Back to School

Good Habits Start Young

We all know instilling good habits is easiest when we're young, so more and more parents and educators are working to make kids aware of the importance of caring for our planet. As kids get ready to return to school in the fall here are some simple tips to encourage sustainable habits and support a healthy environment...and healthy kids!

Start with the basics. Remind kids to turn off the lights in the bathroom or any unoccupied room at home and at school. Encourage them to throw away any trash they find on the school playground, tell them to use both sides of their notebook paper, and suggest that they save unused chalk and art supplies.

Lunch break. Pack kids' lunches in lunch pails or canvas bags instead of throwaway paper bags. Consider re-using plastic sandwich bags, or only using durable plastic containers. Be sure containers are safe however, as some plastic lunch boxes contain harmful toxins such as PVCs. You can also try to find creative ways to re-purpose items in your home.

Check out your school's recycling programs. Ask whether recycling bins are accessible and if the kids are encouraged to use them. If they are, be sure your child knows to recycle plastic and glass bottles, as well as paper.

Make smart decisions while shopping. Buy school supplies with less packaging and seek those made with organic materials, or which have been recycled. Consider investing in sturdier products – this can ensure years of use from items like backpacks. You can also make smart decisions when buying back-to-school clothes.

Re-use school supplies that are in good condition. When you're in the middle of exciting back-to-school shopping, sometimes it's easy to forget about all the items you already have at home that are still in good working condition. Binders, loose leaf paper, pencils and scissors are often only lightly used. Save money and resources by buying only what's really needed! If you can't re-use old products, donate them to your school or daycare.

Carpool. If you live somewhere where bus service isn't provided, start a carpool and take turns with other parents in the neighborhood to drop off and pick up the kids. You’ll each save time, energy, and fuel.

Keep children in touch with nature. After-school time used to involve catching fireflies, exploring the neighborhood woods, making mudpies, and just having a good time running around outside. This has changed dramatically in the digital age and children are less connected to nature which can cause them to care less about its condition. Instead of plopping down in front of the TV or computer after school, encourage your kids get outside for an hour or two each day. Not much daylight left after the homework's done? Take a family walk after dinner, devote your weekends to outdoor-only activities like biking and hiking, or start a nature club for your family. Studies have shown children who spend more time outside are less likely to be obese, have Attention Deficit Disorder, or be depressed.

Spread the word. Encourage your children to spread their environmental conscious. They can suggest that their friends pack lunches too so that they can trade items or have a cool reusable lunch bag as well.