Eco-Parenting in 8 Simple Steps
By Curtis Cook
Raising children is hard enough without worrying about the environmental consequences of your parenting choices. Don’t sweat it. You already care about your child’s well-being and green choices make it easier. If you are losing sleep over diaper selection – biodegradable or cloth – let it go. Many have entered the landfill vs. water consumption debate with no clear winner (check out Green Is Universal for Mr. Green’s opinion on the eco-friendly diaper conundrum).
Life is full of these imponderables and who knows that better than parents trying to answer their children’s questions. My in-laws tell me they are still traumatized from all the difficult questions my wife threw at them when she was a preschooler. When it comes to eco-parenting, here are eight fundamentals:
1. Lead by example. You are the greatest role model your child will have. She will look up to you, learn from you, and embrace your habits. If you teach when you talk, you avoid many of the “why” questions that inevitably come when she sees you separating food scraps from glass from cardboard or turning the lights off when you leave a room.
2. Instill fundamental human needs. In addition to love, he needs to know that clean air, clean water and clean soil are essential to human life. He can live without video games, but he cannot live without these precious commodities.
3. Share “green” experiences. Start a composting project or visit the aquarium to learn about the importance of the marine world to our lives. What happens when we take too many fish out of the sea or dump too much garbage into it? How does it affect the family.
4. Seriously consider breastfeeding. In a perfect world, no food is better (or greener) for an infant than mother’s milk. It is the ultimate in nutritious, local food production. Don’t take my word for it – check out the American Medical Association position on breastfeeding at www.ama-assn.org.
5. Healthy food is usually green food. Your child will benefit from local fruits and vegetables at home. Take him to the local market or if possible, a farm to learn about fresh food. Encourage him to start a garden in the backyard or grow some herbs in a pot at home. He is less likely to develop food allergies or sensitivities if he is not eating processed, packaged or fast foods. For easily digestible information on food choices for kids, check out any of Intent.com blogger Michelle Schoffro Cook’s books on health and nutrition.
6. Green food makes you smarter. Diet is critical for learning. Parents can pitch a green school lunch partnership plan that is both healthy and financially responsible. If schools and school boards know that healthy cafeteria options don’t inflate the budget, it is hard to argue against them. For example, a school garden is a great education tool and a source of nutritious food for students.
7. Travel green. Don’t let your child develop an automobile addiction. Seek out destinations that you can reach together safely on foot or by bicycle. It is a great way to share time together and get fit. When the car cannot be avoided, try to combine errands or carpool with other families. Carpooling is a great, green way for parents to share the travel load.
8. Seek out green products for your kids. When you buy her toys, clothes and bath products, take some time to find eco-friendly, safe options. There are a number of websites that provide information on both, including www.toxinfreetoys.com and www.ecobabyproducts.com. Green products for babies and children are growing in popularity in traditional retail outlets as well.
Eco- parenting is simple parenting if you stick to the basics. Just add love.
Curtis Cook is the Executive Director of the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust, President of Ecotactix and Founder of the Executive Centre for the Ecology Economy. He is a two-time book author and has written over 100 published articles on the environment, clean technologies, innovation and sustainable business.