A box of old CD-ROMS could be tossed. But because some environmentally conscious person dropped them off at Detroit’s Recycle Here center, a dozen Detroit youth transformed the would-be landfill waste into colorful suncatchers.
Splattering a disc with paint, Yaasameen Watkins, 12, was delighted to “help the environment” and proudly shared that her mother recycles cans.
Fellow campers painting outside suggested other materials she could recycle.
“Paper!” shouted 9-year-old Aureianna Montgomery.
“Aluminum,” added 8-year-old Brooklyn Jones.
Green Living Science’s free Earth Camp was accomplishing its goal to teach Detroiters, ages 8-13, about the three Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle. Besides suncatchers, the kids spent a recent morning making paper from recycled scraps, pin wheels from file folder dividers and magnets from old computer keys.
Folding newspapers into a monster-shaped bookmark, Candace Montgomery, 13, underscored why it’s important to recycle.
“With all the environmental problems we have now, instead of contributing to them, we can at least just help lessen it a little bit,” she said.
The nonprofit Green Living Science and coalition Zero Waste Detroit have worked with the city, encouraging Detroiters to recycle since a pilot program launched in 2015. At the time, less than 10 percent of residents were recycling. As of June, 21 percent, or 44,381 residential households, have a recycling cart, either by purchasing it for $25 or receiving one for free at a Green Living Science or Zero Waste Detroit workshop.
An effective way to boost the recycle rate is to target kids, said Rachel Klegon, executive director of Green Living Science, which hosts school assemblies about the three Rs. If students fill out a recycling questionnaire with their parents, then bring it back to school, families can get a free recycling cart.
“I often hear parents say, they’ve never thought about recycling, but their kid learned about it at school, and now they’re here (at Recycle Here) — kind of saying it complaining to me, but with a smile,” Klegon said.
For the first time in 2014, city contracts required waste hauling services to offer curbside recycling for household residents (apartment dwellers were excluded). The opt-in service was a gamechanger for Green Living Science, which sometimes hesitated to do outreach at schools.
“We didn’t want to teach kids that you should recycle, but you can’t do it because your family is unable to drive to Recycle Here,” said Klegon, referencing the drop-off center established at 1331 Holden in 2005.
Now, the challenge is convincing Detroiters a recycling cart is worth $25.
“We’re in a city where a lot of people have not recycled before, so they don’t know why they should pay that $25,” Klegon said.
Residents who can’t afford it can go to the city’s website to play an educational recycling game, where players drag materials such as cardboard, magazines or Better Made Potato Chip bags into a trash or recycling bin. After, players can sign up for a free cart.
Margaret Weber, convener of Zero Waste Detroit, said the city has been “very slow” to inform residents how to access carts and properly recycle.
“We’ve been told for a couple years there would be a media campaign, and to be very honest, we’re still waiting for that media campaign,” said Weber, adding other cities with higher recycling rates have invested in messaging.
Ron Brundidge, director of the Department of Public Works, wrote in an email that “the city is still adapting to its recycling program.”
“In two years, we have implemented outreach efforts that have resulted in a 125 percent increase in the number of households actively participating in recycling, and we definitely view this as progress,” he wrote. “Although we have yet to reach the state’s goal of 40 percent recycling, our internal objective is for all households and residents to recognize the value and long-term benefits of recycling.”
The city did achieve its goal of a 20 percent recycle rate by this August. The next target is 30 percent by August 2018. Yet Weber pointed out that tonnage collected is still low. For example, about 339 tons, or 16 pounds per household, was collected in May.
“When you get up to 150 pounds per household, then you’re really getting there,” she said, explaining: “It’s important for me to recycle, yes, but if I only put in two bottles every week, and I forget to put in my paper and cardboard, we’re not helping to build up the quantity that actually is helpful to move the whole system.”
Which is why Green Living Science is teaching youth to pause before tossing a pop bottle.
“We found that once you educate young people, they become the ambassadors when they go home. So they go home teaching their family how to use (a cart),” said education director Mary Claire Lamm, adding that recycled art projects spread that message, too. “It’s a great way for students to see that you can take trash and make it into something new, but these things have value.”
As Anthony Dent, 9, folded a file into a pinwheel, he admitted his family doesn’t recycle. But that might change.
“I’m going to tell them to,” he said. [detroitnews]
When the future of the planet is tied into decisions the younger generation make today, it’s crucial to have classroom conversations about the environment. But how do we talk about such complex issues, bound up with science and politics, in an engaging way? Books with a green theme can provide a useful starting point in these discussions. Here are some of our favourite options, for children of all ages.
In the 1970s, when environmentalism was still a fringe concern, the ever-brilliant Dr Seuss was already preaching a message of sustainability in The Lorax – the rhyming tale of a creature who “speaks for the trees” and warns about the dangers of deforestation.
To get little ones thinking about life beneath the waves, try the colourful Over in the Ocean, In a Coral Reef. You can also turn their attention towards the wonders of sustainable practices in their own green spaces with Grandpa’s Garden, which explores the seasons, growth and harvesting.
Key Stage 1 (age 5 to 7)
It’s never too early to start developing good habits and 10 Things I Can Do to Help My World introduces children to a series of planet-protecting strategies, such as using both sides of the paper when drawing, and turning off the tap when they brush their teeth.
Nurturing a sense of adventure and wonder in our world can be helped by the child-friendly picture book The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps, a biography that details Goodall’s remarkable life, from her childhood to living among the primates who now find their existence under threat.
There’s also a powerful conservationist message in The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rainforest, in which a man reconsiders cutting down a mighty tree after being visited in a dream by the animals who live in it. To bring environmentalism closer to home, try The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle: A Story about Recycling – a diary written from the perspective of a bottle, from its creation to getting a whole new identity, via a recycling plant.
Key Stage 2 (age 8 to 10)
What would happen if fish became extinct? That’s the premise of the beautifully illustrated World Without Fish, which combines fact and fiction to explore what could take place in the underwater world over the next 50 years if we don’t change our behaviour. It also details what we can do to avoid such an ecological disaster, interweaving a short graphic novel about a girl who witnesses the extinction of marine life.
But being eco-friendly doesn’t have to be quite so serious, as Ecowolf and The Three Pigs demonstrates. The classic fairy tale is reworked to present the trio as unscrupulous property developers and the wolf as an eco-warrior who just wants to save the world.
You can also offer young readers a chance to step back to the 1900s with Journey to the River Sea, in which an orphaned girl goes to live in the now-threatened Amazon. Or, take a trip around the world with Stories For a Fragile Planet, which brings together traditional stories from Africa, South America and Ancient Greece.
Key Stage 3 (age 11 to 13)
Sewage may not seem like it has the making of a great caper, but that’s where Flush kicks off. A boy named Noah must save his father from prison by proving that a casino boat is illegally dumping waste into the bay.
The struggle for clean water is also at the centre of the story in A Long Walk to Water, an account of two 11-year-olds in Sudan, 30 years apart. Their interwoven stories – based on real events – highlight the history of the country and the daily struggles faced by its people, past and present.
There’s more true-life wonder in the young readers’ edition of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, the story of a young boy in Malawi who brought clean energy to his village by building his own wind turbine. Or for a return to fiction, try Watership Down, the timeless and horrifying classic about a rabbit community fighting for its life as human development threatens to destroy its habitat.
Key Stage 4 (age 14 and over)
Floodland depicts a scenario in which England is under water, and Norwich is an island. The heroine, Zoe, has been separated from her family and must find a way to survive while avoiding the gangs terrorising the country.
For more dystopian fiction, try The Sandcastle Empire, in which climate change and overpopulation have ruined the planet and a radical group controls the world. If you’re taking a non-fiction look at eco issues, there’s Eyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines, which teaches young people about the various forces at play in sustainability and how to weigh up information accurately.
Finally, for older readers, there’s The Windup Girl, a science fiction love story set in a future version of Thailand, where oil has run out and people are fighting for survival amid a man-made disaster.
Parents, take note! Children who grow up close to parks and green spaces may develop a better attention span, a study suggests.
Researchers from Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) in Spain studied data from 1,500 children, collected during 2003-2013. Previous studies have already indicated that green spaces within and surrounding schools could enhance cognitive development in children between seven and 10 years of age.
The study, published in the journal Environment Health Perspectives, analysed residential surrounding greenness – at 100, 300 and 500 metres distance near the homes of children at birth, four to five years old, and seven years old. Researchers performed two types of attention tests at four to five years and seven years of age.
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The team found that children with higher greenness around their homes had better scores in the attention tests. “These results underline the importance of green areas in cities for children’s health and brain development,” said Payam Dadvand, researcher at ISGlobal.
“The possibility that exposure to different types of vegetation might have different impacts on neurodevelopment remains an open question,” said Jordi Sunyer from ISGlobal. Green spaces in cities promote social connections and physical activity and reduce exposure to air pollution and noise, and are therefore essential for the development of the future generations’ brains, researchers said. [ht]
Teaching children to care for the environment is an important parental responsibility that is crucial for their future. But sometimes helping the planet can feel overwhelming for small shoulders. Remember to encourage young children to take one step at a time when going green. The little things they can do really make a big difference.
Many solutions to our environmental problems are very simple. There are many ways to care for the environment – from reusing common household items to putting paper and plastic in the recycle box. Encourage children to do one small thing, and then add another and another . Before you know it, those little steps add up to a lot more green. Also consider your children’s ages and how much responsibility they can handle. Above all, make it a fun family affair. Children learn best when they are happy and can model our behavior.
Here are 10 ways to encourage children to go green:
The power switch: One simple way we can conserve the earth’s resources is by not using more electricity than we need. Teach children to turn off lights when they leave a room and turn off the TV if they are not watching it.
Pull the plug: Even when electronics and appliances are turned off, they still consume energy if plugged in the electrical outlet. Conserve energy by teaching older children to unplug their game systems, computers, chargers, or audio equipment. Little ones can participate too by becoming the family “plug police” and inform grownups of any unused household equipment that is plugged into an electrical outlet.
Tighten up: Encourage children to check water taps in the house to make sure they are tightened and inform a grownup if any faucets leak. A drop-per-second leak wastes about 2,400 gallons of water a year.
Turn off the tap: Water should not be running while children brush their teeth. Teach children to turn off the tap and reduce shower time to conserve energy.
Collect rainwater: Water can be recycled too! Children often enjoy collecting rainwater. The next time it rains, place a pail or container outside and put a heavy rock or brick inside to prevent it from tipping over. When the rain is done, they will have a fresh supply of water to feed household plants.
Use community resources: Libraries carry more than books. Selection of CDs, audio tapes and DVDs are also available. Some communities have toy lending libraries. Learn about community resources and encourage children to find items that are new to them instead of purchasing new things.
Pass it on: Clothes, toys and other household items that are no longer used can be donated to organizations instead of thrown into the trash. Pick through items with your children and find a local organization that will benefit from your donation. Children feel good knowing they are helping their community.
Litter free lunch challenge: Packaging our children’s lunches can create a lot of waste. Most disposable items can be replaced by reusable ones. Involve your children in finding creative ways to pack a healthy lunch that leaves no trash behind. Try inexpensive stainless steel cutlery instead of plastic, cloth napkins rather than paper, or thermoses, reusable glass, and plastic containers instead of disposable plastic or paper.
Reuse or recycle: Teaching children to place recyclable items in the recycle bin is an important way to help the environment. Finding creative ways to reuse household items is another. Make it a fun challenge for the entire family. Be creative and you’ll be surprised how easily an empty cereal box can be transformed into a letter holder, or how quickly an empty shoebox can turn into a storage container for photos and artwork. The possibilities are endless! You’ll be reducing waste and having a fun time with the children’s new ideas.
Bike or Walk: Going somewhere doesn’t always mean having to use a car. Encourage your children to walk or ride their bikes for short trips. For younger children, grab your running shoes and walk or bike with them. In addition to reducing pollution, the entire family will benefit from some exercise.
Fostering a love for planet Earth, and teaching children the behavior needed to preserve its beauty, can be achieved when simple solutions are implemented. Fortunately, children are often eager and enthusiastic to lend a helping hand. With guidance, children will grow up to become stewards of the environment so their world will be a cleaner and safer place to live in. [naturallysavy]
Green living for kids is just as important as it is for adults. Children live what they learn and experience as they grow. Developing a respect for the environment at an early age will make a difference in your child’s future and the future of the planet.
Start Teaching Green Living Early=
As soon as your baby is born you can make green living a part of her life. By using organic toys and cloth diapers, as well as making other environmentally responsible choices, your baby can begin to develop an awareness of the earth from the very beginning.
Jill Vanderwood, author of What’s It Like, Living Green? Kids Teaching Kids, by the Way They Live, says “the future of the green movement will be led by the children, who will help adults change the way they look at things.”
In getting your young ones started in the path of environmental awareness, she says “The most important step you can take is to change just one thing. Start recycling, reusing or stop wasting water, then go from there and make another change.”
Some other ideas to consider are:
- Organic cotton clothing and bedding
- Toys and furniture made from organic cotton, sustainable sources and recycled plastics
- Low or zero VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paints
Green Living for Kids as They Grow
As children grow they can be more involved in the choice to live in an environmentally responsible manner. Encouraging them to choose this lifestyle is an important way to help them feel good about their choices. Discuss environmental problems with them and listen to their thoughts and ideas.
Read About Other Kids Going Green
Vanderwood’s book is full of examples of children who have been inspired to start green living projects in their community, some of which have expanded dramatically. For example, she writes of “kids like Janine Lacare who is the co-founder of Kids Saving the Rainforest, an organization she began in Costa Rica when she was only nine years old” and about “the story of Ryan Hreljac who began Ryan’s Well Foundation to bring clean water wells to poor countries around the world, with his first donation as a seven year-old.”
The book gives examples of ways schools and families can encourage children to undertake such bold efforts, but there are many tried and true green living ideas to let your child explore a more eco-friendly lifestyle. “They can learn to think about saving the planet in simple ways,” says Vanderwood, “like walking or taking their bikes instead of asking Mom or Dad for a ride, not leaving the lights and TV on, not changing their clothes so often, and using reusable water bottles.”
Grow a Garden
Give your child a small area in your vegetable garden to grow his choice of vegetables. Radishes are good when a child is very young because they grow quickly. Other easy to grow vegetables include:
- Green beans
- Snap peas
- Cherry tomatoes
Recycling is an important part of green living. Many towns have recycling programs. Talk about recycling and practice recycling at home. If your child’s school does not have a recycling program, talk to the administration about beginning one.
Another step to recycling is buying products that are made from recycled products. Look for items that are labeled as having been created from a percentage of post-consumer waste products. These items are more widely available than ever before and can include:
- School supplies
Buy Fair Trade Items
Teach your children about the Fair Trade label and what it means. It is an approach to manufacturing that guarantees workers (especially those in other countries) not only a wage that they can live on but better working conditions for them and an increased standard of living for their families. Companies that practice fair trade often sponsor medical clinics, schools and other community services.
By doing simple things like turning the water off when brushing their teeth or making a rain barrel to gather rainwater for watering the plants, children can begin to understand the importance of protecting water resources.
It is important for children to understand that electricity use also has an effect on the environment. By teaching them to do simple things like turning off the lights or television when they leave a room, you encourage them to respect this resource.
Another way to get children interested in saving energy is to help them build solar and wind powered projects from kits. These kits are available in a variety of types, sizes and prices at almost any toy store or Internet toy website.
Become a Wise Consumer
One of the ways to encourage green living for kids is to inspire them to be wise consumers. Buying items secondhand and selecting items that have less impact on the environment are good ways to be an eco- friendly consumer. Other ways that this can be done are:
- Purchase reusable bags
- Shop thrift shops and garage sales
- Buy organic
- Shop locally
Live Green Yourself
Green living for kids is not an overnight thing. Vanderwood says “making several small changes over a long period of time makes it easy to adjust to each change instead of reverting back to old habits.”
It is also important to take every opportunity to discuss environmental issues with your children and answer their questions. A green lifestyle is a lifetime commitment to the environment. Helping a child to make that commitment is as simple as sharing your own life with her. “Teaching kids about green living is a great way to start a change,” says Vanderwood. “After all, who wants to inherit an earth filled with waste and garbage?” [greenliving]