Saving the Planet One Kid at a Time

It may seem like children don’t have much agency in reducing consumption in the home, but even the smallest members of the family can play a role. Bearing mind that ‘consumption’ is not always about food but also includes accumulation of material things and the waste we create. Addressing consumption habits early can help children create habits that will maintain later in life, lead to better money management, and create less waste. 

Culture fight

New Dream, a national organization that addresses issues related to material consumption says, on average, American children can recognize 100 brand logos by age 3. Marketers and advertisers are increasingly targeting young children in their efforts, not for their own spending but for what they might ask their families to spend on them. Parents can soften kids’ impulses to ask, and their own impulse to buy with less screen time, and modeling behaviors. Experts and educators suggest talking about advertisements with children and teaching them to think critically about the advertisements they do see. 

Be especially aware of Internet and social media advertising. More and more, advertising doesn’t look like a Saturday morning commercial. They are branded or free games that have in-app purchases; ringtones, and backgrounds. Be aware of what is on your children’s devices and how much time they spend on them.

Using their own money

The best way to teach kids the value of a dollar is to have them spend—and possibly also earn— their own money. Knowing the price of things goes a long way toward teaching kids the difference between cost and value. When the child is the one paying the bill, sometimes the cost of buying all the items in the latest collection of branded toys feels much higher than their actual value. 

In the kitchen

Paper towels and napkins are an easy target for reducing paper goods in the home. Encourage kids to use reusable cloth towels and napkins. Ditch paper plates and disposable cutlery for the real thing. And that notepad everyone uses to make lists and reminders can be replaced with digital apps the whole family can share.  

At the table

It is also recommended families green up the menu to reduce waste of food products and packaging. Eating more fruits and vegetables, especially locally grown ones, can help reduce your family’s environmental impact in a big way. Look for local farmers who use sustainable practices at local grocer or farmers markets. There are several local butchers and ranchers who provide raised and harvested animals, and also use all cuts of the animal. Most will  even give you cooking tips.

Plus, when dinner is finished, most produce and non-meat leftovers can be used as compost. Click here for the Environmental Protection Agency’s guide to beginner composting.