“Me? Save the planet? All by myself?” That was my daughter’s reaction when she heard a talking head on TV suggesting that we try to save the environment. It was pretty cute when my wife and I heard the comment pop out of our child’s mouth. But after we explained that our daughter didn’t have to do it by herself, I wondered if what she said was the way most people feel when thinking about protecting the environment.
It does seem like a daunting task, doesn’t it? It certainly did to my daughter, and it resonated with me. I decided to do something about it.
While exploring what we could do to be better stewards of the planet, our family decided to change our Monday night tradition of “family fun time.” My wife and I initiated family fun time when the kids were young as a weekly opportunity to talk about values and ethics. It became a happy habit in our house. Each week, I would make up stories that featured a young brother and sister, Elliott and Lucy, who were much like our kids. I would leave each story or dilemma as a cliffhanger. If the story was about honesty, for example, and Elliott found a $5 bill beside a lady who he later learned had just dropped the money, the story would end with the question, “What do you think Elliott should do?” The kids would jump in with their ideas, and a discussion was born.
I thought the discussion time could transition to focusing on environmental issues, and I got to work looking up statistics and green topics that might appeal to the kids. Fortunately there is no shortage of information on the subject. We found that exchanging ideas and plans as a family made us feel like a team. The following are some enjoyable suggestions you might want to adopt in your family to lead more environmentally responsible lives.
Are your kids on a sports team? Do they occasionally have away games? Why not talk to your kids to see how many of their teammates can fit in your car? Saving the planet by carpooling, or ride-sharing, has many benefits. Ride-sharing reduces traffic congestion and conserves energy. Less cars filled with more people means less air pollution, and that means clean air that permits us to live healthier lives. Oh, and carpooling ups the funny factor with jokes! A car full of people is a great place to laugh.
Having Meatless Mondays
Here’s another fun one. Start by talking about herds of cows. If you can, see if you can drive past a cow pasture. If not, a picture online will do. Here’s where the giggles begin. Bring up the topic of gas. Yes, gas— as in methane, toots, flatulence, good-old cow farts. Kids love this type of talk. Next explain that cows actually pump more gas emissions into the air than cars do. By cutting back how much meat we eat, we can make a dent in all that gas. Why not try a meatless dinner one day a week? Monday is a nice choice because it sounds good. Meatless Mondays. Try it.
Sometimes Old Man Winter and his chills creep up on us as we’re engaged in indoor activities this time of year. When you feel that chill, try to resist the urge to crank up the thermostat a few degrees. Keep a sweater and slippers nearby that you can throw on when you start to feel chilly. This can become a family habit. Authorize your kids to become chilly police. When they see mom or dad reaching for the thermostat, the chilly police can prompt their parents to wear some winter gear instead of pumping up the heat. Who doesn’t like playing cop? And by putting on a sweater, you can save 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per year.
Stuffing Your Stuff
Kids adore stuff. Heck, adults adore stuff. But did you know that the average American consumes twice as much as they did 50 years ago? It’s true. The problem is, all this consumed stuff eventually ends up unused, unloved and in a landfill. Why not go on a stuff hunt as a family and take stock? Do you actually need all those DVDs, “collector” stuffed toys and trading cards? Don’t throw them out, however. Find a charity or other way to have the stuff reused somehow. That way you can explain to your kids that other people will be able to enjoy these things, and our landfills won’t be full of unnecessary items. Hey, you might even make a few dollars. To assist in explaining the concept of why we have tons of stuff, and how to deal with it, watch an entertaining and educational video at www.storyofstuff.com with your family.
Being good to the environment doesn’t have to feel like work. And it shouldn’t, especially when kids are involved. Keep things light and nurture a team feeling when it comes to implementing ideas to meet your family’s environmental objectives. No one likes to feel like the only one trying. After my daughter realized it wasn’t completely up to her to save the environment, she was happy to say: “I get it. We’re all in this together.” Truer words were never uttered.