Discover all sorts of fresh ideas for sprinkling more meaning into your kids' parties and other celebrations.
This Earth Day, kids will rally via social media to shine a light on the victims of climate change. Here’s a chance to show our young ones that the effects aren’t just environmental—they’re also economic.
You say no to paper and plastic; up-cycle vintage furniture; insist on efficiency when heating and cooling your home—yeah, you’d say your family is pretty green. But the scope of what’s happening to our planet is much larger than what’s happening in our individual houses. On April 22, Earth Day will once again broaden our perspectives.
You can start by calculating how green your family really is. Add it up with the Earth Day Network’s Footprint Calculator. “It provides perspective on your life versus someone living elsewhere around the world,” says Christine Robertson, director of education at Earth Day Network, the non-profit group that organizes Earth Day. “The Footprint Calculator helps kids understand why Earth Day, founded in 1970, even matters.”
Then get your kids involved in this year’s initiative: The Face of Climate Change. “Kids are the intended audience,” says Robertson. The program is drawing on kids around the world via social media. Between now and April 22, Earth Day Network is collecting and displaying images of people, animals and places directly affected or threatened by climate change. The organization has mobilized its network of Earth Day partners to help collect the images. But, they’re also asking ordinary people—like your kids—to become “climate reporters” and send in their own pictures and stories that show The Face of Climate Change.
“The goal is to personalize the massive challenge, unite kids through photos and social media, help people understand global climate change, and turn efforts into a call for action,” Robertson explains. By becoming a climate change reporter and submitting photos, kids can share what’s going on in their own backyards and better understand what’s happening in a town halfway across the globe. “Every photo kids submit will be seen in places all over the world,” says Robertson. “The more photos and more conversations kids have, the stronger their voice. Kids are next in line to deal with the effects of climate change. It’s important to get them engaged and involved.”
On and around Earth Day, an interactive digital display of all the images will be shown at thousands of events around the world, including next to federal government buildings in countries that produce the most carbon pollution. The Face of Climate slideshow is available online, so anyone can view or show it on a laptop or smart phone at their own Earth Day celebration.
Getting active on Earth Day is a great way to inspire your family to live green all year long. “Earth Day is never enough,” says Robertson. Every day is an opportunity to improve.
Here are 10 easy tips for parents and kids to continue their Earth Day efforts throughout the year:
1. Small Steps Lead to Big Strides. What is climate change? Why does it matter? How can kids make an impact? These frequently asked questions are answered on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website designed just for kids. It offers ideas for making small changes with huge impact. Review the site together.
2. Monetize It. Walk, bike, carpool, or take the bus to school to save gas costs and reduce emissions. Turn off lights, electronics and water faucets when you leave the room. Calculate how much money is saved and sock that stash of loot in an interest-bearing bank account. Kids aren’t just saving the planet; they’ll be building personal wealth.
3. Turn Trash Into Cash. Learn about Bottle Bills available in 10 American states. Kids earn about 5 cents per bottle, turning trash into cash. “Recycling bottles and cans is a great way for kids to do good and raise money for sports teams, a special charity or personal items, such as a new video game,” says Robertson. “Not every body takes advantage of this.”
4. Unplug Vampire Electronics. “Go around the house and identify ‘vampire’ electronics and appliances—products that draw energy even when they are not turned on. Unplug these idle devices, and use energy-saving power strips with an automated shutdown feature to prevent sneaky energy draws.
5. Eat Sustainable, Locally Grown Foods. This important action item helps support local farmers and ensures freshness and quality. And, it “lowers the carbon footprint of your food, especially since some things come from the other side of the country, or even worse, another country all together,” says Pam Denholm, owner of South Shore Organics, a family-run business in Duxbury, Mass., that brings farm-fresh, locally-grown organic produce right to your doorstep.
6. Shop at Farmer’s Markets. In 1995, there were about 1,500 farmer’s markets in the United States; last year that number jumped to 11,000, according to Todd Greenfield, founder of America’s Farmstand, Stonington, CT, which supports sustainable growing methods and networks family farms across America directly to consumers looking for farm to table foods. “This means there are farmers in your town and leads to a host of other discoveries, such as how temperature and soil affects what can be grown locally. Learning about soil and how foods grow teaches kids the importance of climate control beyond Earth Day.” Plus, food eaten from farms actually tastes better. “The taste of eating local is so much better,” says Greenfield. “There’s flavor and richness. We’ve become numb to how produce should taste because it loses flavor and nutrients after sitting in large warehouses for weeks at time.”
7. Visit a Neighborhood Farm. “The average farm is multi-generational and has deep, interesting history,” says Greenfield. “There’s a nostalgic feeling on a farm that reminds us of when times were a little simpler.” Instead of a weekend trip to the movies or doing other indoor, sensory over-load activities, roam around local farms, meet the farmers working the land, ask questions about a farm’s heritage, and buy fresh foods from their farm stand. Pause for a picnic, or bring home seasonal fruits for pies or vegetables for dips and dinner. “Visiting farms also helps kids see where food actually comes from,” says Greenfield.
8. Grow Your Own. “Growing your own food is the greenest thing you can do,” says Denholm. Not only do you reap delicious rewards and eliminate shipping footprints, but backyard gardening reduces packaging in landfills. “If you grow your own, the produce isn’t packaged at all—there’s no need for plastic clamshells, labels or glue.”
9. Compost. “Food scraps and yard waste currently make up 20 to 30 percent of what we throw away, and should be composted instead. Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas,” according to the EPA. Build a compost box in the backyard as a fun weekend project and encourage kids to discuss the science of composting, worms and soil turnover at school with their teachers and classmates. Ask schools to create a community compost bin and garden, if space and resources are limited.
10. Can and Preserve Foods. Teach kids about the benefits of root cellars and the science of canning and preserving foods that are packed with off the vine flavor during the winter doldrums. What are the environmental benefits of walking to the pantry for self-canned peaches instead of driving to the store? Add up the total carbon footprint savings and watch your planet and net worth bloom.
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