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Raise Your Kids to be Sustainable Citizens

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In an age of video games, iPads, and the Internet, how do we teach kids the value of our natural environment? Going green is a trend that’s hard enough to follow even without the challenges of raising children. But sustainability is all about the future, right? Teaching our kids to be eco-friendly is more than just teaching them healthy habits. It’s preparing them to live on a planet that—now more than ever—needs a generation of responsible caretakers to step up to the plate.

1. Take it outdoors
There’s no better way to appreciate nature than to see its beauty firsthand. Schedule regular outdoor time for your kids, whether that’s playing in the backyard or taking trips to some of America’s national treasures, like the Grand Canyon, the Great Lakes, or the Appalachian Mountains. Visiting state and national parks is a great way for kids to see how people work together to conserve our natural resources.

2. Connect the dots
Educate your child about the small things that affect your daily lives—such as where your food comes from, how electricity is produced, and where you get your water. For example, if your water comes from a nearby river, what are some ways you can help keep that river clean? Does your favorite fruit come from a farm nearby or far away? How does it get to your home? When kids learn early on that changes in the environment can directly affect their lives, it’s easier to understand the importance of going green.

3. Volunteer
Now that your child understands the value of eco-friendly living, it’s time to put that awareness into action. Some easy ways to improve your local environment are to plant trees or pick up trash at a nearby park. As kids get older, they can join organizations that maintain parks and wildlife refuges, install solar panels, or research environmental problems. Volunteer work doesn’t have to be nature-oriented to be sustainable, either. Look into food drives, disaster relief programs, tutoring, health education, or pet fostering—because supporting your community is a large part of building a better environment.

4. Make recycling a state of mind
Recycling is an easy concept for most kids to grasp. Even small children can gather scrap paper or sort bottles and cans. Learning that things can be reused is a lesson that reaches far beyond the recycling bin, though. Have your kids sort through their old toys and clothes, and then give away the ones they no longer use. Once you’ve cleared house, try shopping at thrift stores whenever possible. Thrifting is a fun way for kids to understand how their donated belongings come full circle—not to mention it’s better for both your wallet and the environment.

Sometimes, it’s a scary thought that our kids will one day be tasked with taking care of the earth. Just remember that raising an environmentally conscious child starts with the small things—appreciating what we have, asking questions, and taking care of our surroundings. Most importantly, make sure to set an example for responsible behavior. Your actions speak louder than words when it comes to both parenting and going green.

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