Last month, the Care.com team joined over a thousand volunteers and fellow Bostonians for a day of service with City Year's annual Serv-a-thon. We worked on revitalizing an urban community garden, and it was a great day of weeding, cleaning, building benches, and painting murals—even in the scorching heat!
My favorite part about it, though, was that our kids all got to experience community service firsthand, and came away with understanding of what it is to give back to their community and to the environment.
For green-themed projects your entire family can enjoy while caring for our planet—not just during City Year, but all year—check out my list of favorites:
Ron and I spend as much time as possible in our garden, and love it when the kids want to help out and learn about growing. Get your kids involved by planting a tree, repotting plants or flower beds with organic soil or mulch, or grow veggies and fruit from seeds in repurposed containers to learn about germination and caring for different kinds of plant life.
Make a mural with low-VOC, milk or clay paints, or sand and seal a bench or picnic table instead of buying a new one—saving the planet and money!
- TRASH PICK-UP
Pick up trash around your neighborhood, local park or woods, or local stream, lake, or beach.
Visit a recycling center as a "field trip", and set up recycling programs at home or at school.
- ENERGY EFFICIENT LIGHTS
Change light fixtures at home to LED or incandescent bulbs, and teach kids about the importance of turning off lights, appliances, and other plug-in devices when not in use to save energy.
- SAVE GAS, GET EXERCISE
Walk, bike, or take public transportation instead of driving, and teach kids about the impact of fuel on the global economy.
- REUSABLE BAG CRAFTS
Decorate hemp or organic cotton bags for use at the supermarket, or make your own out of old T-shirts, sheets and pillowcases.
- SAVE WATER
Inside, teach kids to turn off the faucet and limit running water when brushing teeth, showering, or washing dishes. Outside, install a rain catch for use in the garden—and summer sprinkler fun! Teach kids about the effects of water conservation, especially in areas prone to drought.
- ALL-NATURAL BUGS-BE-GONE
Make homemade bug repellent from non-toxic ingredients, saving your kids from carcinogens like DEET and the planet from harmful ozone-depleting gases and chemicals.
Write letters to local politicians and representatives about environmental issues close to your family's heart and values, either locally or nationally.
Have kids start a nature journal, and take nature walks and hikes to learn about wildlife and natural habitats in your area.
- CARBON FOOTPRINTS
Calculate your family's impact on the environment, and learn about ways you can make big environmental changes through little lifestyle ones.
- ALL-NATURAL FOOD
Host an all-natural or organic bake sale to raise money for your favorite "green" charity or environmental cause. Or, if you want to start at home with more natural food, create an "organic test kitchen" with your kids, and swap out one food or snack item each week with one that's organic--making it a science experiment. Did they taste the difference? Compare nutrition labels and talk about ingredients.
- DETOX YOUR HOME
Gather up all the hazardous chemicals in your house and switch to organic or non-toxic cleansers, or make your own! Also, you may want to wean off the plastic sippy cups, bowls, plates, and storage containers you've accumulated over the years. Many of these may contain dangerous PVC and phthalate softening agents, and the ones that don't may nevertheless have trace amounts of endocrine disrupters, all of which are harmful to your family's health.
- GREEN BOOKS & BLOGS
For more ways to explain and introduce kids to environmentalism, grab a copy of The Down-to-Earth Guide To Global Warming, from the team behind Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, or 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth, that you can read as a family, or encourage your kids to sign up for and get involved with PBS Kids' Zoom Team. I also found a fantastic blog to check out called The Green Guide for Kids you should check out and bookmark.
What are your favorite ways to teach your kids about going "green"? Share them with the Care.com community by posting a comment!