A journalist recently asked me "How do you encourage families to instil green practices into their children?" But she was asking a one-sided question. "Real life" parents tell a different story.
There's a new kind of social pressure among six-year-olds, says one Mom I know. Two girls were teasing her son, but not because he didn't have the coolest gym shoes. Because he didn't have a truly litterless lunch! (Queens of Green in training? I can't be certain.) Dad ran out to buy reusable containers that night — no more plastic baggies. Now their son can eat his lunch with pride.
Are your children teaching you about going green? Is your little one begging for a backyard compost bin or rain barrel of his or her very own? Or, do you beg your kids to go play outside, like you did once upon a time?
Fact: we're raising a generation of indoor kids. In her survey, Dr. Rhonda Clements (PDF file, page 4) found that American children spend less time playing outdoors than their mothers did when they were young—even in rural areas. They go outside less often and for shorter periods of time.
- Park and community clean-ups
- Recycling milk bags into bed mats for the homeless
- Planting trees to green urban spaces and help alleviate soil erosion
- Water quality testing in the backcountry of Banff National Park
- Growing thousands of kilograms of organic vegetables donated to local Food Banks
It's an impressive list (and by no means exhaustive) of collective action by youth. I think we can all take something from the Girl Guide playbook.
You already know that green spaces like parks and forests are good for the birds and the bees. But did you know that people who live near green spaces are actually healthier? Green spaces encourage people to be physically active, and being active means reduced stress.
Get outside. Embrace your inner Girl Guide — guys, too! Voice your support for preservation of existing parks, sign-up for a local stewardship group or clean-up day, write to your city council asking them to create new parks. A little greenery goes a long way.
Teach your children well — kids who connect with nature grow into adults who care about protecting it.
How do you encourage your kids — or how do they encourage you — to spend time in nature?
Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green