There are a lot of easy ways to get started, like pledging to reuse things around the house, donating items you no longer need and eating in a more eco-conscious way. We also checked in with Tara McNerney, executive director of City Blossoms(Opens in a new window), for her ideas. This Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization, and one of our 1% for the Planet partners, collaborates with communities and schools to create interactive kid-driven learning gardens. Involving young people in environmentally friendly practices at home and in their community can have a lifelong impact. “Children will become stewards of their environment if they are given the opportunity to develop a relationship with it”, says McNerney. “This will lead to a life-long dedication to preserving our natural environment.”
1. Nix Plastic
Too many single-use food containers and bags end up in the landfill. But instead of reaching for one of those, pack your kids’ school snacks or your family’s on-the-go food items into reusable containers. You can also swear off single-use plastic for good (almost) by keeping reusable silicone lids on hand to seal bowls and containers as an alternative to disposable plastic wrap.
2. Reuse Bags
Even though you carry your own shopping bags to the store, a few plastic ones always end up at home. Keep them handy in a bin by the front door so the kids can grab them to fill with trash they spy while walking the dog or heading to school each day. Bonus: Greening up the streets and reusing bags is a two-fer new year’s resolution.
3. Find Nature Close to Home
Take time every day to appreciate your natural environment, even on a small scale. “A meaningful experience in nature doesn't necessarily mean a big trip to a national park,” says McNerney. “Local trips to a garden, river, or even just stopping to enjoy the falling leaves or snow outside their window can encourage children to unleash their natural curiosity and affinity for their environment.”
4. Join a Community Garden – or Start One
What kid doesn’t love to dig in the dirt? Community gardening programs focus on teaching children about growth cycles, healthy living and protecting the environment, while also providing them with a safe space to explore the great outdoors. Many schools are also incorporating gardening programs into their curriculum. Students can talk to their science teacher or the administration about how a garden could be created at their school, and bring their passion and excitement to the conversation. “School administrators and families will be motivated by students with a dream!” says McNerney. “While all these adults will help the gardening project along, children should remember that they are the leaders and the garden should be their vision.”
5. Adopt Meatless Monday
Cutting out meat as well as dairy just one day a week can have a big environmental impact. According to the Environmental Working Group(Opens in a new window), if everyone in the U.S. skipped eating meat and cheese once a week it would be the equivalent of taking 7.6 million cars off the road, or driving 91 BILLION miles less. Eating fewer animal-based proteins is beneficial to the environment and also a great opportunity to expand your family’s dinner repertoire. Kid-friendly meatless meals could include tofu tacos, bean burritos or rice bowls topped with roasted veggies. And if you can plant and cultivate the vegetables as a family, either at a community garden or in your own yard, kids will have the added excitement of seeing that seed they buried in the dirt grow into the zucchini or carrot now on their plate. “We've found that cooking with garden produce is a joyful and impactful way for children to connect with the natural world,” says McNerney.
6. Have a Leftovers Night
Most of us likely have a few leftover items from dinners lurking in storage containers in the back of the fridge or freezer. Since everyone loves a buffet, reheat the options and call the meal “The Week in Review.”
7. Hang Laundry to Dry
Clothes dryers in this country use a significant amount of energy and emit millions of metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to the Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences(Opens in a new window). But a good ol’ drying rack used just once a week does right by our fragile planet. Have your kids hang up their socks and underwear to dry overnight and give your dryer a break.
8. Turn off the Lights and Use Less Water
Deputize your kids to save energy in the house by assigning a couple of rooms per child. Their mission: Make sure the lights are turned off each time they leave an area (and they can remind others to help out too). Another eco-friendly new year’s resolution you can make with your kids is to not waste water, and encourage them to shut off the faucet while brushing teeth and take shorter showers.
9. Try a Clothing Swap
Older kids might not be keen to wear a friend’s cast-offs, but smaller children don’t really notice where their T-shirts are coming from. Get together with neighbors and friends to swap kids’ clothes for bigger sizes, rather than buying fast fashion every time your tot outgrows a sweatshirt.
10. Donate Household Items
Old toys, books, kitchen utensils and more can be given to worthy causes like shelters, immigrant support agencies and other community programs. Your used household goods will find a new life in someone else’s home—and your kids will feel good about helping the community.
Looking for more fun projects that involve kids around the house? Here are some easy ways your kids can help in the kitchen.