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Carbon Footprint for Kids

written by: Amber Neely•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 4/22/2012

Everyone is trying to be more environmentally conscious these days, and while the best efforts of adults are great, teaching kids how to reduce their carbon footprint instills life-long environmentally friendly habits before adulthood.

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    Making the world better for people and animals alike It seems that every time you turn around, you hear more and more about green living and carbon footprints. But what is a carbon footprint? A carbon footprint is a measurement of all the greenhouse gas emissions caused by a company, product, or person. Reducing your carbon footprint means you are willing to take steps to reduce the amount of impact you have on the environment. And it isn't just adults who can reduce their negative impact on nature, kids can reduce their carbon footprint as well. By teaching your kids how to reduce waste and conserve energy and resources, you can teach them environmentally friendly habits that will last well into adulthood.

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    Pack Waste-Free or Limited-Waste Lunches

    A bento lunch that utilizes a reusable metal container Pack a better, smarter lunch by using as many reusable items as possible. Instead of using a brown paper bag, try using either an insulated lunch box or a bento box set to pack your child's lunch in. If you don't want to send the good silverware into an elementary school never to be seen again, go out and buy a set of reusable plastic forks, spoons, and knives. This way, if your child accidentally loses a piece, they're easily replaced. Encourage the use of reusable containers, rather than foil and plastic bags. There are thousands of silicon and hard plastic options available in every shape, size, and color, and they are fairly inexpensive. In addition to being waste-free, your child won't have to worry about a squashed sandwich or broken chips. And instead of those drink pouches or boxes, pack an insulated thermos with your child's favorite juice.

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    Start an In-School Recycling Program

    Recycling machines are popping up in malls, schools, and workplaces everywhere. Ask your child to talk to a teacher about starting an in-school recycling program. Students can collect cans, plastic cutlery, and plastic bottles from their lunches and have them recycled at a local recycling plant. This will teach the children in school they can be environmentally responsible by simply sorting their recyclables and their trash into different bins. Not to mention, most recycling plants offer money back when you bring in recyclables, so the school can use the money to fund improvements.

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    Conserve Electricity in the Home

    Windows are great (and cheap!) alternative to using lights in the daytime Encourage your child to conserve electric. Remind them to turn off computers, video game consoles, and TV's when they are finished using them. When your child is done playing in a room, do they often leave the light on? Remind them that they are wasting electric andto turn off the lights when they're not using them. If it is sunny outside, teach your child that opening the blinds and the curtains to let in natural light eliminates the need for lamps and lights in the day time. If your child needs a night light, consider getting a nightlight with a sensor that turns off in the day time or while the lights are on. Or even better, think about getting a solar night light that you can leave on the windowsill. It will be perfectly charged and ready to go every night at bedtime.

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    Conserve Water

    A ten minute shower is just as effective as a much longer shower and save a lot of water Remind your child to use less water. Every time you take a hot shower, most houses have to provide hot water from a large hot water tank. The more water you use during a shower means that the hot water tank must heat up more water after you are finished. This is an excessive use of energy. Keep showers short, ten to fifteen minutes long a the absolute most. If your child has a hard time knowing when their time is up, give them a wind-up egg timer and set it to ten minutes. When they hear the ding, they will be reminded to finish up their shower. On hot summer days, instead of letting the kids play with the hose or run through the sprinklers, invest in a temporary pool, such as a kiddy-pool or a family-sized inflatable pool. Filling it up once and using it the whole summer is far more environmentally friendly than letting your kids pull out the sprinklers and hoses any time they get a little too warm.

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    Bike, Walk, or Carpool whenever possible

    A green (and fun) method of transportation. If the weather is nice, encourage a kid to walk or ride a bike (or skateboard, or rollerblade) short distances, rather than asking a parent for a ride. It's a great form of exercise as well as a great way to reduce car-produced pollutants. Don't allow your teenagers to take the car specifically to cruise around town, and encourage your children and their friends to carpool whenever possible. Offer to chip in for gas money whenever they do car pool as a form of positive reinforcement.

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    Kids have the power to make their lives better for tomorrow, today! With encouragement and positive reinforcement, you can teach your children how to leave a smaller carbon footprint and adapt an environmentally friendly lifestyle. Remember to always practice what you preach, because children often mimic the behaviors of their parents. Get your whole family involved in living green living!

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    Picture Credits:

    All pictures were used under a Creative Commons Share and Share-Alike license or had been released with no copyright attached and are free for public use.