Think Green

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Getting kids to go green

Eco-friendly lifestyles aren't just for adults. Encouraging kids to go green at a young age can set them up for a lifetime of making decisions with the environment in mind. The following are just a few ways parents can impart a sense of responsibility to the environment on their youngsters.

* Lead by example. Many kids try to mimic their parents' behaviors, and moms and dads can take advantage of that by making sure kids see them as they recycle, conserve water or make other eco-conscious choices. If kids want to know why you're separating trash or opting for tap water over bottled water, explain to them the positive impact that such behaviors can have on the health of the planet.

* Encourage eco-friendly hobbies. Today's youngsters have a host of technology at their disposal, and parents know full well that such access can be both good and bad. While technology can enhance learning in the classroom and beyond, gaming systems and other electronic devices have made it easy for kids to forgo outdoor activities in favor of more sedentary hobbies. Many medical researchers believe that such hobbies are contributing to higher rates of childhood obesity. But they also can harm the environment. Gaming systems, whether played on televisions, computers or handheld devices, use a substantial amount of energy. Parents who encourage more eco-friendly activities, such as reading or playing outside, can get the best of both worlds, as kids will be getting out and about and embracing activities that don't harm the planet.

* Ride bicycles more often. Reducing fuel consumption is one of the most effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint, and even though kids can't drive, that doesn't mean they can't pitch in to conserve fuel. Children who attend school close to home can ride their bikes rather than taking the bus or hitching a ride with mom or dad. Explain to youngsters the impact that such a choice can have on the environment, and ride bikes with your kids whenever possible, be it on trips to the park or to visit friends and family members. Many kids love to ride their bikes, and they might like it even more if they understand the positive impact that such a hobby is having on their planet.

* Teach kids to reuse products. Waste is a significant environmental issue, but reusing products is a great way to cut back on waste. Items that would once be tossed into the trash after serving their purpose can be repurposed when tackling projects around the house, and kids can get in on the act, too. Rather than purchasing store-bought decorations for holidays like Halloween or Chanukah and Christmas, reuse old products to craft homemade decorations. Birthday gifts or items exchanged during the holidays can be wrapped in old newspaper instead of store-bought wrapping paper. Many products that would otherwise be discarded can be reused, and kids might enjoy finding new ways to make use of old items.

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