Teaching Kids to Conserve Natural Resources

| February 8, 2012 | 0 Comments
Family cleaningMaybe your kids are a lot like mine. They leave lights on when they’re not in the room, forget to shut the refrigerator, leave the door wide open when it’s 90 degrees outside, and take 20-minute showers (usually after arguing over the necessity of a shower to begin with). All of these things are not only annoying, but they waste natural resources and money. There must be a better way of teaching kids, rather than constantly shouting “shut the door!” after them, or nagging at them to shut off the lights and take shorter showers. Here are a few we’ve tried, with varying results:Beat the ClockMy kids are almost always game for a contest of some type. We went to an environmental fair a few years ago and bought a small egg timer that sticks on the wall to use in the shower. It took five minutes to empty the top of the hourglass. I challenged my kids to beat the clock: my son was encouraged to finish his shower in under 5 minutes, and my daughter, in under 10 (because she has long hair and must shampoo and condition). While this worked well for my daughter, my son took it a bit too far. He is now in and out of the shower in approximately 18.4 seconds… and sometimes, his hair is not even wet! Now I find that I’m urging him to stay in the shower longer, but my electric and water bills are lower.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

I read in a popular parenting magazine about brainstorming with children in order to find new uses for commonly thrown-away household items, such as cardboard boxes, disposable water bottles and scrap paper. This would not work for my family, because both of my children tend to be packrats and want to save these types of things anyway for a project-that-we-might-do-someday. At this time, we have approximately two dozen empty cardboard boxes stacked up in the garage, because the kids insist that they might need to make that many dioramas or homemade dollhouses.

What we have done, though, is learn about which types of plastic are recyclable in our area. My kids now know to check all plastic that comes into the house to see if it is one of the types that our recycling company will take. We also throw junk mail into a bag to be taken out on recycling day, instead of pitching it in the trash.

Show Them the Money

Let’s face it, money talks. When kids understand that wasted electricity equals wasted money, they might not internalize the concept unless they’re seeing (read: benefiting from) the savings. Sit down with your school-aged children and show them the electric bill. Tell them that you will split any savings with them, or will put it in a going-out-for-a-special-treat fund, and watch the magic happen. Soon, your young ones will be turning off lights and televisions all over the place, and you’ll find yourself needing a sweater in the house in the winter, due to a lowered-by-them thermostat! The fridge will remain closed, and you will never see a door left swung open again. Okay, these might be slight exaggerations, but when kids can actually see and experience the benefits of saving electricity, they’re more likely to comply.

What are some ways that you’ve taught your kids about saving water, electricity and other resources?

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