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The Informed Parent

It’s Not Easy Being Green

by Carolyn Warnemuende, M.S.
Published on Nov. 04, 2002

Most teachers in today’s classrooms have activities for the children about protecting our environment. Many families recycle easy-to-recycle materials. Making the commitment to be more environmentally friendly is not easy. It takes forethought, planning, the willingness to spend some extra time, and the courage to use products and materials that you many not ordinarily use.

We, as adults, can serve as role models for our children so that they develop “green” habits they will carry forth into adolescence and adulthood. The following 15 ideas are not difficult to implement and can serve as a start toward developing an attitude of “being green.”

  • Carry lunch to school in a reusable container like a lunch pail or thermal bag instead of a paper sack.
  • Carry drinks in a thermos bottle or reusable plastic bottle.
  • Place two wastebaskets in each room where you currently have one. Each should be a different color. Place recyclable trash in one and non-recyclable trash in the other. Teach your children which trash to put in each.
  • Use your community curbside recycling program or your community-recycling center. Often the community centers accept more recyclable materials than the curbside programs.
  • Read labels. When possible use non-toxic cleaning supplies and earth-friendly detergents that have no or low phosphates.
  • Help children recognize the difference between wants and needs. For example, if your child wants to buy a book, help him find one at a library book sale or a used bookstore instead of buying a new one.
  • Sort through your closets and take old or unwanted items to a thrift shop.
  • Purchase some of your children’s clothes at recycled clothing stores. Parents can find excellent little-worn baby clothes, coats and jackets, and sports wear at these stores.
  • Look for products made from recycled materials. Greeting cards, stationery, and shoelaces are three such products that can easily be found.
  • Reuse grocery bags, or take mesh or canvas bags to the supermarket for transporting groceries home. Many stores give a small rebate for bringing in your own bags to use.
  • Reduce water consumption. Set a timer for monitoring time spent in the shower. Fill the bathtub half full. Only use the washing machine or dishwasher for full loads. Use cold water whenever possible.
  • Make games from recycled materials. For example, make a bowling game from empty soda bottles. Create board games using pictures from old magazines.
  • Shop garage sales for items that you feel do not need to be brand new.
  • Have a clean-up walk where you and your youngster pick up trash at a park, on a sports field, or on a street in your neighborhood.
  • Read stories about the environment, or go to websites to learn how kids can help keep our environment healthy. By plugging in the words “Kids and the Environment” on your favorite search engine, many sites will come up for you to explore. One,, even has children’s stories to read.

When you begin implementing environmentally friendly practices in a more inclusive way than you may currently be doing, let your children know. Show them on labels where it says that the packaging is made from recycled material. Tell them why you use detergent with no or low phosphates. Talk to them about the wisdom of carrying lunches, drinks, and groceries in reusable containers and bags.

While we have heard, many times over, why it is important to raise our awareness about protecting the environment, consumerism has not kept pace with what we know. Our choices for environmentally friendly products are less available than those traditionally used. Initially it takes more time to find the products that keep our environment safe. Make a game of this with your children. And don’t try to make changes all at once or you will not continue. Soon, however, you will know the products and brands to look for and can find items as quickly as you do now. The children will get used to not always having brand new toys or clothes, and will actually enjoy the process of finding good used things.

Children are adaptable. They are eager to learn. They feel proud when they work for a cause. Making “being green” a family activity can be fun and can contribute to the betterment of our world.

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