The behavioral patterns, learning methods, and daily life practices we form in childhood stick with us through adulthood. It is important as parents to teach your children how to be proud environmental stewards and advocates from a young age. If your children experience “green living” firsthand, it will not be a foreign concept that will have to be taught later in life; instead, they will view an eco-friendly lifestyle as the only reasonable way of living.
Preparing the Home
It is never too early to protect your child from environmental harm. In fact, you can start before you even conceive. Preparing your home to raise a child in a clean and sustainable fashion takes some time and attention. Nearly everything available in big-box stores needs to be researched for harmful chemicals and manufacturing processes. Start with reading labels and looking into company practices to become an educated consumer.
Taking the time to do so before you have a child may be the only time you have — free time is much more limited once you have children in the home. There are a number of changes you can make in preparation of bringing a child home:
Make the switch from plastic to glass wherever possible in your kitchen.
Convert to organic cotton or bamboo for bed and bath linens, as well as in your wardrobe, wherever possible.
Change out your cleaning supplies and remove any harmful chemicals. Replace them with natural cleaning products (many of which you can make at home and mix with essential oils).
Once your home has been updated for greener and healthier living, you will be better able to attend to your own personal care while pregnant.
Practices While Pregnant
Your child’s education can begin with the foundation built in the womb and through a healthy pregnancy. How you treat your own body and what you surround yourself with all directly affect your baby. Be aware of what kind of products you are using on your hair, skin, and nails while pregnant to avoid and harmful chemicals being absorbed and passed along to your baby. Avoiding excess sugars and processed foods will give your child the benefit of not craving such things once they are able to consume other foods than milk.
Once the baby is born, attempt to expose the baby to natural sounds and landscapes as often as possible. Research is showing exposure to small amounts of dirt and bacteria at a young age can help to strengthen a child’s immune system. Early exposure to nature may also influence your child’s affection for it as they grow older.
Lead By Example
Leading by example is the best way you can teach your kids how to live a green and sustainable lifestyle. Instruction without action lead to lost words on a child. If they catch you throwing out items rather than looking for ways to repurpose or recycle them, you’ll send the wrong message to your children. It is a signal to them that it is not necessary to abide by practicing what you preach 100% of the time.
Children look towards adults as mentors and examples of how they should live. Be sure to ask questions when purchasing items at the store: Where and how was it made? Is it recyclable? If you are at the grocery store, is it organic? What are your other options?
Your kids will even be paying attention to how you drive. It is useful if you drive a hybrid car such as a Prius or Tesla, that enables you to see how much more gasoline and energy is used by driving with a lead foot. Teaching your teen to drive can serve as another valuable lesson to how simple actions can have a large impact over time.
Here are some other ways you can lead by example:
Being an educated recycler! Wash out your containers, know the differences between the kinds of plastics, and don’t put your shredded paper in your curbside container.
Lower your carbon footprint by walking to school, work and the grocery store with your children.
Reduce your energy use within the household by turning off the lights when you leave a room and keeping your thermostat set at a reasonable temperature throughout the year.
Practice green playtime by getting outdoors and away from technology or by crafting with repurposed items. It is important to remember that instilling a love of green play should be fun and not considered to be “work.”
It is perfectly alright if you are not necessarily a lover of the great outdoors. Your reasons for raising an eco-conscious child may differ from others, but the benefits they will reap are the same. What matters is you are putting in the effort to educate your children and raise them in an environment that will benefit the health of the planet rather than hurt it.
Even after your children have graduated high school and moved away, they remain your children. They will call you for their favorite recipes and for life advice. Help them to continue to make green choices even after they leave home. They may ask you about home renovations and whether or not it is worth the cost to install energy-efficient windows or to invest in solar. Walking them through the choices they have will help them to make a sound and educated choice that serves both them and the environment well.
Following this advice, you may one day be a proud grandparent, rewarded with seeing your children raise their own kids in a similar fashion. Creating the next generation of stewards is a radical act of protest against environmental degradation. Seeing it continue to occur through multiple generations is the most you can hope for as a grandparent.
From conception to adulthood, you can do your part by raising children who love and care for the planet. Instead of teaching them to fear climate change, focus on the positive outcomes of their actions. As an eco-conscious parent, you are also being an active participant in creating positive change in the environment through your offspring.