In advance of Earth Day, I have tips for parents on how to teach your kids about taking care of the earth in practical, hands-on ways. After all, who doesn’t want to save the bees?
Where Does our Waste Go?
The most obvious thing to consider on Earth Day is trash. Even adults probably don’t think about garbage once it’s picked up from the street. Time for a little field trip to the county dump. Yep, it’s the best way to get a bird’s eye view of where our trash goes. And what ends up in the landfill that doesn’t have to be. Have your kids make a list of items that could have been recycled or reused instead.
On a broader level, show your children what happens to waste that doesn’t make it to the landfill. We all see plastic bags, straws and other trash along the highway…but how does it hurt the environment?
Pollution often finds its ways into wildlife—birds, turtles, fish, and other animals, who suffer from our trash as they eat it or get stuck in it. But that plastic eventually can make its way to humans via the breakdown into microplastics in our food or water. We are just finding evidence of microplastics in the human body–it was found in the lungs for the first time. Another way we suffer from our own pollution is that when animals eat plastic, the chemicals in the plastic will enter the body of the animal and eventually make its way up the food chain to us.
Plastic In and On the Ocean
Did you know that there is a gargantuan island of plastic in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California? And by gargantuan, I mean 1.6 million square kilometers—that’s twice the size of Texas and three times the size of France. Think of it this way–it’s like every human on the planet tossing 250 pieces of plastic into the plastic garbage patch. For Earth Day 2022, let’s not add to the patch.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch weighs 88,000 tons–equal to the weight of 500 Jumbo Jets!
What can you do to limit what goes in the patch? Think about how much plastic you use and document it, then find ways to use less plastic!
- Use refillable water bottles instead of disposable
- Bring your own takeout boxes to restaurants
- Use reusable straws; bamboo is a great choice
- Use silicone tops and bags rather than plastic wrap and zipper bags
- Buy foods in boxes, cans or glass rather than plastic
- When you buy food in plastic, try to buy those that have a recycle #1 or #2
- Bring your own cloth bags whenever you go shopping (and not just the grocery store!)
How Much Water?
We take our water for granted because it’s a commodity, but in some parts of the US and the world, it’s scarce. Try this. Put a plastic basin in the sink to measure how much water might be wasted when we wash our hands or our face or our teeth. You’ll be surprised how it adds up. What about the water we throw away after we cook veggies, or rinse a pan, etc? That water can be used to water indoor or outdoor plants.
Similarly, if you have a kid that likes to take long showers, have him stop up the tub first to see how much water he really uses!
Even Ants are Important to the Environment!
When my kids were little, I was that mom that would tell the other kids not to stomp on the ants. Ants are not exactly people too, and I’ll admit it’s no fun to step in an ant hill and have them crawling on you and biting! But it’s important to teach kids that all insects play an important role in the environment and that you should never, ever kill them just for the fun of it. Think about getting your kids an ant farm so they can appreciate their organization and team work. Here’s why ants deserve our respect:
- They are predators of other insects, helping to keep pest populations low.
- They move a lot of soil around, which increases air and water movement in the ground, helping plants grow.
- By carrying bits of insects and plants into their nests, they fertilize the soil.
- They help plants disperse seeds to other areas
Save the Bees!
Bees are crucial to pollinate the plants and trees that provide us with a smorgasbord of food. Yet, we’ve had massive die-offs of bees. Compared to 1947, the US honeybee population decreased by 60%. But there are things you and your kids can do for Earth Day to save the bees:
Did You Know that Bees pollinate more than 1/3 of our food supply?
If your kid likes to eat apples, peaches, blueberries, cucumbers or carrots, he’d most likely not have any of those foods to eat if we lose the bees. Ninety to one hundred percent of those crops are pollinated by bees, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Plant a bee garden (or a fruit tree). One thing that hurts the bees is their dwindling habitats. Bee-friendly plants include Bee Balm, Candy Tuft, Cosmos, Dames Rocket, Echinacea, Foxglove, Gaillardia, Goldenrod, Hosta, Lavender and Sunflowers.
You can create a healthy habitat for bees by having a garden with flowers. It’s always fun to have a garden with kids, but it’s even better when you plant with a purpose!
Say No to Synthetic Garden Chemicals
I cringe when I see people spraying pesticides. And while professional mosquito control may be safer for bees and other pollinators, DIY efforts can be worse. What people don’t realize is some chemicals can hurt other insects, especially when the wrong chemical is used or other chemicals not meant as a pesticide (like bleach in water) are used. Instead use organic products and natural solutions, for instance, ladybugs and praying mantises can help keep pests away.
Plant a fruit tree. This is a long-term solution, but mature fruit trees provide hundreds of flowers not only for bees, but also for hummingbirds and butterflies. For more tips on pollinator-friendly growing, see https://savebees.org/
Policies and Legislation Can Help the Bees
To see what regulations are currently being considered or enacted, look here and then let your voice be heard!