Earth Day is on the horizon and while the world picks a day to celebrate the planet, I’m hoping to teach my kids to appreciate it every day. Since it’s the only one we have treating it right is something I want to instill into my children.
According to earthday.org, Earth Day began in 1970 and marks the beginning of the environmental movement. Founder and Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson watched the impact of a massive 1969 oil spill on the environment in California. Generally concerned, he was inspired by the anti-war movement to harness people’s passion about the environment too.
Nelson, along with a team of more than 80 people, picked April 22, 1970, for the first march and 20 million Americans across the country took to the streets to peacefully demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment.
The first Earth Day marches led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and to the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.
While I believe marching for one day is wonderful, it’s often the actions that take place after the march and every day that determines the success of a particular movement. I firmly believe that for this cause, our families and our children can make a difference every day through small efforts.
My daughter is already shocked and dismayed by people she sees littering, and both kids love to help me in the garden and learn about how plants grow. But there are so many ways kids can help take care of the Earth – big and small – and some of these can happen each day or seasonally.
Here’s a list of some ideas you can do with your kids to promote loving the Earth every day.
Earth Day Tips For Kids & Families
Turn off the lights
This one is so simple but just turning off the lights in the hallway or when you leave a room can have a big impact.
Turn off the water
While brushing your teeth or even washing the dishes, make sure to turn off the water in between.
Plant a tree or a bush
This is something you can do seasonally with your kids in the spring and the fall. Adding trees and bushes to your environment helps to promote air quality.
Plant perennial flowers
Planting flowers is always a fun spring activity, but you can also plant bulbs in the fall so that they come up year after year too. Continually adding beautiful flowers to you home will be something you can all look forward to year-after-year as they bloom.
Clean up a park or forest preserve
Take your kids on a little field trip to clean up area of the planet that could use a little help. Grab some plastic gloves, a garbage bag and find a park or a forest area that could use a little litter clean-up. If you have older children you can adopt a section of highway, which are often the areas that are most in need. Make a bag for plastic, one for paper and one for actual trash so you can make the most out of the clean-up and recycle too.
Feed the animals
Feeding the animals in your backyard or at a local pond is a great way to help kids feel like they are taking care of the planet. They always love this one and it makes the animals happy too. Make a bird feeder or leave some fruit out on the branches of trees for rabbits and squirrels. Just keep in mind the proper food for the animals. For instance, bread and ducks shouldn’t go together, but you can feed them corn.
Gather and recycle batteries
We have a bunch of batteries in our house thanks to my camera equipment, but you shouldn’t just throw them away. If you throw them in the trash the chemicals inside will seep into the ground as they begin to rot in landfills. The chemicals can get into the soil and the water, which becomes dangerous for us. Find local battery recycling points here.
Use glass bottles
While plastic seems easier, glass bottles have become a very viable option for people recently. You can find these in everything from baby bottles to adult water bottles. They’re often wrapped in silicone and glass will contain no chemicals. Additionally, you can heat glass to higher temperatures, and it doesn’t absorb odors or flavors like plastic bottle counterparts. Grab a selection of adult water bottles here.
Buy items that have been made out of recyclable materials
Most people now buy recycled paper but you can buy a lot of other materials made out of recyclables too. If you buy plastic items, make sure they’re items made from recycled plastic.
Remember to recycle at home
Almost all packaging for food can be recycled. Make a trash can inside your house for the recycled materials so you can easily put bulky bottles and broken-down boxes in there versus the trash. If you use this system you will be more likely to recycle the goods and products you use. You can find a lot of options for dual trash/recycle cans here.
Take shorter showers
I know the benefits of taking a long, hot shower but there’s long-term benefits for the planet when you limit your shower or don’t fill the kids’ bath tub as high. According to Boston University, the average American uses 25,300 gallons of water a year. That’s more than 69 gallons daily and an average shower can use 5 gallons of water per minute.
I don’t mean to just disconnect your life from your devices, I mean literarily unplug things from the wall. Most appliances and devices are still using energy whether they are flipped on or not. According to the United States Department of Energy, about 75 percent of electricity used to power a home is consumed when appliances are turned off. Unplugging the power strips, the phone cords or even some of your appliances you aren’t using will help to conserve energy. That’s good for the environment and you.
Use reusable bags at the store
Stock up on reusable bags for shopping trips or ask for paper instead. This keeps plastic bags out of landfills. Paper bags are usually made out of recycled paper so make sure to keep it going and recycle them when you get home too.
Use non-toxic cleaners
Nowadays there are many non-toxic cleaners on the market for you to pick from, or you can also make your own. Non-toxic cleaners are not only better for the environment, but they are better for your family. Click here to see a list.
This one is challenging for some people, especially if you’re like me and you live in a colder, Northern climate next to a cornfield. However, you can make the pledge with your family to go without using the car for one day a month or one day a week. Every little bit helps.
Make sculptures or usable things from junk
We recently went on a trip to Austin, Texas and met a man who had a playground made from junk in his backyard. The concept of using other people junk to make something useable and beautiful is a good one. Your kids can easily make a birdhouse from a milk carton or a pinwheel from plastic containers. Showing kids how to use these items differently will also inspire them creatively.
Recycle old cell phones
How many old cell phones do you have sitting around? Recycling them helps to prevent air and water pollution that occurs during manufacturing. The materials, including the plastic components, can also be used to make jewelry, other electronics and in automotive manufacturing.
Replace regular lightbulbs with Compact Fluorescent Lights
Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs use about 70 percent less energy than regular light bulbs and are also said to last longer. The Energy Independence & Securities Act of 2007 started phasing out incandescent light bulbs but it does not ban the sale or the use so picking CFLs is still a very active and environmentally responsible choice.
Eat sustainable food
Eating organic, sustainable food is a choice a lot of people are making now, but it’s one small way that you and your family can help the planet every day. Since our resources are not unlimited, making sure your food is sustainable is a wise choice not only for the planet, but for everyone.
Buy clothing made from sustainable, natural materials
Last but not least, there are a lot of manufacturers out there now that are making clothing from sustainable, natural materials. They are a bit more expensive than a traditional, polyester shirt but you’ll feel the different in the quality. Here is a list of some brands for mom. Here are some brands for babies and here is a list for kids.
How do you and your family show your love for the Earth on Earth Day and everyone? I’d love to hear how you help out with Earth Day activities below.
Make some Earth Day Crafts with slime planets and Planet Earth Coffee Filters! For more tips from The Everyday Mom Life, click here.