Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Helping Kids Keep Their "Green Glow"

--Feature: "Green Like Me w/ Robin Shreeves"--

So this going green thing that my family has been doing for the past year and a half or so really started with one of my kids. My oldest son, who was six at the time, wanted to know why we were ruining the world by driving an SUV. “It’s not fair,” we were informed. “The world is going to be ruined by the time I grow up because of you guys.” Yep, six years old.

What were we to do? Like good guilt-ridden parents, we took it to heart. Traded in the SUV for a Prius. We now love the hybrid car. Our other car, a mini van, rarely ever gets out of the driveway. We started using cloth napkins and rags instead of paper napkins and towels. We got serious about recycling and Freecyling. We started walking the four whole blocks to school more often instead of taking the car.

I began to write about my family’s efforts, and my whole family was really excited about it – at first. Then the green glow wore off, and I realized my kids had moved on.

I shouldn’t be surprised. I didn’t raise my boys, now 5 and 8, to be environmentally conscious. From the time I put the first disposable diaper on my oldest son’s adorable little butt, I started teaching bad habits.

So now I’m trying to retrain them. It’s very interesting to realize that kids that young can be so set in their ways. I realize they’re going to need some help and encouragement from me to make being green a way of life now that the glow is gone.

  • Making it convenient for them is the first step. I realized that they do art in the basement but my paper recycling bin is in the kitchen. So, brilliant me, I put a paper recycling bin near their drawing table.
  • I talk about green in my conversations with them. We have dinner together every night. In between talk about what they did in school, who has the coolest Tech Deck, and who can come over tomorrow after school, I slip in something like “The Jonas Brothers are going green.” Sometimes, just sometimes, they take the bait and we get a conversation going.
  • I involve them in little things. My five year old has the responsibility to grab the reusable bags before we leave for the grocery store. I usually have one of the boys run around the house making sure all lights are off before we leave. The last one using the computer that they share needs to turn it completely off for the night. Both boys are responsible for taking out the recycling on Thursday morning. These little chores help to reinforce that doing the green things is everyone’s responsibility, not just the parents’.
  • I don’t let nurturing the earth take precedence over nurturing my boys. When one of them throws their yogurt container in the trashcan instead of the recycling bin for the 20th time, I don’t yell. I just gently say something like, “Hey kiddo, where are you supposed to put that yogurt cup?”

I try to remember that it took me until I was an adult before I saw the importance of this whole green thing. If I’m patient with my kids, set a good example, and encourage them, I’m confident that they’ll make green living a part of their day-to-day life long before I did.

Robin Shreeves is a New Jersey based freelance writer who has been published in print and extensively online. Her column "Green Like Me" on The Lohasian helps readers new to the Eco-friendly lifestyle by providing simple and easy tips and tricks to "greening" their lives.


Anonymous said...

It's an uphill challenge, to be sure, but you have your head on straight. When I was the age your boys are now, I didn't give a hoot about green issues. In fact, I was obsessed with gasoline-powered speed boats!

It wasn't until acid rain threatened the health of the New England lakes where I used to watch the boats that I thought about green issues, despite my parents' efforts.

Keep at it! Today, I'm as green as they come. I have lived carbon-neutral since 2004 and am a certified global warming presenter, represented by Celebrity Speakers Associates. If I can become a real tree hugger despite my fossilized youth, your boys can, too!

Anonymous said...

They'll get there - it just takes time. Our boys are now pretty good about it, but we still stumble from time to time.

For us, the path was fairly easy - we are a family who tours the world on bicycles. Our boys learned early that those plastic grocery bags were indispensible for protecting our gear from rain, and our lights were run by batteries rather than some "magic-potion" they couldn't see. But still - it's been a battle.

Our boys are now 10 and we are riding from Alaska to Argentina. As we go, we will undoubtably pass through a lot of areas with tons of pollution and ick. We'll use each of those examples as another lesson for the boys - and I'm sure they will grow to be young adults fully aware of the necessity of taking care of our planet.

You can read about our journey at www.familyonbikes.org