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]
Living near a park or other green space appeared to benefit city kids with severe asthma, especially older kids who were more likely to play outside on their own, according to researchers here.
For every 305 meters (about 1,000 feet) between home and park, children had 1 extra day of asthma symptoms. In addition, children who lived next to a park averaged 5 symptomatic days and children living 305 meters from the park had 6 symptomatic days, reported Kelli DePriest, a PhD candidate at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Baltimore, and colleagues.
Among older children (ages 6-12), those living next to the park had an average of 5 symptomatic days, they said in a early presentation at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) International Congress.
Urban living is a known risk factor for asthma in children, as well as poorly controlled disease, but it is less clear if having access to a park or other green space, and utilizing these spaces, benefits city kids with severe asthma that is poorly controlled, DePriest noted.
“According to health department statistics, Baltimore has the highest pediatric asthma hospitalization rate of any city in the United States,” she told MedPage Today. “That made it a good place to look at the impact of living close to a park or green spaces on asthma severity in children with pretty severe asthma.”
Baltimore is a city of around 620,000 people, with levels of pollution similar to New York and Los Angeles, but slightly lower than those in London and Milan.
The study included 196 children, ages of 3 to 12 years, who had either visited emergency departments at least twice or had asthma-related hospitalizations during the past year.
“This group of children are predominantly African American, Medicaid insured, and their families are from a lower socioeconomic status, which means they represent a population at high risk for asthma-related mortality,” DePriest said in an ERS press statement.
The children’s parents were asked how many days their child had suffered with symptoms such as being short of breath, chest pain, and wheezing.
Researchers also mapped the distances between the children’s home addresses and the closest green space.
The average length from home to the nearest park averaged around 250 meters, or about two city blocks. While some children lived immediately next to a green space, others were more than a kilometer (about 3,300 feet) away.
The effect seemed strongest for children ages 6 years and up, DePriest noted. “This might be because they have more freedom to choose where they want to go compared to younger children. These results are important because they provide further support for the benefits of city parks, and they suggest that the right building policies can improve children’s health.”
Mina Gaga, MD, PhD, ERS president-elect, said several possible mechanisms may be at play to explain the findings.
She noted that previous research has shown the air in urban parks, and other urban green spaces to be cleaner, than surrounding areas with few trees or plants. There is also the “hygiene hypothesis,” that playing outside, and/or in the dirt, may help protect kids from allergy and asthma.
“It’s also clear that getting exercise is beneficial to kids with asthma, so it appears to be a win-win situation to have parks nearby,” said Gaga, who is with the Athens Chest Hospital.
Finally, she noted that time spent outdoors is “also very good for children’s spirits. The definition of health includes happiness. So I think it is very important to be in an environment that is sunny, green, and nice.”
40% of food in America goes uneaten—it’s an almost unbelievable fact. Here in New York City, around 20% of our waste stream is food waste. For decades, this food waste has been sent to landfills where it produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas and large contributor to global warming.
Instead of sending all this food to landfill we want to first prevent, then recover, and finally recycle any remaining food.
In recent years, New York City has shown incredible leadership on food waste recycling, and our apple cores and potato peels are starting to meet a better end.
Back in 2013, City Council passed two laws to jump start the recycling of food waste. These laws established a curbside organics collection pilot and organics diversion requirements for businesses. My colleague Eric Goldstein has written about the residential program and commercial requirements, if you want to learn more.
In the years since, New York City Department of Sanitation has been hard at work implementing these two laws. And it shows—with three great examples in the last few weeks alone.
First, as of yesterday, the New York City curbside organics collection program serves 2 million people, making it the largest program of its kind in the country. By the end of this year it will serve 3.3 million people and by the end of 2018, all NYC residents will have access to curbside organics collection or to a convenient drop off location. This is no small feat and the city’s leadership and dedication on this issue will help drive development of food recycling infrastructure and hopefully inspire action by other cities as well.
Second, just last week, the NYC Commissioner of Sanitation Kathryn Garcia announced a proposal to dramatically expand the number of commercial food establishments required to separate their organic waste and send it for beneficial use. Currently the largest 350 or so commercial food establishments are required to separate their organic waste, but this new proposal will add approximately 2000 businesses. Department of Sanitation estimates this will increase diversion of organic material from the commercial sector to 50,000 tons a year.
Third, New York City’s Department of Sanitation’s Foundation for New York’s Strongest hosted the first NYC Food Waste Fair yesterday. The Food Waste Fair—with more than 1000 people in attendance—sought to equip NYC businesses with the tools to address food waste. There was a great panel on food waste policy (including my colleague Mark Izeman, city staff, and experts), workshops for businesses, and dozens of exhibitors.
With the city’s dedication on this issue and so many interested stakeholders, we look forward to building on good food waste recycling leadership and making similar strides on prevention and recovery to holistically address food waste. [NRDC]
Hurricane Harvey: What does it Mean for New York City?
As I write this article, Tropical Storm Harvey, downgraded from a category 4 hurricane just a couple of days ago is pummeling south Texas with torrential rain. The residents of Houston and the surrounding area are suffering from catastrophic flooding. Other than watching the drama unfold on TV, giving money to rescue efforts, and praying for the lives and the well being of everyone affected, what can we do here in New York City? What conclusions or lessons should we draw from this tragedy?
First of all, it is important to note that the City of Houston has grown tremendously over the last 25 years or so. In a very short period of time, the city has been paved and built up in a manner that is unsustainable. Houston is surrounded by many rivers and bayous. When it rains, the water should drain into the rivers and bayous and go into the Gulf of Mexico. However, because of all the building in recent years, excess water has no place to drain and it just sits in the streets, causing flooding. Scientists predict that storms like Harvey will occur more frequently and be more devastating than ever in the coming decades.
Is New York City vulnerable to a storm like Harvey? What is NYC doing to reduce the chances that we would suffer the same kind of flooding and devastation that Houston is suffering? Fortunately, New York City is doing a lot of good things to make it less vulnerable to storms in the future. There is a massive green infrastructure program going on throughout the five boroughs of New York City. Things like green streets, bioswales, green roofs, expanded tree pits, and similar structures are being built in areas that tend to flood easily.
For more information on the NYC Green Infrastructure Program, visit www.nyc.gov/html/dep/html/stormwater/using_green_infra_to_manage_stormwater.shtml
The NYC Green Infrastructure Program is not only helping to make NYC more green in a literal sense, but it is also helping to make NYC more resilient and resistant to flooding.
You are invited to the Green City Challenge Back to School Party on Monday, September 25 from 6:30 – 8:30 pm at Raymour & Flanigan, 1961 Broadway at West 66th Street in Manhattan. We are excited to introduce a revised version of the What’s the Watts Challenge and to tell people about our new initiative to bring Green City Challenge into Middle Schools in the Bronx and Manhattan.
Please make your reservation now at www.greencitychallenge.org/rsvp or send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-530-5074.