April 18, 2011

How my son inspired me to go environmental.

My guy decked out in a eco gear.

Here’s what happened.

I told my son, Ethan, time and time again that we weren’t going to buy those “cool” plastic water bottles. I didn’t care that “all the other kids” got to bring bottled water to school. To baseball practice. Or just drink the stuff at home.

I told him why: The waste. The cost. The fact that our tap water was perfectly safe (we test it annually). His whines continued and my response turned into a chant: No Bottled Water .

One day he came home from school and actually scolded me for what he discovered in the fridge.

“MOM! What’s that doing in there?”

One bottle of bottled water.

I got it from someone else—I swear–who offered me water at their home. I didn’t know it was going to be bottled water. Worse, it was VitaminWater–I didn’t like it and I couldn’t finish it. That’s how it got into our fridge.

He was not satisfied with my excuses.

I was proud.

He had been listening.

Before this, I tried to influence grown-ups about their bottled water and other “ungreen” habits. That didn’t work out. The excuses too numerable to list.

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. ~ Native American Proverb

My son inspired me to empower other kids to be the change. If other kids got it, then they’d scold their parents, too.

The I Count for myEARTH reusable water bottles were born. To serve a practical purpose of safely holding their water and as a reminder–I Count.

I custom printed 1200 bottles with money we didn’t have and launched the I Count campaign at my son’s school. Not without the help of my friend’s mom–an 80-something year old lifelong teacher who still today works as a substitute. One word: visuals.

Ask kids to come up with their own visuals. Have them calculate things like—how many football fields would be filled with disposable water bottles every week? How many bathtubs would be filled with perfectly good water just to manufacture the plastic bottles and aluminum cans?

In the U.S. alone, we toss out enough water bottlers to circle the equator every 2.9 days! (And, stacked, to reach the moon every month!)
The US airline industry discards enough aluminum cans to build nearly 58 Boeing 747s.

Side note: If you’re a soda or sparkling water addict, SodaStream is a cool product for making your own and greatly reduce all that bottle/can waste! No batteries or electricity required!

To engage the kids, I wrote an interactive skit that the student council presented to each classroom—K thru 5. The students were more captivated than I expected. Transfixed by the shocking visuals presented by their classmates; they were excited about the possibility that they could make a difference for the planet that they’re going to inherit.

Do we give our kids enough credit for understanding complex issues and wanting to institute change?

Although being far from a scientific, statistically significant study–the campaign ignited something in the kids. Some parents reported that they were now getting lectured by their kids about buying bottled water. Some complained. An executive of a multinational beverage company—who happened to be on the PTA board – had me in tears. Others invited me to speak to their girl and boy scout troops.

Back to the kids. Expose them to the earth’s wonders. There are many children’s books and even documentaries you can watch together as a family. Tapped is an amazing film my son watched with us when he was 8. It unveiled the underbelly of the bottled water industry. People who lived near the plants getting seriously ill. Or having their wells and streams run dry because of bottled water companies tapping into their water system. And on the backend, plastic in our oceans—garbage patches floating around… some the size of Texas.

Trust in children to hear you. Make it fun. Let them know they count—each and everyone of them. That they can make a difference in the world. Count on them to influence others. For the inspiration to become contagious. (The good kind of contagious). P.S. And if you don’t want to do it for the earth, do it for their future. P.P.S. Every day is earth day.

If you think you are too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito in the room. ~Anita Roddick

* This post was originally published on my I Count for myEARTH blog.

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Lynn J. Broderick  |  Contribution: 33,050