Recently, my daughter received a birthday present in the mail. It came in a large carton filled with those pesky foam peanuts. Alex liked her present, but she also loved the packing material. She fashioned the foam-filled box into a lounge chair and happily proceeded to sit in it--unwittingly recycling garbage into a plaything.
Kids are natural conservationists, and with a little effort, you can cultivate that instinct into a lifelong habit of respecting the environment. "It's important to teach young children that we all need to care for our planet and that we all can make a difference," says Meredith Brennan, a Belmar, New Jersey-based educator and a consultant on environmental issues for schools, corporations, and other organizations. Here, some ways to instill those lessons.
Wear it again.
To save both water and power, scan your child's jeans or sweatpants at the end of the day and have her rewear items that aren't dirty. This will make her aware of the importance of conserving resources.
Say no to the flow.
Tell your child that she can help save gallons of water by turning off the tap while she's brushing her teeth. Explain that your city or county has to clean the water for you and you shouldn't waste it.
You know all those spreadsheets and document drafts that get tossed at the office? Their flip sides make great art paper, so bring some home for the kids to reuse. And don't forget the many ways your child can use old newspaper, such as creating funny hats, making papier-m?ch? items, and even finger-painting on it.
Turn it off.
Make a habit of going around the house with your child and turning off lights, the computer, the radio, and other electrical equipment not in use. Tell him that we need to conserve electric power just like water--so there will be enough for everyone.
Shop by number.
Turn environmental protection into a supermarket numbers game, suggests Calvin DeWitt, Ph.D., a professor of environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Have your child check out the numbers in the small triangles on the bottoms of plastic containers. The easiest to recycle are generally 1s or 2s; ask whether higher numbers are accepted in your town's recycling program.