Dig in this Earth Day

Filed under: Going Green

True stewardship requires good habits. Luckily for me, good habits can be learned. In my own adventures in parenting, imitation seems to be the most reliable teacher. That has its drawbacks: I no longer swear, which I used to enjoy. But it also forces me to be a better person, someone worthy of modeling. Today, of all days, we all can show our kids what it means to cherish the earth. Be a quiet guide and they'll follow in your steady footprints.

There are countless simple ways to get started. For all children, "doing" will stay with them far longer than "learning." That's especially true for young ones, for whom the idea of a threatened planet and dwindling life-giving resources may be overwhelming (I know it is for me). Instead, focus on what good they can do.

Good work is a good start: Plant trees in your town, work in your garden or clean up your local beach. Whatever you do, resist the urge to instruct young children (they won't hear a word you say anyway). Instead, take on the challenge yourself -- and pick one habit to change:

  • Recycle: Everything from paper and plastic to electronics and still-usable gear (try freecycle.com).
  • Banish junk mail: Use mail-stopping services like Tonic to ban junk mail from your box. Then, walk with your kids to the box every day and let them carry the few things you still get home.
  • Reuse: Carry your own coffee cup, water bottle and grocery bags. They soon will, too.
  • Park your car: And walk, ride your bike or take the bus. Start by doing it once a week, if you can.
  • Live locally: Buy what you can from your local farmers market.
  • Veg out: Eat one meat-free meal a week, preferably something your kids can help you prepare.
  • Lighten up: Swap out old light bulbs in favor of CFL ones.
Challenge your older children, who are eager to understand how things work and where they fit in the process, to a Good Earth Habit and see if they can keep it up for a week or longer:

  • Brush their teeth without running water (Use a cupful -- it's like camping!)
  • Time themselves to trim their showering time down to five minutes or less. Allow for more if they like to play in the dirt. (And they should.)
  • Turn off lights every time they leave a room. (It's true: Neither money nor electricity grow on trees.)
Then, treat your family to a movie. "Earth," made by the creators of "Planet Earth," narrated by James Earl Jones and opening today, tells the story three animal families and their journeys across the planet. Disneynature will plant one tree for everyone who buys their tickets online to view the flick through April 28. So far, their new forest stands 500,000 trees strong.

Happy Earth Day, everyone.

Victoria Scanlan Stefanakos is editor of Project Homestead.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.