I was in the kitchen cleaning up breakfast dishes dumping leftover eggs, toast and bacon down the drain. Madilyn, my six year-old, was using the powder room when I heard my husband, Brian, tell her, “That’s enough!” He noticed the ridiculous amount of toilet paper she was using. “I need this much, Dad!” At that moment, we looked at each other and realized the importance of teaching kids not to be wasteful.
That morning was a wake up call for our family. I put a lot of time and money into making meals for my family so every fiber in my being cringes when I waste food, especially when those eggs are from a local farm. Heck, they can be expensive and they are so nutritious so I hate to waste them. For some reason, my husband is like that with toilet paper. Hey, we all have our thing…
Since that morning, Brian and I have been trying to teach our girls how they can be less wasteful and more respectful of the resources we have. We are so blessed to live in a country where fresh eggs are available and all the toilet paper you want and need is for sale at every store. I want my kids to be grateful of the life they have and I want them to not take it for granted. If we do anything “right” with our kids, I want to teach them respect – for our Earth, for our community, for our home, and for each other. A few small changes in our daily routine have really impacted our carbon footprint and our overall family dynamic.
Now, keep in mind, that this is still a work in progress. Plus, it comes with a ton of questions from the kids like, “Why do we need to recycle?” and “Why does it matter if I leave the water running?” and “Mom, you can just buy more paper towels, right?” Sometimes it is easy to forget how little our kids are and how everything is new to them. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t want to give them the burdens of the world – one of those burdens being all the waste in our plentiful country. However, it is our responsibility as parents to teach our kids that they too are responsible for making this world a better place. It is our job to teach our kids that we only have one Earth to live on and we must all work together and take care of it.
What is great about my kids ages, 6 and 3, is that they love to help and they adore projects and having a purpose. Here are the things we are doing to teach our kids not to be wasteful:
Be the example. Our kids are following our lead so we have to walk our talk when it comes to being less wasteful. I have been trying to take shorter showers, not filling up the girls bathtub all the way, turning off lights when we don’t need them and walking instead of driving to places that are close. I try to tell our girls why we are doing these things with the hope that something will stick and they will start doing them on their own when they are older. Talk to your kids about these big environmental issues. They understand more than we think.
Give away items to others in need. The other day, I was cleaning out our basement on the never-ending mission to have “less stuff” in our home. Madilyn was helping me sort through the toys and baby items we don’t need anymore. She asked me, “Mom, why don’t we just throw this stuff away?” It hit me. I need to do a better job teaching and showing my kids the love of giving to others. We packed up 8 garbage bags full of toys and baby items that are going to charity.
Let the kids make their own plates of food. We used to make the kids dishes but what I found is that we had more food waste. Now that they are a little older and more self-sufficient, we let them decide what they want. I am a mama who only makes one meal so the kids are used to the “take it or leave it” philosophy. I have found that they are learning self-control as well as wasting less food. Plus, before throwing food away, the girls ask Brian or I if we want their leftovers. Yep, sometimes I finish their plates before I go back to the kitchen for seconds.
Always save leftover food. We always take leftover food home from restaurants and I try to use it up for future meals. Don’t be afraid to ask for a box for the leftover bread and butter on your table. They are just going to throw it all away. Also, leftover greens can be added to soups and stir fry. Brown bananas don’t need to be thrown out. Mash them up and add them to homemade pancakes. Always look for ways you can repurpose leftovers.
Make recycling a priority. Be cognizant of the things that can be recycled and encourage your kids to help. Have them identify the items that can go in the recycling container. We are using old, broken crayons for crafts instead of throwing them away. I have been trying to use reusable grocery store bags instead of the plastic bags. Any plastic bags get reused for doggie business outside! Our 3 year-old, Juliana is the “dog manager” so she is in charge of getting the doggy bags ready when we go outside. Give your kids jobs appropriate for their age that allow them to take some responsibility for recycling and repurposing.
Use leftover water to water plants. Sometimes we have half full bottles of water around the house. Instead of dumping down the drain, I water our plants with it. When our kids see us being conservative with water, they will follow suite. Talk to your kids about why it is important to conserve water. Talk to them about how kids in other parts of the world have to walk outside and find fresh water – for some, it doesn’t just appear through a faucet.
Reduce the paper products. My mom thinks it’s hysterical that we rip our paper towels in half. They are too big for the kids so we make them stretch and last longer. We give the girls guidelines for how many sheets of toilet paper they should use. We recycle paper used for art work. We use the backs of coloring book pages. We even go outside and paint trees instead of using paper. We use leftover oatmeal containers and egg cartons for crafts. Before going out to the craft store and buying craft items, look around your house and see what you can use.
Moms, with just a few easy tips you can teach your kids to not be wasteful. This is a life skill that will serve them well for years to come.
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