Going a little greener here and there is not only easier than making huge, unrealistic changes, it's also more likely to instill a lifelong environmentally conscious attitude in your child. Here's tips on how to teach your kids to respect the natural world and live sustainably.
Each year on June 5, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) encourages every person all over the world to celebrate World Environment Day (WED). This global call to respect and preserve our one and only earth is the perfect time to teach your child (and remind yourself) how important it is to "reuse, recycle, and reduce."
After all, before long the future of our planet will be in the hands of the next generation. We must give them the tools they need to ensure that they can take care of it. It will then be a beautiful and safe place on which they - and their children - will be able to live.
As with every successful transformation, taking small steps in the right direction is much more likely to lead to permanent achievement than is making large, sweeping changes that might be difficult for you or your child to sustain in the long run. Therefore, while it might be an ideal goal to buy every organic product on the market, or donate to each organization seeking to save an endangered species, it's not always practical for every family. However, there are many easy and inexpensive ways that you and your child can become "greener" that will not only support a healthier environment but will teach your child the importance of saving the world, making it more likely that he will continue to do so in adulthood.
Beginning when your child is young, show her the importance of caring for and respecting nature. Teach respect for plant life through gardening and for animal life through being kind and gentle to all animals. Talk to your child about endangered species and the reason they are becoming extinct. Take active vacations and day trips to areas that further instill in your child a love of the natural world.
(Browse a list of local nature centers, gardens, and zoos at www.nymetroparents.com/nature.)
Teach your child to turn off the faucet while brushing his teeth, take shorter showers, and tell you about drips that require repair. Model water conservation by waiting until you have a full load before washing laundry or dishes.
Recycle as much as you can.
Teach your child about plastic and paper recycling by reusing shopping bags and taking bottles to recycle. Recycle old toys and household items by having garage sales or giving them away (it's less that will end up in a landfill). Find out the safest way to recycle electronics and take your child with you to the recycling center when you do so.
Recycle paper in your home.
Keep a basket for paper that has a second useable side. Your child can use it for drawing or homework scrap paper. You can use it for shopping lists and notes. Recycle newspapers regularly.
Choose real china and silverware.
It may be easier to use and throw away paper and plastic plates and cups, but it is better for the earth to use permanent dishes, silverware, and glasses. Save paper goods for special occasions, like big parties or barbecues. Take the time to explain to your child why you are making this choice.
Dr. Susan Bartell is a nationally recognized child psychologist, speaker, and award-winning author. Her latest book is "The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask."