Is your family looking for ways to go green? More and more families are recognizing the importance of respecting the Earth and implementing eco-friendly practices into their family routines. Leading by example, we can teach our children to be compassionate, mindful, and responsible citizens who will grow into environmentally conscious adults.

If you are looking for realistic ways to teach your kids to be mindful citizens, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve identified 16 ways parents can teach their kids to respect the Earth and one another.

Look for eco-friendly alternatives

Kids need to be taught to look for eco-friendly alternatives for everyday items and products. This means you simply have to begin asking the question: Is there something better for the earth? By having open discussions about what you consume and what you do with your trash, your kids will learn to look for alternatives that are better for everyone.

Explain why we should recycle

Don’t just tell your kids to recycle – explain why they should recycle. Show them pictures of landfills, and explain what happens to the trash in them. Show them pictures of what can happen to animals when plastic isn’t recycled. Then, teach them how to recycle correctly by identifying recycling labels.

Organize the recycling

Kids must be taught how to recycle, which first requires organizing the recycling according to the packaging. Set up a family recycling center that is organized based on packaging. It will make it easier for the whole family to participate and to be aware of packaging issues.

Conserve water with hands-on examples or games

Kids often don’t realize how much water they use on a daily basis, so it is up to us to teach them. Explain how many gallons of water are needed to fill a bathtub or how much water is used by the minute when we shower. Then, as a family, compete with one another to see how can conserve the most water by taking shorter showers.

Use reusable bags

Stock your car and your home with reusable bags and take them with you every time you shop. Make this a habit, and your kids will learn by example.

Visit farmers markets

As a family, visit your local farmers market and explain where the food and other goods come from. Take time to talk with the vendors about their farms. Then, go home and cook a meal with your kids using what you purchased.

Shop and eat locally

By forgoing chain restaurants in favor of eating at restaurants established and run by local people, your family can eat food that is fresher and healthier. Shopping locally helps support local farms and merchants, and boosts the local economy by creating and maintaining jobs.

Build a greenhouse

Grow a garden or build a greenhouse as a family. By teaching your kids how to cultivate and harvest plants, you are teaching them a valuable life skill and showing them that food does not originate from a grocery store.

Drive less

Reduce your carbon footprint by taking public transportation or doing errands more strategically. Or go bigger: If you currently live in a suburb where everything requires a car, consider moving. There are lots of vibrant, pedestrian-friendly cities in the U.S., like Seattle or Atlanta, that offer plenty of green space and educational resources for kids.

Review the utility bill together

Many parents don’t even think about showing their kids the utility bill, but it can make a huge impact on your child’s understanding of how much energy and water your family uses each month. Highlight your family’s usage and talk together about ways to use less and bring the bill total down the next month.

Read labels

Take your kids shopping and teach them how to read the labels before they make purchases. The can learn how to identify harmful vs. healthy ingredients in their food. When shopping for consumer goods or clothing, teach them to look at the materials used and where the products are made.

Reduce plastic consumption

As a family, take a few days to write down how much plastic comes in and out of your home. Seeing the amount in black and white can be a big wake-up call. Then, work diligently to reduce your household plastic consumption by reusing bottles and jars, and using reusable bags when shopping.

Visit a farm

Take your kids to visit a local farm. Not only will they likely love it — cows! goats! chickens! — but also, they’ll see firsthand where their food comes from and how we get milk. Plus, the visit can open doors to conversations about healthy farming practices.

Visit a recycling center

Take a family field trip to a recycling center so your kids can see how products are recycled and where they go. They’ll learn that our trash doesn’t just disappear when we toss or recycle it.

Shop at thrift stores

Choose to shop at thrift stores and to purchase clothes secondhand. This teaches children the value in buying something that someone else previously loved — simply because it is better for our planet.

Kids are sponges and mimics; they soak up the information adults give them and imitate the actions we show them. By starting early to demonstrate and teach values like eco-consciousness and sustainability, we can raise a generation of people to whom valuing the environment — and acting accordingly — is second nature.

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