Today’s teens and tweens really care about the environment and teens like Greta Thunberg are leading voices for taking care of the Earth. Earth Day is a great opportunity to empower teens to make a difference for our planet. Here are ten easy actions teens can take to go green. Better yet, make these family goals. Not only will you be helping the Earth, there are some additional and unexpected benefits, too.
Use a water bottle, and hang on to it
Reusable water bottles are better for the environment than single use plastic bottles, and water bottle refilling stations are popping up all over. The trick is making sure your kids hang onto their bottle. Let them select one they love, preferably in a bright color that’s easy to keep track of and clearly label it. You can also set a reminder for them to double check that they have it before leaving somewhere.
Added bonus: Drinking more water is great for overall health. It can improve skin and aid digestion, as well as cut down on headaches.
Take shorter showers
Long, steamy showers seem to be a rite of teen passage. But if they become a habit, that can mean a lot of water. Encourage teens to keep showers a little shorter by keeping it fun; get bathroom-safe speakers that they can use with their phone and limit shower time to the length of a couple of favorite few songs. Or just use a shower timer. *If hygiene is an issue, perhaps skip this one.
Added bonus: Lower water bills and enough hot water for the whole family.
Switch your straw
Americans use 500 million straws every day. That’s the same weight as 1,000 cars. Over time, that really adds up. Imagine that trash that would not be produced by kids over their lifetime if they made the switch to reusable straws, biodegradable paper straws or no straws? The Shedd Aquarium’s Shedd the Straw program now includes 100 participating restaurants and even MLB ballparks, and your family is more than welcome to join in.
Added bonus: There will be healthier animals in the ecosystem.
Take part in a clean-up
Kids may not be great about cleaning up their rooms, but joining in a community clean-up is more fun and empowering. That point was perfectly illustrated by the viral before and after photos of how a bored teen cleaned up a park, and the many similar efforts that followed suit.
Added bonus: It may just inspire teens to clean up at home, too.
Wanting kids to unplug not only means less screen time, it’s also about wanting them to unplug their chargers for their devices when they aren’t using them. Chargers continue to use power even when a device is fully charged, and even when a device isn’t plugged into them, earning them the title of “energy vampires.”
Added bonus: You can lower electricity bills and won’t overcharge devices, which can impact their battery life. You may also make it more likely you’ll find your charger.
Studies show that kids who spend time outside demonstrate more environmentally responsible behavior and attitudes as adults. The more connected to nature kids feel, the more they want to take care of it. So take a walk in a forest preserve, spend some time in a nearby park or head to the beach. You don’t have to go far or for too long.
Added bonus: Tweens and teens often open up and start talking when on a walk or a hike with no other distractions around. The dog may get more exercise, too.
Use reusable bags
Reusable bags are significantly better than the alternative. I confess that I am bad about leaving my reusable grocery bags at home so I’ve started keeping them in the car. My teen has found a reusable lunch bag that she likes.
Added benefit: You won’t have to deal with the mess of plastic bags that can take over when you get too many of them.
Start a garden. Tweens and teens are completely capable of handling the responsibility, and you might be surprised at the pride they take in what they grow. Visit a farmers’ market near you to find food grown in the area that didn’t require a lot of fossils to get to you. (We are counting down the days until ours opens here!)
Added benefit: Encourage your kids to talk with the farmers; they’re happy to share info and recipe ideas and can encourage them to try something new.
Speaking of eating, food waste is a big issue. Tweens and teens are known for eating a lot, but they sometimes get picky about fresh fruit and veggies that are past their prime. Throwing away bad food is not just wasting the food itself, it also wastes the water and energy it took to produce the food and bring it to market. Teach them a few smoothie recipes and encourage them to get creative on their own — it’s a delicious way to reduce waste. Toss fruit and veggies into the freezer to keep until your in the mood for the smoothie.
Added benefit: Teens and tweens get valuable nutrients and you save some money by not tossing food you’ve already paid for just to buy something else. It’s also a good option for breakfast or a snack on the go.
Talk and help them become advocates
Ask your kids what they think they and your family can do to be better stewards of our resources this Earth Day and beyond. They may have great insight and ideas. And encourage them to get involved in their community. For my teen, that means volunteering at the Morton Arboretum and doing clean-up days with her Global Scholar Club. For others, that means getting involved in the ecology club at school. Encourage them to reach out to lawmakers on environmental issues they care about. Inspire them by watching Swedish teenage environment activist Greta Thunberg’s speech:
Also, have them consider applying for the Keep America Beautiful National Youth Advisory Council, which is open to students who will be high school juniors and seniors next year and provides a framework for youth engagement focused on ending littering, improving recycling, and beautifying America’s communities.
Added benefit: Including them in the conversation about conservation sends an important message and empowers them to come up with their own actionable ideas.
You May Also Like: 10 simple tips to reduce food waste this Earth Day (and every day)
Pin for later: