We’ve all heard the saying, “Every day is Earth Day,” but how do we instill this idea in children in a way that inspires them to take action daily or at least regularly? Finding activities that build habits of good planetary housekeeping is a great place to start.
Here are three activities that we’ve been doing at my daughter’s elementary school that are fun, empowering, and impactful. These can be done on your own at home, but you can also be the parent or teacher that introduces (or runs) these initiatives at your school.
Reduce plastic waste and pollution with Prang Power and ColorCycle:
In an effort to help keep hundreds of millions of spent markers from becoming waste and pollution in landfills, incinerators, and oceans, companies like Dixon Ticonderoga and Crayola now offer take-back programs in which kids and schools can participate. Crayola also accepts other brands along with dry erase markers and highlighters.
To get started, collect your families spent plastic markers and bring them to a collection box at a participating school. If you child’s school isn’t participating, be the parent volunteer who sets up a central drop box and ships it to Crayola or Dixonfree-of-charge. For best results, make sure each classroom has their own small collection bag. Have teachers put students in charge of emptying their bags into the central drop box.
Save trees with the Catalog Canceling Challenge:
Each year 19 billion sales catalogs are mailed in the USA. 53 million trees are used making these catalogs. This paper production also uses 53 billion gallons of water and generates billions of pounds of solid waste (311,000 fully-loaded garbage trucks). Producing this number of catalogs requires the same amount of energy as 1.2 million homes a year and creates the same amount of CO2 global warming pollution as 2 million cars annually.
In an effort to address this problem, a fourth grade teacher in Massachusetts, Ted Wells, started the Catalog Canceling Challenge. This is a simple project, done by schools and scout troops across the USA that gets students competing against each other to see which grade can cancel the most number of unwanted sales catalogues. To help children support their grade, the CCC guidelines encourage parents and teachers to do the following:
1. Start a pile of unwanted sales catalogs for your child to cancel.
2. Ask your child if they are aware that 53 million trees are cut down to make 19 billion catalogs each year at a rate of 600 per second. Then ask if they’d like to help reduce these numbers to help the planet and clean out your mailbox.
3. Ask your child to help cancel the catalogs in one of two ways: by calling the catalog companies directly, using the 1-800 number on the back of each catalog and the simple script provided in the CCC organizer pack, or by helping your child set up a free account at www.CatalogChoice.org and inputting the catalogs you wish to cancel.
Keep Plastic out of our oceans with The PUP Games™ (Pick-Up-Plastic):
When plastic litter is on the ground, rainwater can carry it into a gutter, then a creek, then a river, then a bay, and often to the ocean. Scientists say that 80% of ocean plastic originates as litter on the land. It is estimated that 315 billion lbs. of plastic are in our oceans, the equivalent weight of 40 million elephants! Fish that we eat are eating plastics directly or through the smaller animals they eat and tiny pieces of plastic are being found in the tissues of animals across our entire food chain.
The PUP Games is a competition created by The Earth View Society that was inspired by Ted Wells’ Catalog Canceling Challenge. In an effort to help clean our communities, save the lives of animals, and protect our food chain, students compete against each other to see which grade can pick up the most plastic litter. Parents and teachers can help build the fun, education, and effectiveness of this initiative by stressing how a child’s actions make a difference with points such as:
1. If we do a better job at not littering and picking litter up, we can help our oceans.
2. Every single person can help with this problem.
3. Picking up one piece of plastic won’t clean up the whole ocean, but YOU keep that piece out of the ocean.
4. The plastic you pick up may save the life of a fish, a bird, a turtle, or a dolphin.
5. Over time, plastics can break into countless tiny pieces. You could say that picking up one piece is like picking up hundreds or thousands of pieces or more!
6. By picking up plastic you are helping to protect our food supply!
I hope some of these suggestions are useful to you for instilling the Earth Day Every Day spirit in children. I leave you with this African proverb that always reminds me of the power behind teaching children simple acts of anything: “If many little people in many little places do many little deeds, they can change the face of the earth.”
Land Wilson’s dedication to protecting our planet led him to write the award-winning Sofia’s Dream. You can learn more about him by visiting his website; be sure to tell him that Little Pickle Press sent you!