Article exclusively written for Sustainable Lafayette by Denny Scholl
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As a parent, your No. 1 job is teaching your children, and that includes ways that we all can be better stewards of the environment.
Here are three examples of lessons in sustainability (we’ll cover these in a bit more detail later):
Getting your child’s hands dirty is a fun way your tyke can learn about gardening by planting seeds and making their own soda bottle composting system.
Find out what “Trash walks” and rain barrels have in common and how they make for a more beautiful Lafayette (remember to wear gloves when picking up trash and recycling).
A trip to the farmers market can put farm-to-table front and center in young minds.
From reducing or eliminating the use of plastic to creating a sustainable garden, here are four ways you can teach your kids about sustainability at home.
California's climate is one reason the state ranks high when it comes to quality of life, and family gardening and lawn care are great ways to spend time together while nurturing the earth’s natural resources.
Teach your young ones these down-to-earth lessons about the environment and sustainability.
What should your family plant in your family garden? Native grasses and plants grow best in Lafayette and other neighborhoods close to the Bay Area.
And how should you feed and nurture the plants in your garden? The best and most sustainable fertilizer for your lawn comes from grass clippings, minced leaves, and compost.
Why are natural fertilizers better? Organic sources release nutrients slower than chemical mixes, but they won't kill earthworms that aerate the soil. Natural fertilizers won’t harm birds and wildlife, nor dump chemicals into nearby rivers and streams.
One way for kids to learn about soil and plants is to let them get dirty. Instead of insisting they watch their step, encourage them to dig through the soil, plant flower and vegetable seeds, and keep track of each week’s growth. Take pictures. Have the kids dig a hole in the ground to plant a small tree.
Fun activities: Hydroponic gardens are easy to care for, fun to watch, and yield a tasty harvest. Another idea is the soda bottle composting system.
How to create a soda bottle composting system
Cut the top off a clean, clear two-liter bottle and remove the label. Fill it with soil and spoiled vegetables or grass and leaves – anything compostable. Layer the soil between the material, add water, set the bottle in the sun, and watch the slow-but-interesting process of composting. Keep track of the changes with a photo or notebook.
Rain Barrels and Water Conservation
Water is the Earth’s – and arguably California’s – most precious resource, as rainfall in Lafayette averages about 24 inches a year, much lower than the national average.
Teaching little ones not to waste water can be challenging, but rain barrels can illustrate a simple sustainability lesson.
How rain barrels help the environment (and your wallet): Placing a rain barrel in your yard means there’s less need to turn on a sprinkler or hose to water the lawn and garden. The less water you use, the more you'll save on water and sewer services.
While you can't drink water from a rain barrel (it contains chemicals and dirt from the roof and gutters), having one or two on your property will remind your children not to let water run down the drain.
Fun activity: Encourage your children to make their own rain-collection systems out of plastic jugs and planters.
Make Recycling a Habit
Reduce, reuse, recycle – you’ve heard the phrase before. Set up several recycling bins in your home for plastic, cans, glass bottles, and paper. Kids will get in the habit of sorting their trash.
Recycling bins are a great inspiration for reusing items to make crafts. Mason jars, paper plates, plastic bottles – even toilet paper rolls can be repurposed into something wonderful.
Fun activity: Grab some large garbage bags and take the kids on a “trash walk” through your Lafayette neighborhood or nearby park. Take some hand sanitizer along. Have your little ones pick up the wrappers, bottles and other waste and put it in garbage and recycling bins.
Support Local Farmers
When you can’t grow your own produce, support the local farmers who can. Instead of shopping at the grocery store where fruits and vegetables have often been shipped hundreds of miles, take your kids to shop at a farmers market.
You’ll get fresher produce, You’ll also be supporting California’s rural communities, and since local farmers tend to use organic practices, you’ll be reducing the amount of pesticides polluting our water.
Lead by Example on Eco-Friendly Sustainability
When it comes to your kids, you know what interests them and what they’re most likely to do from start-to-finish, but the most effective way to teach your children about sustainability at home is to practice what you preach.
If you model eco-friendly sustainability, they're likely to pass these practices onto their children one day.
Denny Scholl is a third-generation farmer who hopes to pass his five-acre farm down to his sons one day. He grows green beans, tomatoes, potatoes, and zucchini for his family and neighbors who visit him at the local farmers market. What he doesn’t sell, he barters for baked goods.