November 15th is America Recycles Day. If your kids don't know the basics, now is a perfect time to introduce them to the small concepts that can make a big difference.
Whether it's talking about what goes into the trash, or learning how to make compost, teaching kids the principles of recycling starts with the parent's own behavior, says Tessa Hills, president of Kids for Saving Earth.
"If you start by doing things a certain way, children will follow your lead," Tessa says. "Once they're used to (environmentally-friendly) practices, they won't know any other way to be."
Kids for Saving Earth was created in 1989 by Tessa and her husband William, after their 11-year-old son Clint died from cancer. They thought Clint, who started a club for Earth-saving actions in his elementary school, would approve of their non-profit organization. They now provide "Education into Action" curriculum to interested instructors and parents nationwide, and offers CDs, green supplies and other products geared toward children.
Tessa suggests five fun ways to teach your kids about recycling:
- Swap everything.
We all like to hang onto things that we love, but if we want new things, we usually have to let go of the old. So go through your stuff and pick out what you don't need anymore. Just make sure it's still in good, usable shape. Then get together with your friends and swap everything. You'll get something new, and be able to share something you once loved with a friend.
- Reuse a napkin week. Instead of using paper napkins, pick out a different colored washcloth for every member of your family. For one week, keep the washcloths in a drawer in the kitchen, and take them out for use at each meal. Wash when needed. Who knows? After a week, you may get your family to stop buying disposable paper products altogether.
- Create less trash. Ask your mom or dad to use reusable sandwich boxes that can be washed—instead of disposable plastic bags—when they pack your lunch for school. Tell them to skip the bottled water and buy stainless steel drinking bottles that can be reused.
- Throw a green birthday party. Plan your birthday party (or any party) with eco-actions. E-mail your invitations, serve organic food and use washable plates instead of disposable ones. Suggest your friends bike, walk or carpool with their parents to the party, and that gifts be wrapped with recycled paper or reusable bags.
- Conserve resources. Keep extra cups in your car, so that when your parents drive through your favorite fast food place, you can order just one large drink and split it up in the extra cups. It'll save money that just might end up in your allowance the following week.
Share some of your own tips for making green actions fun at home!