THE BLOG
08/02/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Tips for Raising Environmentally Friendly Kids

Our world is at an environmental tipping point. Rainforests are being decimated, endangered animals are creeping towards extinction and global warming is a stark reality. It's not a pretty picture, but thankfully, because of activists who have brought awareness of environmental issues to the forefront, an empowered and ever burgeoning social movement has taken shape and "green" is in. This movement is no longer comprised of a niche group of hippies clinging onto the 1970s, but has become a zeitgeist, driven by increasing awareness, adoption of more eco-friendly measures and most importantly, a willingness to change.

Because of the growing efforts of this global green community, we are making strides towards preserving the invaluable resources for generations to come. It is up to us to pass the knowledge along to our children and ensure that they start, from a much younger age than we did, adapting their lives to take care of the environment and not just consume its resources. When our kids are older, no longer will there be a question of 'paper or plastic,' no longer will recycling be a decision, but a way of life.

Although awareness and education are the first steps, scientists and environmentalists have already assessed the irreversible damage that has been done to our Earth. The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has provided the following alarming statistics on the effects of global warming:

  • #1: Rank of 2005 as hottest year on record (tied with 1998), according to NASA.
  • 100%: increase in intensity and duration of hurricanes and tropical storms since the 1970s, according to a 2005 MIT study.
  • $100 billion: Estimate of damage caused by hurricanes hitting the U.S. coast in 2005 alone, according to the National Climatic Data Center.
  • 2030: Year by which Glacier National Park will have no glaciers left, according to the U.S. Geological Survey predictions.
  • 400,000: square miles of Arctic sea ice that have melted in the last 30 years (roughly the size of Texas), threatening polar bear habitats and further accelerating global warming worldwide, according to the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment.
  • 15-37%: Amount of plant and animal species that global warming could wipe out by 2050.
  • #1: Rank of the United States as a global warming polluter compared to other large nations.
  • 6: Number of former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency leaders who say the U.S. is not doing enough to fight global warming.
  • 0: Number of bills passed by Congress to cut global warming pollution.

If some of these grave projections come to fruition, the world will look like a very different place when our kids are adults, and who knows what else will be missing/extinct/eradicated from the environment for our kids' kids. As parents, our goals revolve around our kids' futures and preparing them to face the world around them. If we can provide our kids with a foundation early on to be mindful of their impact on their environments, we can collectively be responsible for helping slowly reverse the ecological damages our Earth has faced in the recent century.

Here are some simple tips for teaching your kids the basics of eco-friendly living. These are common sense practices that will not only help save our Earth's resources, but will help families save money as well:

  • Make sure your kids turn off the water when they brush their teeth to cut down on water consumption.
  • Stress the importance of turning lights off when leaving a room.
  • Enlist their help in switching from incandescent light bulbs to more energy saving compact fluorescents.
  • Designate a "Green Day" each month when you take advantage of the outdoors, go to a local farmer's market, avoid processed foods or gather up toys/clothes that are no longer needed and donate them
  • Engage your kids in recycling tasks, allowing them to determine which item goes into which bin.
  • Have your kids help hang clothes outside to dry and teach them about the power of the sun.
  • Replace the numerous batteries for the toys in your house with rechargeables.
  • Be like Michelle Obama and plant a garden with your kids. They may even be more willing to eat vegetables if they've grown them themselves.
  • Use both sides of the paper when doing homework, coloring and drawing.
  • Replace all those little plastic bags in school lunches with reusable plastic containers. If you must use the bags, ask that your child bring them back home so they can be recycled or re-used.
  • Keep the car in the garage and walk with your kids to school a couple days a week.

The most important tip of all is to practice what you preach. If you are environmentally friendly and engage in all the behaviors you're encouraging your kids to take part in, your kids are much more likely to adopt these practices.

It only takes small steps for all of us to make a big difference.