23 May Reduce Your Family’s Carbon Footprint: And Get The Kids Involved!
If you’ve got children in your home who are old enough to read, chances are they are already keenly aware of the climate crisis and other environmental problems the world is facing. They may even be asking questions, like what are carbon emissions, and what can we do to help reduce air pollution?
Children today are eager to help fight environmental problems, even if they are a bit too young to easily articulate the issues. Many just know the “planet is sick,” and they are anxious to get involved and help make things better. Studies show that kids as young as seven and eight are experiencing considerable anxiety about the Earth’s well-being, so getting them to participate in your family’s contributions to eco-solutions is a wonderful way to help them contribute to fixing those issues. Here are some ideas for reducing your family’s carbon footprint, getting the children involved and engaged, and even having a little fun in the process.
1. Consider getting a composter.
If your family is large, this takes some dedication, but composting leftover food scraps is a great lesson in table-to-earth cycles that the kids can help with. Teach them how to separate the leftovers at mealtime – what can go in the composter, what goes into recycling, and what has to go in the garbage? Doing this makes everyone aware of just how much waste the family produces, and how some of that waste can be turned into rich compost for the garden
2. Eliminate “faraway” produce.
Children often don’t realize the great distances some food travels to reach our dinner tables. Explain that every vehicle on the road produces emissions, and those emissions harm the environment. As a family, choose one food you all love (lychee, perhaps?) and drop it from your weekly shopping list. A small sacrifice like this demonstrates that helping the planet is as much about what we don’t do, or buy, as what we do.
3. Tell them the drive-through for fast food is out – even in poor weather.
Idling cars contribute enormous amounts of carbon monoxide to the atmosphere. By parking and going in to order your family’s favorite Friday night takeout, you show the kids that you, too, are willing to give up a minor convenience like sitting in a warm car to help the Earth’s air.
4. Give up single-use plastic bottles!
When you’re talking with your children about recycling, stress the importance of lessening the number of items that go into the garbage. Give each of them a reusable, personalized container for water, juice, and other drinks to take to school or practice. Make it their responsibility to keep their container clean and filled. You may be surprised at how willing they are to ditch the convenience of single-use plastic bottles.
5. Buy everyone a bicycle, and use them.
Commit to going on a family bike ride at least once every weekend, if possible. Encourage the kids to take their bikes to school, or walk if it’s only a few blocks away. In the 1950s, children walked as much as two or three miles, each way, to get to school. Today, most children take the bus, or get a ride with a parent or nanny. We aren’t advocating a return to the days of three mile hikes to a classroom! But walking or riding several blocks, if it is age-appropriate, even in inclement weather, is good for them, and beneficial for the planet. Again, you may be surprised at how quickly they get on board with this idea.
6. Encourage climate-themed science projects for school.
Children are frightened less if they understand an issue, so encourage them to delve into a slice of climate science for an assignment. Do a little advance research and suggest a few topics that might spark their interest: how is the warming planet affecting polar bears up north, for instance? Or why does cutting down trees in Brazil matter to the ozone? There are an infinite number of ideas out there!
7. Broach the idea of a gift-free holiday.
This is a big ask, particularly if the children are young, so be careful how you bring it up. But perhaps the whole family can get on board with celebrating a birthday or another holiday, with no presents. Instead, make a donation to a worthy cause or adopt and support an endangered animal (a snow leopard, maybe?) in the family’s name. One mom we know was shocked when her children raised this with her; instead of more toys and clothes, they wanted to make a donation to a small remote school for girls’ education. Mom and dad agreed immediately!
Reducing your family’s carbon footprint is not as daunting a task as it may seem at first glance. The climate crisis, warming seas and animal extinctions, among many other environmental problems, can feel overwhelming as if there is nothing one individual can do that will make a difference. But that simply isn’t so; as a family, every decision you make in this regard makes a profound difference and can help heal the planet for generations to come.
Your children know, instinctively, that they may not have created the problems, but it is up to their generation to help fix them. They want the planet to be healthy and strong, and they want clean air to breathe and unpolluted water to swim in and drink. Tackling these problems as a family empowers them, and it can be a fun way for you to get involved in their world. Choose just one of these ideas for reducing your carbon footprint, and your kids may surprise you – they may soon want to try all of them, and more.