they come. You don’t have anything to fear or panic about, but you also certainly shouldn’t miss out on your golden opportunity to start influencing them and encouraging them in a green lifestyle from the beginning on up. If you’re game but not entirely sure what that looks like or where or how to begin, it’s simple. Number one, keep doing what you’re doing. Walking the talk is the biggest thing you can do. You can teach and lecture and spout forth eco-friendly quotes all day long, but children learn by doing. They learn by actions. They learn by imitation. That means you gotta practice what you preach. So, what are you doing now, or can you be doing now that can help? Let’s dive in, basics first. Answer these questions and see where you’re ahead and where you can improve!

The Food in the Home
You can’t get a whole lot more basic than food. Which means it’s a very easy way to impart green life lessons! It’s in every home and is clearly a necessity and constant part of life. Where do your children see food come from? Is it coming straight from major supermarkets? Or, do they get to venture out with you on occasion and help pick out the good, fresh stuff from the Farmers Market? Do they get to go with you to local farms/ranches and pick up fresh farm eggs or fresh cheese and butter? Are they being taught where food comes from? “Organic,” “sustainable,” “local,” none of that means anything. But, if your daughter meets the man who sells you your eggs or your bread or your jam and jelly and gets to hear about how he made it, now that leaves an impression.

And, as a side note, just what are your kids eating off of and with? Do you frequently get tired and throw out paper plates and plastic silverware? How about paper towels versus cloth napkins? What gets kept and what gets tossed when all is said and done?

Appliances in the Home
How do you use and manage appliances in the home? Are your kids watching you run the dishwasher 24/7, sometimes not even full? Are you using your dryer mid-summer, or are you encouraging them to help you hang out clothes to dry outside, naturally? Are you blasting central AC in your home until you’re walking around in sweats and cooling off the guest rooms that no one even uses, or are you taking advantage of fans and portable air conditioners to only cool the rooms you need, as you need to? Have you explained to them the benefit of turning off lights when leaving the room and turning off the water while brushing their teeth? All of these may seem like little things, but if you 1) do these things and 2) explain the why behind them, you’ll be amazed at what your kids will pick up on and naturally begin to do themselves, even when you’re not there.

Clothing in the Dressers!
Shopping is fun, and sometimes needed. But, what about also going through hand-me downs from friends with your kids or shopping in thrift stores? Skip frequenting Baby Gap and do a share-a-thon with friends and neighbors. Children outgrow clothing so fast, it only makes sense to pool supplies together regularly and cut down on cost and waste.

Activities in Place
When you get a chance, try to combine your green “tasks” with your children’s need for “activities.” For example, make games out of recycling and composting. Who can determine what is recyclable and what isn’t and then sort according? Gold stars for the stars! Who can tell mom what leftovers from dinner should go into the compost bin? Involve your kids in gardening, outside if you can, in indoor pots otherwise. They’ll not only get to have fun in the planting/watering process, they’ll eventually get to see the reward of their labor, which sometimes is difficult to see in eco-friendly tasks. And, if you plant something useable like herbs or maybe even potted strawberries, your kids will get even more satisfaction in the whole process! Even tasks like canning and preparing food for fall can be great activities for you children. Let them help you divide up fruit into piles or sort the good cucumbers from the bad for your next round of pickles.

Getting Around
Are you a “car only” family, or do you walk and bike every chance you get? Does the family dog get more exercise than he knows what to do with, or does he simply get let out to the backyard to make do on his own? Do the kids walk to school? Does your family vacation mean flying half-way around the globe or renting an electric car and heading to the hills for a family camp trip?

Finally, one of my favorite things about living green is the emphasis on giving back. We’ve only got one planet, true, and we are entrusted to do everything possible to take care of it. But, in addition to that, we are to give back to others, to help others. Doing this with your kids is a tremendous way to teach them life lessons about being supportive and helpful to their friends, the neighbors, even complete strangers. The more you can encourage them to help others outside of your family and to influence people outside of their immediate knowledge, the more impact you can have on them and their impression of what “green” is all about. Volunteer to pick up trash at a local park. Volunteer to bake cookies for a senior center. Write cards to brighten someone’s day. Help collect recycled items and deliver them to the appropriate locations. Help plant trees! Donate toys to families in need!

These are all simple questions you can ask yourself and ideas to consider. Who knows, you may have them covered already! If not, start gradually and start making the changes that you can. Eat off paper plates less, ditch the dishwasher and dryer a little more. Grill outside and eat more salads to skip using the stove quite so much. But remember, more than all these “things” you can do or improve on, it’s simply your example that will matter the most in your children’s lives. Your kids are daily being influenced by all you’re doing, even when you’re most unaware. And, I’d be willing to bet they’re already growing up to be shining green already. But, remember: don’t forget to have fun! Green is certainly not all about do’s and dont’s! Enjoy your green life and help your children enjoy their green life. And, in the end, you’ll all be a much more content family!


This is a guest post from:
Jocelyn Anne is a freelance writer dedicated to encouraging families to go greener. She’s currently working alongside Air & Water promoting portable air conditioners in place of central air systems to cut energy and cost over the upcoming summer months.

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  1. You’re right. It’s never too early to teach our kids the value of saving the environment.

  2. Best to start ’em young. And parents and adults must really set good examples for the kids to model from.

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