What does being a green parent mean to you?

The other day someone commented at a green forum I frequent about how ALL eco-friendly people are tree hugging hippies who focus on driving a Prius or solar panels – i.e. BIG actions. Then later in the day someone asked me if I thought I was an environmentalist; because in their opinion when they think about environmentalists they think about people protesting or working on green tech or something like that – i.e. more big actions.

So it’s been on my mind – am I an environmentalist and more importantly, because I have a son, what exactly does being a good green parent mean to me.

Websters notes that an environmentalist is…

  1. an advocate of environmentalism
  2. one concerned about environmental quality especially of the human environment with respect to the control of pollution

The above is true about me. Although, I’d say I fall under 2 more so than one. I don’t currently go out and protest. I don’t drive a Prius. I don’t live in an off-grid home. I don’t make large gestures. Being a green parent is a lot more simple than that in my opinion. I’ve been thinking about it and I can sum up what I think it means to be a green parent in maybe 5 steps…

1. Buy less stuff: If I had to sum up my number one best idea for living green, kids or not, “Buy Less Stuff” would be at the top of the list. If you only do one green thing, buying less stuff might give you the most bang for your time. Too much, too big, too excessive stuff is the cause of many green issues. So many people want more, more, more and that’s not an eco-friendly way to be. All stuff uses up resources, space, energy, time and money – and all of this drag us further away from objectives like healthy living, nature and family time – which in turn are important aspects to focus on if you want to live green. On top of this you might want to add buy smarter stuff – i.e. reusable options vs. disposables and recycled vs. non-recycled.

2. Focus on the basics: I do think that green parenting at the very least means encouraging recycling, making green cleaning choices and doing away with disposables when possible. For example, we’ve never had paper napkins in our house, and I’m hoping my son will grow up and continue to use cloth napkins – small choices add up. The above (green cleaning, recycling, and knocking disposables) are easy things that any parent can try. Basically if you’ve got easy curb side recycling and you’re not using it and teaching your kids about it, you could be doing better in my opinion.

3. Promote nature appreciation: Most kids aren’t born with nature appreciation, just like kids aren’t born with TV appreciation or Happy Meal appreciation. Our actions as parents make a huge difference. If we like to be outside, if we get our kids out there and have fun, if we discuss nature, then yes, hopefully they’ll learn to appreciate and maybe even love nature. Growing green kids is pretty darn basic – kids who appreciate nature grow into adults who appreciate nature and adults who appreciate nature are more likely to be advocates for the earth. In my experience, people almost never attempt to preserve what doesn’t matter personally to them. As a parent you do need to make nature count for your child.

4. Keep their world healthy: By “Their world” I mean their direct world. Serve vegetables not fast food most of the time, buy organics when possible to cut out pesticides, use green cleaners and BPA-free dishes. A lot of green issues are health-minded. I do try to cut out many chemicals and pesticides from my son’s world. I know he’s going to run into pollution and chemicals – that’s a given unless I send him to live in a cave. However, in Cedar’s own home-based world I can do small things that get him thinking about the state of his health and body. Kids in this country are outstandingly overweight right now, and that’s a big problem. While you may not consider the childhood obesity issue a green topic, I actually do because kids I see who do get to run around in nature are fit enough to do so happily. There’s a huge link between having a healthy body and living green. I think if we focus on health issues from an early age our kids will have the tools they need to be healthy enough to deal with all sorts of issues, green included.

5. Talk green: Talking about why we make the choices we do has a big effect on kids. My son is nine years old and he can tell you about pollution, recycling, organic foods, tree planting and more. Yeah, he tells it in his own words and he gets mixed up about some stuff, but overall he gets green living at a level that’s appropriate for his age and green issues matter to him – he brings them up independently now. Talking about green living issues, and more importantly, how they relate to our direct world is one of the most important parts of being a green parent in my opinion.

So does the above make me an environmentalist or would I need to go tie myself to a tree or drive a hybrid to earn that title? I don’t know. I suppose I don’t even care. I just try to make green choices that will affect my family in a positive way. My version of green living is small smart steps that add up; maybe I’m not even living green, maybe I’m living logically; who knows? What I do know is that so far it’s working out for me and my son.

What do you think defines a good green parent?

[all images of son Cedar and best friend’s daughter Bella out and about taken by Jennifer (who is not photo savvy)] 

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  1. Laura says

    I think you’re totally an environmentalist because of what you do and your reasons behind it all. And you are an advocate of environmentalist through this blog and all your posts encouraging others to become more environmentally aware and make greener choices. I had never thought about what makes a good green parent, but your steps summed it up nicely. Good going!

  2. Sue-C says

    You are right on with being a good green parent. Your actions definitely add up to make more of a beneficial impact than someone who simply buys a Prius but doesn’t change their lifestyle. There are so many ways to inact meaningful changes in the choices we make. From eating organic food to buying carbon offsets, it’s everyone doing what they can to move us all towards a better environment.

  3. Jennifer says

    @Laura – thanks :) I think a big part of being a good green person is encouraging others without pushing them too much.

    @Sue – I agree, simple choices add up big time. I think that when people are so overwhelmed they’re just not thinking small scale enough. Everyday decisions don’t have to be overly complicated.


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