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Go Green! 5 Ways to Help Your Kids Live More Sustainably

Green your teens with games and fun tips

Pam Molnar

Published on: March 21, 2023

green teen

Kids are naturally oblivious to the resources around them. If the refrigerator is empty, their parents fill it. When the garbage cans get full, we bring them to the curb and the garbage is taken away. At home, they have unlimited use of electricity and water.  As our kids become teenagers, it's the perfect time to get them involved in lowering their own ecological foot print.

Consider these tips for making your teen aware of their use — or misuse — of Mother Earth.

Don’t watch it run down the drain.

A visual is a great way to see how much water your teen is letting slip down the drain. To show your teen how much water they use, close the drain the next time they shower. According to the Alliance for Water Efficiency, the average shower is between 8 and 9 minutes long. When calculating your teens shower time, include the time they let the water run while it gets up to temperature. While you can change the faucets to affect the amount of water that flows out each second, it is up to the person showering to control the duration.

Unplug unnecessary cords.

Let them see for themselves how much energy they are using. Teens love gadgets, so why not get them an electricity usage monitor? Plug in any device to get a reading of the kilowatt consumption of that device. Unplugging energy vampires such as computer printers and unused stereo systems can cut down on your electricity usage. Did you know the average cell phone takes approximately an hour to charge? Encourage your teen to charge their cell phones during the dinner hour instead of overnight.

Don’t ask; don’t offer.

Teens today get more car rides than they did a generation ago. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 1969, 48 percent of students used active transportation (walking or biking) as their primary mode of travel. Today, that number is 13 percent. As the weather gets nicer, let teens get themselves to and from activities that are nearby. Encourage your child to walk or ride their bike instead of relying on a car to get them there. If the distance or weather prevents walking or biking, set up carpools for those going in the same direction. And remember, everyone 18 and younger can take public transportation for free in most of Washington. 

Make your own grab-and-go.

Our kids’ generation relies too heavily on convenience packaging. Once a week, encourage your teen to make grab-and-go items instead of buying single-serving items. Fill multiple refillable water bottles and stick them in the refrigerator. Make your own fruit cups for lunches and measure out your own individual serving snacks. Purchasing larger containers or buying in bulk saves on that extra packaging from becoming future garbage.

Challenge your children to find more places to reduce waste for your family and make a game out of it.

No more last-minute Lucy.

As a parent of three teens, I dread the last-minute (and often Sunday night) runs to the store for supplies. While their teachers may have given them a week to get graph paper for their assignment, your teen will often surprise you with that information the night before it’s due. The result is a last-minute dash to several stores that you may have already visited during the week. Ask your teen to look at their schedule for the upcoming week, determine what they need and consolidate trips to the store. Not only will you save on gas, you will save yourself a lot of aggravation.

Is it really dirty?

Many parents of teens wonder how their child produces two times the amount of laundry as the rest of the family combined. It’s simple. As they are choosing clothes for the day, the discarded outfit never makes it back on the hanger. In a quick attempt to clean the messy floor, teens gather the clothes and deposit them directly into the hamper. Combat this wasteful habit by having your teen do their laundry. It is amazing how resourceful teens can be when it means less work for them.

Make it a contest.

Unlike older generations, our children have been aware of greener actions for a long time. Challenge your children to find more places to reduce waste for your family and make a game out of it. Give them a week to think about it, and then let everyone present their ideas to the family. Take a vote and award a prize to the best idea. Start implementing it into your family’s routine right away.

Teens are naturally self-absorbed. An old joke asks, “How many teens does it take to change a light bulb?” The answer: Just one. They hold it up and the world revolves around them. Teach your teen that their choices affect the Earth they share with the other 7.9 billion people who live on it. Simple actions, when put into practice by many, can help the world keep revolving for all of us.

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