Raising "Green" Kids: Families & Educators Offer Kid-Friendly Environmental Tips (page 2)
San Mateo mother of three Shannon Durnin will be walking her kids to a neighborhood school when her son starts kindergarten this fall. “It’s hard to load up the kids, drive to (school in) another city, unload, reload, and drive home,” she says. “Not to mention you’re using a ton of gas. We love walking, the kids need the exercise, and they’ll be able to see that walking can get you there too—they won’t be completely dependent on a car.”
Between the rising cost of gas, record summer temperatures, and news about global warming, more families are concerned about environmental issues. Families are thinking about how to reduce their impact on the environment—and how to get their kids involved.
“(Children) need to be told that things aren’t as good as they can be and they should start taking action,” says Martha Cueva, program education director of Centro VIDA/BAHIA. “If we do it, then they will want to do it too.”
Parents and educators talk about ways kids and families can make environmentally friendly changes and get active on environmental issues.
Talk about environmental issues in a child-friendly way
Chula Vista mom Mariana Lopez reminds her children to “recycle paper because it comes from trees” and not to throw away batteries because “they get people sick.”
“We work on trying not to be pessimistic and focus on what we can do,” adds Cherene Fillingim-Selk, BAHIA parent and Berkeley mother of two. “For a long time, my nine-year-old son worried about global warming and (that) a flood would come. You can point out, ‘This is why we take our own bags to the grocery store,’ or ‘This is why we hang our clothes to dry.’” (Also see Bookbasket: Caring for the earth for some children’s books about environmental issues.)
Get kids involved
“I always try to tell (my kids) to turn off the lights and appliances,” says Lopez. Her seven-year-old son takes out the recycling and her kids brush their teeth with a cup of water, rather than leaving the water running. After attending a training by the Environmental Health Coalition, she uses less toxic cleaners—such as baking soda for bleach because chlorine irritates her son’s skin.
Durnin says she recently had her son and his friend fill two small plastic water bottles with rocks. Then she put the bottles in the toilet tank, to save water by using less to flush. “It was great,” she says. “It gave the kids something to do and they were really curious (about) why I put bottles of rocks into the tank.” She also explained why it was important to use less water.
Chula Vista mom Silvia León says her children collect water from washing their hands in a bucket and use it to water the plants. They also use paper out of the recycling box for drawing. León’s mother was involved with the Environmental Health Coalition, so making environmentally friendly changes has “become a tradition,” she adds.
Buy healthy food …
Fillingim-Selk shops at Centro VIDA/BAHIA’s weekly farmers’ market, she says, to support local farmers and get high-quality produce. “(It) really helps me to encourage healthy eating at home,” she adds. And locally grown, organic grains, beans, and vegetables mean less pollution from pesticides, artificial fertilizer, and long-distance trucking.
But, Lopez says, “eating healthy, organic food is expensive” for her family, and she has to “go to many stores” to get what she needs.
… Or grow your own
Children are in charge of Centro VIDA/BAHIA’s vegetable garden—they learn to plant seeds, water, and watch them grow. The garden has a veggie bed for salsa, one for salad, and another for herbs. The children eat the produce at meals and snacks.
“A child that is capable of taking care of a vegetable garden is more likely to be (respectful) and possess empathy,” says Cueva. “Children see how nature works and how to be responsible for what we have.”
Fillingim-Selk’s family grows their own organic vegetables, which helps the family live better, she says. Her seven-year-old daughter, Leah, “planted and harvested radishes and had her own little radish sale,” she adds.
Get active on environmental issues
When Chula Vista residents called on the city to adopt new global warming regulations (see Grassroots Snapshot: Parents help win Chula Vista global warming plan), León and Lopez brought their children to city council meetings. “When they see a very strong mom speak out, (they will) have more confidence in themselves and follow my example,” says Lopez.
León says she and her kids pick up trash around their neighborhood, and she talks to them about recycling. Fillingim-Selk’s family participates in an annual beach clean-up—it’s become a family ritual and has given her children a better sense of responsibility and a stronger connection to the world around them, she says.
In Antioch, another Bay Area city, more than 75 residents came out for a May clean-up, says police Lt. Rick Marchoke—different parts of the city will be cleaned up each month. “Collectively, we can make a difference,” he adds.
—Reporting by Ruth Young contributed to this story.
Reprinted with the permission of the Action Alliance for Children.
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