By Larraine Roulston :
It’s never too early to begin teaching your youngsters about our shared ecosystem. When taught by example with knowledge and eco-activities, our children will become the trailblazers for new innovations to nurture a healthier planet.
Nature hikes are popular eco-activities for families. Elementary school teachers embrace crafts constructed from discarded articles. If you are imagining the egg carton caterpillar or the toilet roll picture frame, you are not alone, but there are other earth related activities. They include tree planting, gardening, composting with red wigglers, litter pickups, raising monarch butterflies, tracking local weather patterns, planting flowers for pollinators, observing animals, restoring streams, camping or apple picking, to name a few. When taught by example, hanging up weekly laundry together rather than using a dryer can be deemed an eco-activity.
When I was in my 20’s, I attended one of the first environmental meetings hosted by Pollution Probe, where we sported buttons that said, “Protect Your Ecosystem.’’ “Ecosystem” was a word scarcely used in those days. In fact, at that time, I opened an encyclopedia to read the full definition. Today, young children hearing the term “carbon footprint’’ may wonder what it means. Teaching them about it with a little added research and discussion about our big carbon footprint problem can become a great eco-activity.
What can be learned by each of your family member’s carbon footprint, and how can it be made smaller?
Carbon footprints relate to the amount of carbon dioxide, or greenhouse gases, produced as a result of daily lifestyle activities. If, for example, you have a small family, live in a large home and drive a car daily, your carbon footprint would be much larger than if you live in a modest home or apartment and generally walk or cycle.
Create your own carbon footprint poster by tracing or making a stamp of your foot on the paper. Next, think about all the things that cause a large carbon footprint. These elements include fuel for cars and planes; electricity, gas, oil or propane that heats your home; energy used for electronics, appliances, lights and water heaters; the production of manufactured goods; and imported foods. Even the small act of pushing an automatic button to open a door rather than using your own muscle power makes a difference in one’s carbon footprint.
By discussing all the various environmental choices available, the concept of how to influence your carbon footprint will emerge. Instruct each child to note all the actions around their footprint that they can take individually to lessen their impact on the environment. These behaviors can include not wasting food, walking or cycling to school, reusing paper, turning off lights when not in use, practicing the 3R’s, composting, using a thermos, refusing straws, spending less time on a computer, and playing outdoors.
Lastly, have all family members hang their “How Can I Have a Smaller Carbon Footprint?’’ personal poster in the kitchen or family room. Then, each week, seek opportunities to shrink the footprint’s size.
Larraine writes illustrated children’s books on composting and pollination at www.castlecompost.com