Tips for Teaching Your Teen About Sustainability

It’s no secret that our earth is in jeopardy: climate change is no longer up for debate and we need to make a conscious effort to ensure our habits are sustainable. Teaching your child sustainable behaviors and the importance of the environment, particularly in adolescence, can impact how they lead the rest of their lives. As a parent, you want the world that you leave behind for your children to be healthy; you want the natural wonders that excited you (and continue to excite you) to be around for many, many years. In order to ensure that they are, here are some ways to encourage your teen to make sustainability a part of their day-to-day.

Appreciate Nature

Appreciating the environment starts with getting outside. Leave the cell phones at home and take your whole family on a nature excursion: camping, fishing, hiking. Go swimming in lakes or oceans, go stargazing or bird watching. Do some research and visit a neighboring natural wonder (the sand dunes in northern Michigan, the caves in Kentucky or the sea turtles in North Carolina.). Help foster a love of nature in your children; if your teen cares about the natural world, they will be more inclined to protect it.

Recycle and Compost

Image Credit: Lindsay

It’s easy to throw away a recyclable container, claiming convenience, instead of taking the time to 1) look to see if the container is recyclable, 2) rinse out whatever what in the container and 3) take it to the recycling bin. Lead by example and make recycling a personal priority. Challenge your teenager to keep up, creating as little waste as possible. Children are innovative, so make recycling a family game—who can produce the least amount of waste? You might be surprised by what your kids come up with. Show your teen the value of composting as well: recycle food scraps and lawn clippings and use the compost to enrich your backyard soil.

Have Thermostat Awareness

Modern amenities like air conditioning and heating make it so that we never have to feel too hot or too cold, but these use a ton of energy (and cost a lot of money). Instead of constantly adjusting your thermostat, encourage your teen to dress for the season and keep your thermostat as low as comfortable in the winter and as high as comfortable in the summer. Keep drapes open during the day in the winter and closed at night to allow sunlight in and seal in warmth; keep them closed during summer days to maintain a cool indoor temperature.

Make Good Transit Choices

Image Credit: Jorge Sanz

If your teen’s school is close by, encourage them to walk or bike to class. Do the same yourself when heading to work in the morning. If you live in an urban setting where public transit is an option, encourage your teen to take the bus or the train rather than the car when they go to the movies or to a friend’s house. Cities in the U.S. are becoming more and more bike-friendly, so supply your child with the necessary gear (helmet and pads) and make biking a family affair.

Be a Power Saver

Hit the off switch! Remind your kids to turn off lights and appliances when leaving a room. Unplug your devices when they don’t need to be plugged in and power your TV, computer, sound system and gaming console down completely when you’re not using them. Help your family make power-saving behaviors habitual.

In the end, you have to lead by example: make sustainability a priority in your household and your teenager will be more likely to adopt them as young adults, which makes good green sense for us all.

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