kids tree hug
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She wrapped her arms around the tree, snuggled into the scratchy bark, and in the same voice she uses when reassuring her younger brother, she sing-songed, “Awww, I’m so sorry he hurt you, tree. I will always love you and take care of you!” Her brother followed suit: “I sowwy I kick you. That not kind choice. I wove you, tree.”

Maybe it was inevitable. We go hiking and camping. We talk about taking care of the earth. The truth is, my kids are total tree huggers.

My husband and I laughed at the adorable moment, but the fact is, we need our kids to love the earth, to care what happens to our planet.

While we are far from a zero-waste family, it’s important to us that we make conscious choices with the planet in mind. There are things that I do as an adult to lighten my carbon footprint. I believe it’s important that I give my children the faculty to do the same.

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Kids aren’t given much choice or power over their lives or their place in the world. This is their planet, too, after all. They should get a say!

As my children grow and learn, these are the little things that empower them as advocates for the earth.

These items are not just for children, but can actually be a great way for anyone to begin their journey toward improved eco-consciousness.

1Energy consumption

Our energy discussion began as we prepared to participate in Earth Hour last month. The full concept of energy consumption is a little more complicated than my children were ready for. So we simplified it. A lot. My children celebrated Earth Hour by taking a bath in the dark, with our solar-powered camp lantern nearby. Their response: “Let’s have Earth Hour EVERYDAY!” My husband and I looked at each other and shrugged, “Why not?”

My daughter now loves her lantern baths and reminds us to charge our lantern when it’s not in use (renewable energy for the win!). My children also give each other reminders to turn off the lights to take care of the earth. This is a job they love. Now that my 2-year-old can reach the light switch (HUGE big kid accomplishment here!), this gives him power where he otherwise is relatively powerless.

2Reusable bags

My kiddos are in charge of our bags. They remind me to bring them when we leave the house. They remind me to bring them into the store. They remind me to take them out of the cart. We’ve also added reusable produce bags into our rotation as well. We have a few sets of mesh ones that we love, but any reusable bag that’s the right size is perfect for produce.

3Water bottles

Refillable water bottles keep us from buying more plastic, they can hold more volume, and keep our water cooler. Plus, my kids get to choose the ones they want. When you have very few choices in life, the design and color of your beverage receptacle are of utter importance. Just ask any parent who has provided their child with the wrong color cup.


Occasionally, we do end up with plastic water bottles. That’s where recycling comes in. Recycling is becoming easier and easier. We live in an area that supports recycling. We have receptacles provided onsite for our recyclables. All we have to do is the rinsing (check with your local facility on their requirements) and sorting. In some states, there is legislation that makes recycling mandatory. In some places, it is harder not to recycle than it is to recycle. We have had a few instances where we had to recycle something that wouldn’t fit in our recycling bin, so we needed to transport it ourselves to the recycling center. It’s like a field trip for my kids. Which brings me to the next point.

5Visit the landfill

Do it. You need to. And watching Toy Story 3 doesn’t count. There’s nothing more humbling than staring into a massive pit of garbage. It’s so easy to buy into the “out of sight of out of mind” mentality when it comes to our trash. When you follow the garbage truck, when you see the mountains and mountains of bursting plastic bags, tied tightly against their contents, you can’t help but take action. You can’t help but do something. And something can be the tiniest first step because something is always more than nothing. My children know that everything we throw into the trash will go into a hole in the earth. It doesn’t disappear. It doesn’t go away.

6Hug a tree

Yes, it is a total hippy cliché. Here’s the thing though. Humans breathe oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Plants “breathe” carbon dioxide and “exhale” oxygen. If you can’t bring yourself to wrap your arms around a tree, standing near one works just as well. It feels really good.

7 Celebrate Earth Day

My children love celebrations. This Earth Day, we’re attending our local satellite March for Science (one of 491 around the globe). My kids are planning to sing “Happy Birthday” to the Earth and…hug all the trees.

I can’t say that I’m not proud.