How Going Green Improves Health
It feels good to do good things. This is a simple fact grounded in a lot of research about how doing good deeds impacts the body and mind, from increasing endorphins (the “happy hormones”), decreasing stress and anxiety, and lengthening life expectancy.
One thing that could use some good deeds? The earth. Teaching kids to get in the habit of helping Mother Nature has lifelong, mutual benefits for both kids and the planet. Being green goes hand in hand with good health, and, since eco-anxiety is on the rise, especially among children and teens, there’s never been a better time to make changes and take direct action. (As an added bonus, most of these tips are actually cost-saving, as well.)
What you can do
Help kids understand the importance of our planet and all the things living on it.
- Read some of the myriad children’s books written about the earth, nature, climate, and ecology together.
- Take trips out to whatever natural habitats are near your residence. This could include local and state parks, prairies, lakes and rivers, dunes, marshes, woods, etc. Explore together and let your children marvel at interesting plants and animals.
- Bring gloves and a trash bag on some walks together to pick up and discard litter.
- Learn about wildlife in different regions of the world and what makes animal species so unique to their environments.
- Discuss how plants keep the life cycle going, such as helping us breathe and eat.
Make changes in routines and habits.
- Go on a “green” scavenger hunt in your home. Have—and help—your child point out objects that can be made more eco-friendly either by replacing it or using it differently. Examples could be lights (turning them off, using different bulbs), faucets/showerheads (don’t let water run while brushing your teeth, take shorter showers), grocery bags, food containers, electronic devices (powering them off more often), cars and bicycles, paper towels (use fewer, make sure they are really dirty before tossing), and more.
- Practice the 3 Rs: reduce, reuse, and recycle (and check with your town to see what’s actually recyclable in your area!). Encourage creativity and imagination by helping your kids see “trash” in a new light by using discarded objects to create something new.
- Grow some plants by using seed starters or veggie scraps. Having your own supply of produce and/or herbs can help reduce what you need to buy at the store, saving grocery waste. Plus, gardening gets kids invested in what they eat.
- Increase screen-free time at home. Develop a plan with your kids to set aside a regular window of time each day or day of the week to turn off and put away electronic devices. It will be easiest to stick to this plan by coming up with a list (or jar) of screen-free activities to do—the possibilities are endless.
- Invest in products that help your family reduce waste, such as mesh produce bags, bamboo cooking utensils and dish brushes, glass jars and containers, cloth rags, and others. Buying used and thrifted goods is another great way to contribute less waste.
- Create your own _______! A lot of cleaning and body care products can be made with common household ingredients, such as baking soda, vinegar, oils, and other items. As long as it’s for general use (and not disinfecting or medicating), homemade goods are a hands-on way to go a little greener.
It’s never too late to practice healthy habits that also help keep the planet—our home—healthy, so talk with your kids about how you can make an impact together.