A Native American proverb says, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” With the theme of, “It’s Our Turn to Lead,” 2015’s Earth Day proposes that we are at a momentous juncture which will require an equally momentous response from world leaders. In addition to adding your voice to the collective demonstration of support for planet-friendly initiatives, there are some things you can do closer to home to celebrate Earth Day when it arrives this April 22nd. Leading also means teaching — both with words and by example. Here are four ways to share the importance of safeguarding the planet with your kids in order to help create the next generation of responsible, sustainably-minded leaders.
1. Conservation Counts
You urge your kids to put away their clothes and do their homework, but what about the everyday acts they can do to help protect the planet they call home?
Kids aren’t born knowing that keeping the fridge door open while they choose a snack or leaving the water running while they brush their teeth can have long-term impacts on the planet. From switching off the lights when they leave a room to turning off the television when they’re finished watching their favorite show, small acts not only add up, but can also instill a lifetime of good habits.
Also, the next time you program your thermostat or buy an energy efficient light bulb, use it as a teaching moment to explain why these small measures make a big difference.
2. Take a Hike (Or Walk….Or Bike Ride)
Rather than hopping in your car when you need an item from your local grocery store, hop on your bike or take a walk. This not only helps keeps your household healthier, but also reduces fuel emissions. Other ways to help stop car pollution include exploring public transportation options and/or organizing a carpool for school drop-off and pick-up duties.
By integrating these alternative transportation methods into your everyday life, you ensure that your children will continue to value these healthy, planet-friendly behaviors in adulthood.
3. Reuse, Repurpose, Recycle
Kids can begin understanding the importance of respecting the planet and its resources at an early age. Instead of rounding up their toys for sorting, donating and discarding, ask them to take on the task themselves. Bring them with you when you drop off the goods at a local charity so they can see and understand the process.
Also, think twice before you toss something old, and encourage them to do the same. Can it be used by someone else, or in a different way? If so, spare the landfill.
If your child’s school or local community enter doesn’t yet recycle, help your child start a recycling program. Or talk to your local school about setting up a field trip to the local recycling center so your child and his/her classmates can understand the process.
And this goes without saying: don’t’ litter. If your kids see you using the earth as your personal trash can, they will think it’s acceptable to do the same.
4. Take Charge
Buying disposable items may seem easier or cheaper in the moment, but the long term consequences are massive: Americans throw away more than three billion batteries every year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Because this may be difficult for a child to conceptualize, try this take-notice visual: placed end-to-end, the 86,000 tons of dead alkaline batteries tossed out every year would circle the globe more than six times.
Batteries are also hazardous waste. If they degrade in the landfill — which happens with frequency — they can leach into the environment, polluting our air and water. Teaching children about the importance of buying and using recyclable batteries not only reduces their impact in landfills, but also keeps these harmful toxins out of the environment.
The Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song, “Teach Your Children” came out in 1970 with a message that resonated with the spirit of the era and with the inaugural Earth Day held that same year. Forty-five years later, safeguarding the planet for future generations remains a more pressing concern than ever before. And don’t forget that while Earth Day may offer the perfect time to introduce valuable “green” concepts to your kids, every single day provides another opportunity to show them by your own example. After all, while the theme of this year’s Earth Day is, “It’s Our Turn to Lead,” it will be their turn before you know it. Have you done your part to make sure they’re ready?