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Kids: Natural-Born Tree Huggers

2010/08/14

I hesitate to say this, but it’s arguable that children are born environmental terrorists. It takes strong influence and formidable training from parents, family, peers and the media to mold them into energy- and environmentally-conscious individuals.

From the day they enter into this life on Earth, they begin contributing to its decline. Just think of the millions of diapers and baby wipes piling up in the landfills (3.4 million tons per year). But, oh, you think you can save the environment with reusable cloth diapers? Though the impact may be less by some arguments, it’s still significant in the amount of water used just to wash soiled cloth diapers (50-70 gallons per household every three days). You can’t not affect the environment in a negative way if you have children.

I am not suggesting people should not have kids. You have to accept the fact that children are not environmentally friendly, especially in the diaper years. I suppose, however, if you let the little buggers run around diaper- and pantless until they were potty-trained, pooping and peeing on the ground everywhere they went like chimpanzees, you have a case for having a Green baby. But who does that, really? If you know of someone, tell me, I’d like to interview them for a future post on People Who Live Like Animals.

My 3-year-old, now FINALLY out of diapers only a few months ago, finds it necessary to use half of a roll of toilet paper each time she goes. I’m not kidding, because sometimes I find it wadded up in the trash basket next to the sink instead of in the bowl. Good thing I buy in bulk.

So now the kids are out of diapers, and they are old enough to sometimes listen to parental reasoning. Listen to, not necessarily comply. But your own everyday actions are the best teacher for them, so when they scream that there’s a spider on the wall, catching the spider alive in a jar and taking it outside speaks volumes to them. Soon enough, you’ll be watching your 3-year-old playing in the sandbox, asking her what she’s building, and she’ll reply, as mine recently did: “I’m making a house for the ‘squitoes so they can be happy.”

Respect for all life, now we’re getting somewhere. And no more whacking mosquitoes on my arm in her presence.

But then you take a walk through the house in the middle of the bright afternoon and find a total of seven unnecessary lights left on with no one occupying any of the rooms. CFL bulbs or not, that’s wasteful. So you explain to your offspring how saving energy helps the planet, and how they need to remember to turn off lights when they leave a room. Apparently, it went in one ear and out the other, because the next day you find eight lights on.

My 6-year-old recently decided taking baths with her 3-year-old sister was lame, and she began taking showers instead. The monthly water bill has skyrocketed. The water level of nearby Lake Michigan is declining. Coincidence? The older daughter takes longer showers than I do, and judging by the steam pouring out from under the door, hotter. I’ve tried to counter this by taking cooler and shorter shower myself, but judging by the water bill, it has been ineffective. Besides, both of them bathing separately now more than doubles water consumption for hygiene.

Repeated reminders to take shorter, cooler showers and to use less toilet paper and to turn off the lights have little effect. I’m considering my next move may be to first threaten the possibly of running out of water, then shut the main valve off. In addition, I might do the same with the electricity. Wastefulness seems to have no end. I won’t even discuss the composite amount of uneaten meals that could feed a small third world country for a day.

treehugger

Natural-born treehugger?

So as a parent who wants their kids’ kids to know what it feels like to hug a tree, you do the best you can in making them understand the significance of the actions towards the environment. I think mine understand well enough, and with time, they’ll understand more.

Our oldest is named Gaia, after Mother Earth. Talk about great expectations, huh? But true to her name, at only a year-and-a-half old, she was spontaneously hugging trees in the back yard. Somehow she knew how good it felt without being told.

There’s always hope for the future.

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