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5 Lessons in Sustainable Living for Kids and Teens

Growing up in the early 1990s, I was among one of the first generations of kids to be fully immersed in the values of being eco-friendly.

As the years went on, being eco-friendly actually became somewhat “cool” in some circles, and teens and college kids have been highly influential in demanding action on climate change and other ecological issues.

However, the trend of eco-aware, responsible youth may be in decline, according to this HuffPost article. So if you’re a parent, it’s never too early to instill values of sustainability into your kids, if only by setting the right example.

1: Don’t Fall Prey to Disposable Culture

Let’s be honest with ourselves: Some of the worst products for the environment are also the most convenient. That’s why they sell so well. Plastic water bottles you can just throw away. Super absorbent paper towels. Prepackaged meals and snacks. However, you can set the right example by avoiding needless packaging and opting for reusable items like the trusty rag instead of paper towels. Or find a really cool kids lunchbox instead of using paper bags.

2: Recycle, and not just the Recyclables

Of course, you should be recycling your soda cans, cardboard packages, and recyclable plastics (which of course you are using minimally). But think bigger. Your daughter can make a big impact by donating a recently-used formal gown to a charity like Project Princess, which will transform 2012’s gowns into 2013 prom dresses. There are charities that accept all kids of items, from DVDs to bicycles and trophies.

3: Vote with Your Wallet for Eco-Friendly Solutions

As you make wise shopping decisions, let your kids understand what you are buying and why. For instance, if you eat meat, be very careful about what you buy, in particular when it comes to seafood. You could be unwittingly playing a part in depleting the supply of the foods you love so much. Just a few other ideas include purchasing used items and buying products with packaging that’s both recyclable and made from recycled materials.

4: Learn to be More Self-Sufficient

I guarantee your small children will absolutely delight in the fruits of their labor (*ahem*) if you make it a family project to install and cultivate a backyard vegetable garden. Even if you create a small garden you’ll save money over store-bought produce. Plus, you’ll reduce the need for produce to be shipped from a far-away farm to your nearby store, reducing air pollution. Finally, simply the act of gardening and watching the results of your efforts gives you and your kids a more visceral connection to nature and to the life cycle.

5: Reduce Power Usage, Including Vampire Power

What with Twilight being so cool these days, it might not strike your pre-teen that something called “vampire power” is actually a bad thing. But it is. And it’s something almost all of us are guilty of. Vampire power is the energy use that happens with appliances and electronics after they’ve been turned off. (The slightly more formal term is “standby power.”) Remember to not only turn off lights and appliances after they’ve been used, but also to invest in a surge protector that can ward off our metaphorical demon.

Ashlee McCullen is a staff writer for Apron Addicts, a website about kitchen fashion and home style. She also writes about mobile technology and self-improvement.

Clay Miller
the authorClay Miller
I am the creator/writer of and I'm an advocate for oceans, beaches, state parks. I enjoy all things outdoors (e.g. running, golf, gardening, hiking, etc.) I am a graduate of the University of Kentucky (Go Wildcats!!). I'm also a huge fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Kentucky.

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