Earth Day: Everyday Activities for Kids
Filed under: Books for Kids
Earth Day comes only once a year, but in our neighbourhood many families are making small changes to honour the Earth every day. If your family is looking for inspiration and practical ideas to bring Earth Day home, every day, look no further than Elin Kelsey, an environmental consultant and author. Elin says she was "increasingly worried about the way kids are bombarded with doom and gloom messages about their future," and the result is the fabulous and hopeful Not Your Typical Book About the Environment. Illustrated with cartoons and packed with fascinating information, my own kids couldn't put it down. Come to think of it, neither could I.
I spoke to Elin about making changes big and small, and re-connecting with nature.
Carrie: It feels like there are so many things we could or should be doing to live more sustainably ... can you recommend one or two changes that kids and families could make to get started?
Elin: A super easy thing for kids to do is to pack a "waste free" lunch. Get a reusable bag instead of paper sacks. Buy the big jar of apple sauce rather than individual servings and spoon it into a reusable container. Wrap your sandwich in a cloth napkin. Make yourself bring home all the garbage from your lunch, and you'll be amazed how quickly you can get it down to nothing.
Another easy thing, which lots of kids do already, is to swap video games and DVDs rather than buying new.Carrie: Your book is full of hope for the future. What were some of the most surprising innovations you learned about in your research?
Elin: I loved discovering the new breed of "crowd farmers" who are designing ways to harness green energy generated by human bodies. A special dance floor at a club in Rotterdam transforms the energy of the dancers themselves into electricity to run the light shows. Push the revolving doors in a train station in the Netherlands and you'll help light up the entrances. Kids playing on a round-about in Africa create enough energy to pump clean drinking water to a community well. Just imagine the energy we could harvest from billions of people on the planet.
Carrie: Are there activities that kids and parents could do together that would remind us of how connected we are to nature, and of the power we have to make changes for the better?
Elin: I believe there's a big connection between sustainability and time. It's harder to live a "one planet" lifestyle when you are rushing from soccer to piano lessons to homework, and it's more difficult to feel connected to nature when you're zipping around in cars. It takes longer to get places by bike or by walking, but the more you give yourself that time, the more you'll all find yourselves enjoying the feel of the breeze, the moments of conversation with your kids, the peacefulness of bird song. Rather than adding more activities that include nature, get a good pair of boots and real rain coats for you and the kids, and go outside and explore the puddles next time it rains. You'll be surprised how fun doing "nothing" together outside can be--and it's great for the planet. Studies show that spending time outdoors with someone who loves nature is one of the best ways to raise kids who will love and conserve the Earth.
Putting up bee houses you can watch from your kitchen table is a simple, fun way to see the connections between the food you eat and to help the bees that pollinate it for you. There's a great cartoon strip in Not Your Typical Book About the Environment that shows the surprising connections between bees and burgers and world peace! (Click here for instructions on building bee houses.)
Carrie: Finally, what are you doing to celebrate Earth Day?
Elin: This Earth Day, I'll celebrate with a dinner picnic in a wildflower meadow with a group of families.
Not Your Typical Book About the Environment, by Elin Kelsey, with illustrations by Clayton Hammer, is published by Owlkids, and is available at bookstores and online.
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.