Last week, I was honoured to host an Eco-schools demonstration classroom. This meant that teachers from other schools came to watch me teach, talk about my program, and learn how they can have their schools and students become more eco-literate. In other words, go green.
Eco- literacy? Is that like recycling and planting trees and stuff?
Well, sort of. It’s actually a lot more than that. Being eco-literate isn’t just the stuff we do for the environment, but stuff we do for the environment because of what we understand and believe to be important.
Our generation is unique. We are the first generation that needs to be taught eco-literacy. A lot of the stuff we are (re)training ourselves to do are the things that our parents and grandparents did naturally. And hopefully, the things our kids will do naturally when they become adults. Things like using less paper, conserving energy, and walking more than driving. I don’t know about you, but I find it really hard to break some of the terrible habits I have developed over the past 30 years. Luckily, our children are growing up in a very different world. A green world. As teachers, we have a responsibility to teach our students how to become eco-literate just as much as we teach them to be math-literate and computer-literate.
Why am I telling you this? Because you play a key role in your child becoming a Global Citizen. In order for kids to make sense of what they learn in school, they need to be able to connect it to the real world. And their world is you and your home.
Does this mean you have to transform your entire life to keep up with all of our eco-initiatives? Not at all. The best thing you can do is be aware of what’s going on at school and what you can do to incorporate it into your home.
While every school and every teacher are different, there are a few changes that I can confidently say most schools have adopted. And to make your life even easier, I am going to connect them to an eco-term that everyone is familiar with: The 3 Rs: reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Reduce: The most important of the three, reducing is the first line of defense. It relates to everything from fuel emissions to packaging to water consumption. You can show your child you support this initiative by not idling while waiting for him in the parking lot. Better, yet, walk to and from school together…and not just on Walk-to-school Wednesdays. You can also reduce waste by packing a litterless lunch. Just to clarify, litterless means nothing thrown out or recycled. All packing is reusable and food waste goes into a green bin. Using a water bottle in place of a juice box, or purchasing a washable sandwich container are tiny, almost effortless changes that makes a huge difference.
Reuse: A lot of classrooms now have G.O.O.S. (good on one side) paper bins for students to use for things like rough work and doodling. Identical to what we knew as the “scrap paper” bin, having a GOOS paper bin at home is a great way to reduce the amount of paper you throw out. In addition, many schools accept “garbage” donations, such as magazines, milk bags, and Styrofoam meat trays. A quick inquiry to the school is sure to provide you with a laundry list of items that they would be happy to take off your hands.
Recycle: Ok. So I know that we all have the bins at our homes, but do you really know what goes into each bin? For example, did you know that most disposable coffee cups aren’t recyclable but the plastic lid is? As a Saturday afternoon craft project, makes signs that clearly show what goes where, using examples that are specific to your house. Let you child take the reigns on this one; kids love being able to “teach” their parents.
Finally, lead by example. If you expect them use a water bottle, then you should make an effort to bring a reusable mug with you to the coffee shop. Or use GOOS paper to make shopping lists. Just two of the many tiny little things that show your daughter that you are teaching and leading by example.
As a both a parent and teacher, I do understand how overwhelming it can seem to turn green. But really, it’s not that hard. Just little changes can have a major impact not only on our planet, but also on your child’s understanding of what it means to be a Global Citizen. Remember: every waterfall began with a single drop of water.