How and When to Teach Children About Green Living?

How early can you teach your children about doing what’s best for the environment?

The earlier the better, but it’s never too late. You’re learning, right?

child holding incandescent and LED lightbulbs
Ellie learning about
incandescent and LED lightbulbs

I walk around with my new baby and say “let’s turn out the light to save electricity.” By the time my twins were three, they were reminding us to turn out lights because it is “good for the planet”. Now at 5, they don’t always remember to turn out the light when they leave a room, but it’s not uncommon for them to notice a light like the front hall or basement on and ask if they can turn it off.

Contigo No Spill
Kids Cup

I can’t take complete credit for them, their preschool made an effort to teach them about the environment and “reduce, reuse, recycle”. It definitely worked. My son has gotten so that he doesn’t want to throw anything away, he even brings home his empty juice boxes from school because he thinks we can reuse them (I throw them away when he’s not looking Update: In December I discovered that we CAN recycle juice boxes where we live). However, we *do* try to make his lunch containers as reusable as possible – including sending him with milk in a bottle obtained from a fast-food restaurant in what is technically a beer bottle cozy (with a sports logo, not a beer logo!).
Update – we have switched to Contigo No Spill Kids Cups which don’t leak.

toddler putting things in recycling bin
Timmy recycling

How to teach your children? For one thing, just talk about the planet, reducing and reusing. There are also many good children’s books about the topic, and I’ll list some as I come up with the names. We also try to make these things fun. They started helping with the composting when they were four – here is a video we made of them composting. Because they got to help with the composting, they got so excited, that they started telling people all about composting. Many of the things I save, like toilet paper rolls and plastic food containers that aren’t recyclable end up in their craft bin. Sometimes I just set the bin out with glue, markers and stickers and let them create things. It’s wonderful for them, and I feel like these things are getting an extra life.

My strongest recommendation is to talk to your children, explain what you’re doing and why. Then, ask them questions to see what they retained. Having to answer questions is a great way to help retain memory. You’ll be amazed at what they learn at an early age!

Happy Greening!

What tips do you have on teaching your children to be green?

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