The title sounds daunting, doesn’t it? Raising a child is hard enough, and you won’t find much about raising an ecological child in baby books. But it’s important to raise our children to be their own advocates and to teach them how to be aware of their environmental status. And I’ll admit I’ve resorted to creative and stealthy ways to achieve that. I wonder… Even with the best of intentions of teaching our children what we think they should know about the environment, do they act ecologically responsible when we are not around? Are they ecologically conscientious? Were my ‘stealthy’ tactics effective? With my last child leaving for college recently, I found the answer to my questions…
In general, I try to lead by example — by showing my children how to be morally, ethically, and environmentally responsible. In our daily conversations, early on, I started verbalizing by including words, such as, “ecologically responsible.” It’s easier said than it seems, trust me. There are a few habits – albeit small – that I made sure were part of their lives.
- Family Dinners – Daily dinner conversations that included topics on climate change and toxicity in our lives gave my children something to think about other than which movies to watch, or how much homework they had.
- REFUSE unnecessary stuff. REUSE what we already have. Yes, we can reuse glass jars, even though they are recyclable. REPURPOSE (Upcycle) what we have. But when my daughter started cutting up old tee-shirts – all of them – to make tank tops, I had to take away the scissors. RECYCLE obviously, but also, sort properly. Yes, you need to take the bottles caps off before throwing them in the recycling bin and no, you can’t recycle broken drinking glasses or mirrors.
- Buy Organic – It might cost a bit more but not compared to health care costs if we get sick. Buying organic products cuts down on the time it takes to go grocery shopping since it eliminates the need to read labels for GMO and chemicals.
- Drive responsibly to lower CO2 emission levels. I included my children in my recent Plug In For Charity MPG Challenge so they can learn what it means to drive an energy-efficient car and why that is important to our air quality. And we chose Autism Speaks to donate our $2500 prize money! The decision was, in part, because autism has been linked to air pollution. Thanks to my children, we were able to reach the 999 MPG challenge. My son even made a video of our progress…and my daughter added her humor to the end.
So how did all this eco-effort affect my child?
An Ecologically Conscientious Child
My daughter started at a small college in upstate New York as a freshman. I was about to enter the emotionally fragile empty-nester stage. All l I could think about was my past ecological parenting skills and how it would affect my child in her new home-away-from-home. After all, I’m not going to be around to watch over her recycling bin or judge her sorting skills. Nor will I be cooking her healthy eat dinners and discussing President Obama’s Climate Action Plans. However, despite my trepidation of her leaving home, it turns out my daughter, all on her own was able to achieve her “Ecologically Conscientious Child” status by:
- Choosing to enroll in an early freshmen program called, “Green Tour” where entering freshmen toured the areas around the college, including a working farm where they fed animals and picked fruits from orchards. They also visited parks and natural preserves, like lakes and falls. The two day program ended with a visit to one of the largest farmers markets in upstate NY where she sampled many local foods and bought locally grown fruits. She said it was just like being at home! I was so proud of her for choosing a green program to start the new school year.
- Selecting to follow a curriculum track that emphasizes sustainability. Again, this was not my doing. One of her classes is called, “Food and Water.” The professor made an arrangement for students to order books from a local independent bookstore that will deliver the books on the first day of class. She chose to support the local business and not order from Amazon. It would have cost less, but she was committed to lowering her carbon footprint and chose not to get the book shipped.
- Suggesting to her roommates to take their shoes off in the room to reduce indoor pollution.
- Creating two recycling bins in the room – one for paper and one for plastic and glass.
- Taking all the unused pages from her high school notebooks to be used for her college binders. New paper or new notebooks were never a necessary novelty for back-to-school at our home and college was no exception.
- Picking out only non-toxic and organic health and beauty products. I should note that this was without my help.
- Calling home to ask if I packed a produce spray to wash her fruits. Good habits are hard to break!
The list goes on. Again, not trying to brag about my children. Quite the opposite, I’m merely saying, this is ‘normal’ because it was ingrained their whole lives. Many of the acts and conversations we’ve had at home about eco-living have transpired to their college experiences. It’s part of their lifestyle. What YOU do with your children….right now…daily, will make a difference. You can raise voices together and sign petitions together to fight for what you believe in. My favorite quote says,
We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” ~Native American Proverb~
We owe it to our children to raise them with an ecological conscience.