My mother has recycled ever since I can remember. I have a vivid memory of her haranguing my dad’s family about recycling on a group vacation. She actually picked aluminum cans out of the trash while griping about landfills and started a special recycle spot in the condo. I’m sure everyone thought she was insane, but now I am pretty much the same way with recycling whatever I can.
This year, April 22 marks 45 years since Earth Day became an official movement, and I enjoy teaching my own kids why we have Earth Day and how we can better care for our planet. Maya Angelou said, “When we know better, we do better,” so a big step in doing better for the Earth is being aware of choices and appreciating where we live while making it a better place. Earth Day is a great opportunity to teach some great lessons to your kids.
Earth Day Lesson #1: Stand up for what you believe in. We laugh about the story of my mom on vacation, but we are proud of her for standing up for the Earth even when she was seen as strange and picky.
Earth Day Lesson #2: You can have an idea and put it into action with a lot of hard work. Earth Day was born from the mind of a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin who was outraged about a 1969 oil spill in California. He saw all the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations and hoped he could channel that kind of energy instead into caring about the environment. With a lot of help, he made it happen.
Earth Day Lesson #3: Look around and pay attention and don’t settle for doing things the way they have always been done. The idea of caring for the Earth was widely promoted and the result was 20 million Americans standing up for the rights of the environment and protesting the mistreatment of it. Up until that point, most people were not thinking much about smog, oil spills, pesticides, what was happening with nuclear byproducts, what kind of damage driving our cars was doing, and so much more. Raising awareness of these problems started to incrementally change everything. Earth Day 1990 is what gave that big push toward recycling and the result is seeing a huge recycling bin at the end of practically every driveway in America.
Earth Day Lesson #4: Sometimes doing worthwhile things is not easy. Recycling can be a pain one day, but then the next day you buy a product that is made from 100% recycled materials and you see that what you are doing really does make a difference.
Earth Day Lesson #5: It doesn’t just have to be about bottles and cans and cardboard. You can recycle clothing by donating to thrift stores. The Natural Resources Defense Council says that “the average American now discards 68 pounds of clothing a year, wasting energy, water and landfill space.” Composting, refilling used ink cartridges, cloth diapering, reusing shopping bags or using cloth instead and community gardening are just a few more ideas … there are so many more!
Of course there are terrific books on Earth Day that you should check out for your kids, and there are wonderful crafts you can find as well. While reading these books and doing these crafts, why not take a few moments to impart some deeper lessons too? Happy Earth Day!
Kerrie McLoughlin is the homeschooling mom of 5 who enjoys EarthDay and blogs at TheKerrieShow.com.