With Earth Day coming up on April 22, here are some ways that teens can go green this Earth Day and help take care of the planet. In addition to protecting our planet and its resources, these actions often have the added benefit of lowering some bills. That's a win-win!
- When finished charging your phone or device, be sure to unplug the charger from the wall. They are energy vampires, meaning that they suck electrical power even when you aren’t using them.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, "mobile phone chargers that are left plugged in after your phone is disconnected consume .26 watts of energy -- and 2.24 watts when your phone is fully charged and still connected."
- Skip the straw. When you're eating out and get a drink, it's almost automatic to get a straw. I can't say I thought much about it until I heard about the Shedd Aquarium Shedd the Straw campaign. Americans use 500 million straws every day, and most of them are made of plastic that never goes away. They often end up in our waters, and that impacts not only the water but the animals that call our streams, rivers and lakes home. Consider a paper straw or reusable straw, or skip straws all together.
- Spend some time with your teens' favorite parts of nature. Go for a hike together. Bike through a forest preserve. Visit the aquarium. Take a walk along the shore. Check out a local nature center. Feeling connected to nature makes you want to take care of it, and these places often offer their own excellent ideas for how to best care for the environment.
- Keep showers short (but not too short). The teen stereotype of taking endless showers persists because there's an element of truth to it. Talk with kids about setting timers and have them brainstorm ways to keep showers at a reasonable length. Please note I said "reasonable" and not "so short that you really wonder if they even got clean."
- Use a water bottle, and hang on to it. We all know that reusable water bottles are better for the environment than plastic, and I love that many schools now have water bottle refilling stations. But kids are prone to losing water bottles. Remind them of the environmental importance of hanging to them - if they get lost and then thrown away, it's not helping. Talk with your kids about ways to hang on to them, from choosing brightly colored ones to clearly labeling them to just remembering to double check before leaving somewhere.
- Use reusable bags. Reusable bags are key, be it shopping bags, lunch bags, any kind of bags. I confess that I am bad about leaving my grocery bags at home so I've started keeping them in the car, which has helped a ton.
- Eat local. Start a garden. A lot of parents want their kids to do productive activities over the summer, and growing your own food definitely counts. Also, consider visiting the farmers' market and buying local so that you know not a lot of fossils fuels were used in transporting your food.
- Hit the streets. Walking or riding a bike is much more environmentally friendly than driving. If you must drive, carpool when you can. It's more fun to go with friends anyway!
- Talk to your kids about what they think your family can do to reduce consumption and be better stewards of our resources. They may have great insight and ideas, and including them in the conversation about conservation sends an important message.
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