8 Ways to Green Childhood

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This story is part of Earth911’s “Green Eight” series, where we showcase eight ways to green your life in various areas.

So, you’ve embraced the green lifestyle and may even be a champion of it. Now you’re ready to share your new-found eco-knowledge with the world. What better place to start than at home, with your own children?

After all, your kids are part of the next environmentally conscious generation, so why not get them started off on a green foot? No matter what age your youngsters are, it’s never too early (or too late!) to show them the green ropes and encourage an eco-friendly childhood.

Photo: Doreen Dotto/Wikimedia

It's never too early to teach your child green habits such as recycling and eating healthy. Photo: Doreen Dotto/Wikimedia

1. Use Fewer Diapers

If your child isn’t potty trained, help save the environment one diaper at a time by using fewer disposable diapers. You can do this the old-fashioned way by solely using cloth diapers, which can be washed and reused, or you can use fewer disposable diapers in general by implementing Elimination Communication (EC).

Also known as infant or baby potty training, EC involves training your baby to communicate with you when they need to go, so you can take them to the real toilet every now and then, thus reducing their dependency on disposable diapers. You’ll still use diapers – but you’ll use them less frequently.

2. Encourage (and Practice) Green Eating Habits

Reduce the amount of packaging waste from pre-made foods by making meals at home, and turn family dinners into a chance to cook your favorite organic or fresh food recipes. If possible, make your baby food from scratch – it’s healthier for baby and saves on excess waste from cardboard, glass, plastic and more. And if you’re really ambitious, consider starting a family garden. No matter its size, it will encourage your kids to appreciate their food and the earth it comes from.

3. Use “Green Bucks”

For older children, the concept of “Green Bucks” helps teach them about two types of green: money and the environment. Similar to an allowance, Green Bucks are given to kids as a reward, but instead of being used on the latest toy, they represent a set amount of money that is donated in their name to an environmentally-friendly charity of their choice.

Photo: Jon Pallbo/Wikimedia

Playing outside will help kids learn more about Mother Nature. You might just see real-world examples of recycling while you're out! Photo: Jon Pallbo/Wikimedia

4. Explore The Great Outdoors

To help them learn to appreciate nature, give your kids a chance to really explore it. Do some quick research to find out more about the environmental treasures in your local community, and take advantage of the chance to spend time as a family.

5. Recycle Together

Recycling is one of the most basic green living concepts. But you aren’t born knowing the ins and outs of this eco-habit, and the best place to learn it is at home. Make recycling a family project and get your kids involved. By making it fun using games and activities, your children will not only learn how and what to recycle, but it will become a lifelong habit. Check out the EPA’s Environmental Kids’ Club for recycling ideas, games and activities.

6. Buy Green Toys

One of the best things about being a kid is, of course, toys! You know you’re going to give them a treat every now and then anyways, so why not buy your children environmentally friendly toys? Green toys come in all shapes and sizes, but without chemicals or additives. One place to start your hunt for the latest eco-friendly plaything is Eco Toy Town. Many department stores are also beginning to sell eco-friendly toys and organic baby products for even the littlest member of the family.

7. Earth-Friendly Reads

Just like you read up about the latest eco-topics, it’s never too early to start reading green kids books to your young ones. Not only does it help develop their reading skills, but it can foster early awareness of the environment. For older kids, pass along your favorite green articles or Web sites – it will give you a lot to discuss and provide an opportunity to learn together as well.

8. Set an Example

Perhaps the most important tip for green parents is to teach by example. If you want your kids to learn to be good stewards of Mother Nature, let them see your green efforts in action! And, don’t forget to tell them when you’re being green – pointing out your own efforts will help remind them to be mindful of even the simplest eco-steps, from turning off lights to unplugging electronics when bed time rolls around.

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  1. wow, great post. I think it is so important that parents are the role models. Kids are naturally green, they really care about the nature and animals. We just need to do our part of caring and the kids will love it 🙂

    Cheers, Hans

  2. What about buying used baby clothing, since they’ll grow out of it so quickly anyway? Hand me downs also work for this.

  3. Great resources! I bought some Travel Nappies & PVC Free (Eco Friendly) Placemats/Chalk mat for my kids. The Travel Nappies are a great way to change diapers on the go and for “green toys” the PVC Free reuseable placemat is something I highly recommend…I got mine at Target at the time and the kids love writing all over them as they wait for their food http://www.samandbellie.com/product_p/cm-owl.htm

  4. Thanks everyone for the positive feedback! I’m actually expecting my first child in January and do like all of the ideas that writing this article helped me to find!

  5. PS — We are definitely using the used baby clothes suggestion! It saves some green (cash) too!

  6. Check out g diapers. It is a company that has created a diaper that is biodegradable and reusable. I have not used them but have heard a lot of great things about them. My husbands cousin will be using them soon when their baby is born.

  7. If you are going to garden with kids consider planting a pineapple tomatillo. The plant produces small tomatillos that have a fruity flavor, somewhat like a pineapple. The small yellow fruit is surrounded by a husk that turns yellow-brown when ripe (as opposed to the green unripe husks) so it is easy for kids to tell when they can pick the fruit. The fruit-containing husks will eventually fall to the ground where they can be gathered easily. They store well in their husk too. These fruits are about the size of a small grape, so are probably best for kids over three (to avoid choking). Once established, these plants grow and produce fruit quickly and all summer, so there’s a bit more quick gratification with these plants than traditional gardening.

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