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Top 5 Things to Do to Introduce Sustainable Living to G-Kids During the Holiday Season

With so much emphasis placed on being “Green” and saving the planet AND so many voices, often conflicting, shouting from the rooftops, it is no wonder that many people (overtaxed parents, especially) feel overwhelmed and choose to look the other way.

The truth is that many of the tenets of Sustainable Living are simple, typically old-fashioned, and really easy to employ and impart to your grandchildren.  Educators and experts alike agree that it is important for children to learn, at an early age, what many of us adults are finding the need to relearn right now.  No matter which side of the fence you stand on with regard to the ‘global warming’ debate, it is true that the resources here on earth are finite.  And it is this truth that should motivate us to give our kids tools for sustainable living.

With the holidays approaching, this is a great time to introduce sustainable living to your g-kids. From holiday shopping to decorating to recycling gift wrap, this season is a great example for teaching kids how they can be “green” and live sustainably. Here are 5 tips on things to do to introduce sustainable living to kids:

1. Do Fun Recycled Art Projects

OK, so I am lucky enough to have a local guru in this arena.  Heidi Borchers (aka Eco-Heidi ) is a pioneer in crafts, and specifically “recycled art” crafts and she lives right in my town!  But even without the local proximity, I can access ideas from Heidi and plenty others like her that are sharing great ideas on the internet for the Re-Using portion of Reduce, Re-Use, Recycle – this time with a holiday spin.  So far, in my house we have made recycled water bottle bracelets, a “puppet theatre’ from an old box, several special trinket containers from old water bottles, tea boxes and cookie tins, as well as a myriad of ‘art for arts sake’ using all kinds of materials for painting and gluing and such.  I have found it helpful to create a box specifically for the papers, boxes, tubes, egg cartons and other materials that can eventually be used in our projects.  When you open your mind (and your grandchild’s) to the possibility that mostly anything can be re-used, you will be amazed at the results and how these projects can make great gifts for family and friends.

2. Use Shopping Trips to Illustrate Choices

I have changed my shopping habits.  Perhaps not at aggressively as I could, but I have learned to consider some simple things when making my choices because I understand that every dollar I spend is a statement.  I seek out items that are made from, or packaged in, recycled materials.  I pay attention to the origin of items — I am increasingly hesitant to make purchases of items ‘Made in China’ for a number of reasons, including the questionable labor  pool and the carbon footprint necessary to ship those items. On the flip side of that coin, I am increasingly drawn to purchase goods that are produced locally (or at least in the US!)  I have started to buy in bulk where possible and do away with juice boxes in favor of larger bottles that are then portioned out in non-spill sippy cups.  All of these choices are periodically brought into the conversation as I make my way through the shopping aisles and talk to Lily.  I don’t harp on it every trip, but just enough so that when I ask “do you remember why I don’t like to buy ___________ (fill in the blank)?” most times, Lily can come up with a reasonable response.  This tip is especially important during the holiday season.

.  Engage Kids in the Conversation

I am constantly surprised at how the things I say to my daughter are taken in and repeated back to me (and believe me, there are times I find myself wishing I had refrained from a choice phrase or two.) But, then there are the times that I am happily surprised by a concept that has gotten through.  Because we are “Playful Planet,” we find ourselves engaged in conversations about protecting the earth and reducing our footprint on a fairly regular basis.  My husband and I are careful not to paint a picture of gloom & doom, but we are also not hesitant to explain that everyone must take responsibility to ensure that there will be a livable planet in the future.  A couple of weeks back Lily requested that my husband roll the video camera on her as we were walking along a path on the beautiful Mendocino Coast.  Before I knew what was happening, this 5-year-old earth champion was basically filming a ‘commercial’ of sorts espousing the benefits of reusing her juice bottle – how it was better than recycling – and how recycling was better than throwing it away – and all of this because we need to take care of the planet — Playful Planet. If nothing else ever transpires with this fledgling business, I will still be happy we put the effort out because I believe my daughter will be a conscious citizen of the planet, and this is a good thing.

4. Do Away with Traditional Gift Wrap  

We all know that the holidays can mean tons and tons of gift wrap and what happens to it once we have ripped open our gifts? It gets thrown away. We enjoy thinking outside the box when trying to be more conservative and earth friendly. Using plain brown bags that your g-kids
decorate with their artwork is a great alternative to the traditional gift wrap. You can use shreds of colored plastic bags to tie
ifts or use newspaper or magazines for wrapping. Last year at the holidays, Lily made beautiful designs on the gift wrap bags for her grandparents and aunts & uncles, and the wrapping became the favorite part of the gift.  Who doesn’t love original artwork made by kids?

5. Play Outdoors   

How simple is this?  And yet, the effect of getting out of the house – away from the TV/computer/video games – and into nature is profound.  No matter what time of year, fresh air does a kid good. Michelle Obama has brought much attention to this simple truth with the Let’s Move program and it’s Let’s Move Outside element.  Research has shown that kids that play outdoors have fewer physical health issues, less stress and are better able to concentrate in school.  Besides – it is so much fun!!!  I love to be witness to the incredible imaginary play that unfolds when my daughter and her friends are in the great outdoors.  I’m not sure what we will be doing with our rock, stick and feather collection, but that can be a topic for another day.

Creating a Playful Planet by empowering kids and their families to be healthy and live sustainably!

Playful Planet www.playfulplanet.com aims to support families in raising healthy kids on a sustainable planet. Our earth-conscious, interactive, educational products tie the health and well-being of children to the health and well-being of the planet. Bringing families together to connect with nature, our products engage children through playful interaction, empower them through messages of conscious consumption and sustainability, and support parents through online tools and resources.

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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