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Imagine that you are growing up in a time when climate change is looming as a more immediate threat than it has ever been. Kids now face challenges unlike those encountered by previous generations, but they also have access to education and technological advancements that can make their lives richer and easier. Although the situation and circumstances surrounding climate change might be more threatening than ever for future generations, we can all help empower kids to use their advantages for good and develop great daily habits.

No child wants to be a litterbug, but kids need to go beyond simply refraining from doing bad things to the environment, and you can help them feel empowered to change the way they affect the environment. Bad habits can be replaced with good ones without a lot of fuss. Start your child on the path to developing an eco-conscious lifestyle by helping them start and keep these four habits that will benefit your kid, the planet, and the future of both.

Habit 1: Play in the Great Outdoors

Spending time in front of television, video game consoles, and computers is something nearly all American kids enjoy. Children don’t have to worry about giving those things up any time soon. However, it’s best to enjoy screen time in moderation. Kids can save energy by turning off energy-zapping devices and going outside to play.

The more kids enjoy playing outside, the more connected they can feel to the environment, too. Kids who grow up feeling a strong connection with nature are more likely to want to preserve and protect it. Also, outdoor play increases fitness levels and can even have a positive impact on a child’s emotional and psychological well-being.

Start simple; go for a walk with your child. While you should encourage your child to use creativity and imagination when playing outside, you can lead the way with structured outdoor activities, too. Invite your child to help you plant a garden, which can inspire an interest in growing their own food. They may enjoy filling bird feeders, then watching birds appear in your yard over time. Filling a bird bath each day can help birds and other creatures in the hot days of summer, and it can help show your child how rewarding compassion for other sentient beings can be.

Habit 2: Pick Up 10 Pieces of Trash Each Day

Litterers threaten the beauty of your community, but they also pose a threat to the environment. The plastic trash that winds up in natural environments can be devastating to animals, causing pain and death to wildlife and companion animals. The good news is that kids can make a huge difference when taking a stand against trashing the planet.

Help your child set manageable goals for doing their part. They may set an attainable goal to pick up at least ten pieces of trash each day. You can help them do this on the way to school or when you go for a walk with them in your community. Keep America Beautiful has a #cleanYOURblock hashtag for its Great American Cleanup movement that can help organize local clean-up events and find solutions for removing litter when you find it.

Habit 3: Eat Yummy, Healthy Plant-Based Meals

Help your kids make better eating choices with a focus on fresh, local fruits and vegetables. Eating plant-based meals is the easiest, yummiest way kids can make a difference. After all, livestock production is the biggest cause of climate change, contributing over half of all global greenhouse gas emissions every year. It takes two acres of land to produce 500 pounds of beef, while two acres of land could instead produce over 100,000 pounds of potatoes. Add to that the fact that the government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans reports that most people (including kids) are not getting enough fruits and vegetables. It makes sense for the environment and kids’ health to eat more plant-based meals.

Happily, there are a wide variety of nutrient-dense, planet-friendly foods for families to enjoy together. Meals like lasagna and black bean salsa burgers as well as snacks like banana granola bars and cinnamon coconut yogurt can await them on a healthy meal plan.  You can help your kids lighten their carbon footprint even more by selecting local foods when possible. Children can benefit from One Green Planet’s #EatForThePlanet movement.

Habit 4: Carry a Reusable Water Bottle

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that kids between the ages of four and eight need at least five cups of water each day, and that number goes up as children grow. If your children are involved in sports, they need to drink even more to stay adequately hydrated. Instead of giving your child money to buy bottled water during lunch and sporting activities, help them pick out a fun reusable water bottle they will want to take everywhere.

The simple choice of replacing bottled water with beverages in a reusable water bottle can make a big impact over time. Plastic water bottles take more than 1,000 years to biodegrade, and landfills in the United States have over two million tons of old, single-use water bottles. If a child carries their own reusable water bottle, they can prevent over 100 plastic bottles from going into the ocean each year.

Spread the Word

Finally, we all have a responsibility to our planet, and children’s natural interest in doing their part should be nurtured and encouraged. By starting with four simple habits that can become a comfortable part of daily life for your kids (and the rest of the family, too), you can get children off to a great start in taking care of themselves and the world around them.

Image source: Singkham/Shutterstock 

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