How to Celebrate Earth with your Kids, Everyday

                                                                        Leo, one special morning
One morning last year, as I was clearing up breakfast after sending my boys off to school, I heard my youngest shout:

-Come here, Mama! You’ve got to see this!

-What is it? I cried from inside.

-You’ll see, but run! You’ve got to hurry!

I ran outside to the front porch and then down a few steps to where my son stood, eyes frozen in one direction.

-What is it? I asked again. 

Without a word, he lifted his arm and pointed towards one of our oak trees. I followed his arm and finger, scanning and squinting through the branches in search for something special. Was it a squirrel? But everything looked in order to me and I was about to ask what had caught his attention, when he murmured:

-Isn’t this beautiful? Look at that green!

Right in front of us, a morning ray of light highlighted the moss-covered limbs of our tree and I had almost missed this magical sight: Nature's brightest green or what Benjamin Moore calls "Paradise Green"...

                                                                                Paradise Green

Much like that morning, Earth Month or Earth Day is a great opportunity to take a moment out of our busy schedules to pay attention to Nature and be thankful for her gifts. But why celebrate Earth only once a year, when our survival depends on it daily?  Earth Day should be every day of every month, and it can be with the Zero Waste lifestyle! 
A sustainable future starts at home by raising our kids to be good stewards of the environment. 

Here are 10 tips for celebrating Earth with your kids, everyday:

  1. Educate your kids about environmental issues. Watch documentaries such as DisneyNature’s Ocean and movies such as The Lorax with an underlying green theme. The more they know, the more they’ll understand the need to reduce waste. For more suggestions, including books, take a look at my kid friendly selection.
  2. Turn down freebies. In our consumerist society we’re pounded with free goods. But every time we accept a freebie, such as a plastic party favor from a birthday celebration, we create a demand to rig more oil and make more plastic party favors. Once home, these items quickly break (making kids cry) and clutter our space and then landfills. Teach your kids to think twice about bringing things into your home and graciously say no to favors that they don't need and won’t last.
  3. Declutter their wardrobes and toy chests. It seems natural to want to spoil our kids with stuff. Yet, decluttering their space is a more environmentally sound thing to do, as it puts precious resources back on the market for others to enjoy while decreasing the depletion of natural resources. Teach them the benefits of decluttering vs. accumulating. Living with less allows them to pick up their room quickly so they have more time to play!
  4. Give them the gift of experiences. Experiences don’t break and last forever. They also teach our kids that being is more important than having. Consider activities instead of stuff as presents. Examples include tickets to a movie, a show or a museum, gift certificates to the local ice cream or pizza parlor, registration to a skateboarding or dancing class etc. 
  5. Shop the bulk aisle with them. Eliminating food packaging does not just make obvious environmental sense, it makes financial sense (Did you know that when you purchase a packaged good 15% of the price covers the packaging? That money could be used to fund an experience). And it’s better for our kids’ health too -reducing their exposure to processed foods and plastic packaging's toxic leaching. Let your kids fall in love with unpackaged food by letting them explore the bulk aisles and choose their favorite cereal and snack with you. 
  6. Pack Zero Waste lunches. Disposables are not only a waste of resources; they’re a waste of your time and money shopping for them. Keep your money out of the landfill (save it for a family trip) and pack a waste free lunch for them: You probably already have all the reusables you need! A reusable bottle and container, and a dish towel to wrap them in Furoshiki style. The cloth becomes a carrier, a placemat, and a napkin all in one!
  7. Take them on a tour of your local sorting center. Not only will they learn about what happens to their recyclables once they leave the curb, but so will you. You’ll get to see firsthand why plastic bags and shredded paper are a sorting facility’s nightmare.
  8. Include them in composting activities.  There is a composting system out there for every family’s living condition (whether you are an urban, suburban, or rural dweller) and diet (whether you produce meat or veggies scraps). The worm bin in particular, is a great way for kids to witness the cycle of nature: feed the worms and watch them transform scraps into a rich soil amendment, which they can then feed to your plants.
  9. Get out. What better way to teach the importance of conservation than going outside to enjoy nature and understand the reason behind being green! Let your kids connect with the outdoors through hiking, biking, picnicking, camping, etc. They can also participate in litter picking events or habitat restoration projects: Their energy is always welcome!
  10. Have Fun! Environmental awareness should not make our kids feel scared about their future, but give them the strength to want to do their bit for the Earth. Kids respond best to our “lessons” through humor and play. We found that experiences provide a great opportunity for both. Stay tuned for upcoming posts about our family most recent adventures. 

If you have not already done so, check out my book Zero WasteHome: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste (adapted versions available for the UK and the Commonwealth, France , Quebec and Korea,), for more tips on how to Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot at home.