Photo: Do your kids school you about going green?

Kids who connect with nature grow into adults who care about protecting it. (Credit: Girl Guides of Canada)

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.

Fortunately, there are exceptions. Last summer I spoke to 2,300 Girl Guides. And Girl Guides across Canada participate in:

  • 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

April 25, 2011

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Apr 28, 2011
1:07 PM

I think there is a definite give-and-take. There are some ways that my kids are decidedly NOT green. They favour cheap plastic toys, for example, and licensed clothing that is made under questionable conditions. And they waste a LOT of food.

But now that my firstborn is 6 years old, she’s taking an active interest, and she’s ahead of me in some areas. She would spend all day outside if I let her. She’s not afraid of getting her hands dirty when it comes to working in the garden. And she chastises me when she perceives that I’m doing something that isn’t earth-friendly.

I think we’re encouraging each other, and I kind of love that.

Apr 28, 2011
10:25 AM

Oh Lindsay, I love this post. I totally agree with what you are saying. We evolved in nature – if we become disconnected from the natural world we lose something magical, something so precious. We lose part of what it means to be human.

I am passionate about getting children outdoors and connecting with nature. I believe if we inspire a love for nature in a child, it will lead to a desire to protect it. First we have to give children the opportunity and freedom to go outside and explore, discover the magic Mother Nature has to offer, only then can they understand how precious it is. (The girl guides and boy scouts are fabulous organizations-that gets kids outdoors).

Sadly, children today can spend up to as much as 90% of their time indoors (this includes school and sleeping). This compelled me to start up the “Let’s Go Outside” Revolution. Changing the way children spend their time……… If we all work together making little changes, we will be creating a better future for our children and our beautiful planet.

Thank you so much for all the great work you do Lindsay, you are inspiration…………you are the Revolution!!!!

Wishing you a beautiful day……..Marghanita

Apr 27, 2011
6:12 PM

I school my parents! :) Here’s my blog — I’m a senior in high school always looking for ways to go green and learn more about the environment and sustainability.

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