Monday, April 7, 2014

Environmentalism That is More Than a Slogan

The Climate Crusader realizes she has more work to do at home to make her environmentalism more than a family slogan.

Yesterday evening my family attended a family dinner at my in-laws' house, about 45 minutes by car from our home. By the time we got home at 8:00pm my five-year-old was asleep in his car seat, and I did my best to get him dressed in pajamas and into bed without disturbing him. As I kissed him goodnight, however, his eyes snapped open and he pointed out that we hadn't brushed his teeth. He glared and me and said, "Not brushing your teeth is bad for the earth."

Oral hygiene is important, of course, but it's not really an environmental issue. I think my son has absorbed the explanations I give about why our family makes certain choices, and concluded that saying something is 'bad for the earth' is a way of condemning it in general. Therefore, pulling out the phrase around tooth brushing is a way to get me to act. The kid is only five and it was late, so last night I just took him to brush his teeth and didn't get into long explanations. It made me think, however, about how my kids are absorbing my environmentalism.

There are a lot of things that we do in our family that my children don't regard as exceptional. When I was a kid recycling and municipal composting were unheard of. Almost everybody used toxic cleaners without a second thought. Reusable shopping bags and reusable water bottles were not commonplace. There wasn't a lot of awareness about the dangers of some cosmetic products, and organic food wasn't anywhere to be seen at most grocery stores. We threw batteries and lightbulbs into the trash without a second thought.

Environmental crusader in training?
I personally think that the fact we have much greater environmental awareness today than we did 30 years ago is a good thing. How could it not be? At the same time, I sometimes feel discouraged because while we are more environmentally aware, we also consume a lot more. Computers, tablets, cell phones and iPods were either rare or hadn't been invented yet in the 1980s. Disposable fashion wasn't a thing, and neither were plastic water bottles. There were fewer consumer goods to buy, and people bought less. I don't mean to paint an overly-rosy picture, but it would be untrue to say that we have made progress on all fronts, environmentally speaking.

My own kids take a lot of environmental action for granted, but the fact is that we need more than that. It's important to take these little steps for the earth, but we need to do more. We need to do not just the easy thing, but the difficult thing. We need our children to build on the progress we've made, rather than taking it for granted and maintaining the same level of environmentalism (and consumerism). We need to take steps to raise little environmentalists, and make sure that they understand why we're doing what we're doing.

Clearly, I have a little work to do with my own family, because the explanation 'it's bad for the earth' isn't cutting it. I want to make sure that my children understand environmentalism is more than a slogan. We all need to care enough to make a difference in the world. I want to do my best to share that with my children.

Have you ever heard a kid make an environmental connection that surprised you? How do you make sure environmentalism is more than a slogan in your family?


Green Bean said...

Love this post, Amber because my kids have the same slogan: "bad for the earth".

Like you, I look back at my childhood. We played outside more. There were few video games. Screen time consisted of I Dream of Jeanie episodes. Less after school activities to drive to. But, yes, also less recycling. Almost no one I knew composted - and we had an acre with a garden on it.

Still, we do need to do more. A lot more.

Mindful Echo said...

It's definitely important that children really understand why something is "bad" or "good" as opposed to just knowing how to recite the expression.

Your story is adorable though!

One time at the grocery store I saw a little girl tell her father not to touch the scanner or the conveyor because "it could destroy the city." lol

Christy said...

This really rights true for me as well.


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