Teens and Green: A Great Combination

In this article on going green, I would like to focus on a particular age group: teens. It is critical to understand certain truths about teens if you wish for them to live green…or any other way for that matter.

The teenage population must be regarded with respect and tasks, habits, and other requests you make should reflect a lot of coolness in order to be acceptable. This age group won’t be content with making kiddie crafts…unless it somehow helps them get a date for Friday night. They aren’t really into cleaning except when it guarantees the use of the car next Saturday. And, they have no intent on changing behavior unless they get something out of the deal–you know, extra spending money or some other privilege.

It isn’t that this group of society is bad. In fact, I think teens are absolutely wonderful. It’s more that teens aren’t little kids anymore and yet they aren’t adults with all the freedoms and responsibilities. In fact, a teen will inform you one second that they aren’t a baby and then argue they can’t do whatever it was that you asked because they’re just a kid the next.

What teens are great about is a cause. They love them. However, what you think is a cause may in fact be seen as something else you want them to do in their eyes. What you have to do is find a way to get your teen involved that is good for the earth and that relates to the lifestyle of teens in a big way.

Saving the planet, going green, and preserving nature are big for teens–just not in the way that you’re big on these items. For a teen, life is dramatic, dynamic, and always at full speed ahead. There are no such things as brakes, logic, rhyme and reason. There is an abundance of impulsiveness, spontaneous reactions, and emotional roller coasters.

To tap into this wide range of new and exciting aspects of teens in order to encourage green living, you just have to be creative. The following are ways to get your teen involved in green living without a huge headache:

*If you won’t do it, don’t ask your teen to do it. Teens are big on examples. Make sure your own examples show green living before you broach the subject with your teen.

*Introduce your teen to a world of volunteer activities. Animal shelters are wonderful places to show a teen how to preserve nature and provide a cause they can identify with. Consider that many teens feel rejected, abandoned, misunderstood, and mistreated by peers or other adults in some way. Teens relate and identify with the animals in shelters more readily than any other age group because of this and will fight to champion the animals toward a better life. In the process, you will see your teen’s self esteem improve, confidence rise, and mood change for the better. Volunteering at animal shelters teaches work ethic, preservation, compassion, and acceptance gently.

*Teens are proactive by nature. Encourage them to become involved in church, community, and green living. Help them organize activities such as cleaning up the park or planting trees or even hanging bird feeders in neighborhoods.You will discover that their ideas are often wonderful and worthwhile in our pursuit of going green. They will discover that they have value, can follow their dreams, and spend time with parents and other adults without it being painful.

*Teens make great mentors for the younger kids. Help your teen organize activities to get the children involved and watch the results blossom into something amazing.

It’s only garbage-the high price we pay for trash

Have you ever wondered just where your trash ended up after you toss it into the garbage can? Has it ever occurred to you that the trash you discarded may have a monumental impact on the world in which we live? Have you ever considered that there might be something you could do to reduce the amount of garbage you produce in a day?

If you have, then you are among a growing mass of people who have begun to realize that our trash has consequences we all have to pay. And, you’re probably also in the growing number of people who are sighing, thinking there really isn’t anything you could do anyway.

But, you’re mistaken. Each of us can do a lot to preserve the natural world around us and improve not only nature, but our own health at the same time.

Yesterday, I started a post about this topic and intend to run a few in a series to help everyone learn the fun that can go along with becoming more responsible environmentally. It really isn’t as painful as protesting in undesirable weather and living within the trees for years to ensure they aren’t cut down. Many of the things we can do that preserve the environment are not only easy, but they are attractive as well.

I touched on some of the many crafts and reuses of items normally thrown away in the last post. I didn’t explain what happens to the trash once it leaves our trash can in the garbage truck, though. Today, the idea is to learn what happens once we throw something away and what the impact of that action has on us.

Little Johnny tosses a handful of school papers in the trash. He doesn’t think about where they came from or where they are going. He just knows you told him to clean out his backpack and that’s what he’s doing. He has to if he wants to go play baseball outside with his friends.

His sister, Suzy, dumps the junk mail into the garbage along with a soda can and few wads of plastic from the wrapping on her new CDs. She never stops to consider what will happen to it beyond the normal trip outside for the garbage man to pick it up at the end of the week. She only wants to listen to her new music.

Dad drops by the trash can with an assortment of shredded paper from documents and other goodies he’s left at his desk. He gets rid of the coffee cup with the plastic wrap from a trip to the gas station and deposits a candy wrapper-its contents long since gone.

Mom throws away the most. She rummages through the house for any trash that missed the observation of the others and even adds her own special touch to the garbage as she fixes dinner. Plastic and Styrofoam from packages of meat and cardboard from boxes of pasta heap themselves on top of the already bulging kitchen trash container.

No one considers the consequences. The trash this family has accumulated has grown. It will be set out to the curb for pickup, be compressed, and be tossed into a landfill to sit until it degrades. It is in the degrading that the problem of trash is first seen. Not all things biodegrade at the same rate.

Food and natural matter in raw forms that are similar to food biodegrade rather quickly and without a lot of fuss. Insects come along and take care of most of that variety of waste, leaving little behind. But food is not really a huge concern when discussing trash. It will decay as will any living thing and return to the earth from which it came.

Cardboard and paper are sometimes a concern. Besides the fact that many trees were removed from the land to produce the paper products, there is the fact that these items are slightly slower to biodegrade. Instead, they become homes and nesting materials for rodents and insects alike, creating a high pest population.

Plastic, rubber, and a variety of other such materials are a major hazard. These items will sit in the same landfill for what should be considered forever as they have biodegradable life spans of 3-5 hundred years. They will keep the landfills full and cause the need for the development of new landfills indefinitely.

You might think that conventional recycling is the best answer. However, for some items, recycling it can cause as much or more air pollution and damage as filling up the dumps with it. It is for this reason that we should all consider new and innovative methods of reusing the very things that will come back to haunt us in our own backyards.

Trees and plants are opposite when it comes to respiration. They intake carbon dioxide and give oxygen as a by-product. Humans intake oxygen and give carbon dioxide as a by-product as do many members of the animal kingdom. If we were to take a few of our plastic castoffs and turn them into attractive planters for our homes, not only would each of us reduce the amount of plastic in landfills but we would also breathe easier.

Ann had some wonderful ideas on how to use some castoff food parts for fertilization. Her idea on the egg shells used in potted plants and in gardens is not only friendly to the garbage pile but also friendly to us-especially if the plant we are using them with happens to be a tomato.

There is a horned tomato worm that can consume in a single meal an entire tomato plant. However, egg shells prevent this worm from his favorite food source-our tomato plants.

Her tip shows what can happen if we all think of just one or two things that would better the environment. Only a few seconds of our day would really change but the benefits we would reap could be huge.

Coffee grounds make great scouring aids when cleaning burnt on food from pans and they help a garbage disposal stay free of smells that we don’t find pleasant.

Newsprint works well to clean windows and mirrors with a solution of vinegar and water.

Craft paper for the kids can be made using paper that has been allowed to soak into pulp in water and dried using a screen for molding. Once dry, it offers a variety of colors and textures that make new creations shine.

And, all of this takes but a few seconds of time yet reaps a much more pleasant earth for us to live in. Tomorrow, I’ll list some tips and tricks for items outside the house-like motor oil, old tools, license plates, and more. In the meantime, give it a try with a few going green tips and let us know what your tips are. We’d love to hear them!

What Does “Going Green” Really Mean?

If you’ve watched the latest trends out there, you’ve probably noticed the increased desire to “go green”. And, like most people, you probably even know this has to do with the environment. Following the normal course of things, you may have even considered “going green” yourself, but then thought it would be a huge undertaking and procrastinated the decision.

But, “going green” doesn’t really have to be a painful act of sacrifice. In fact, very few people realize just what “going green” really means. That’s alright. Today, we’re going to go over it together and get everyone on the same track to saving our earth.

The color green itself brings to mind the good old days of running through the grass and skidding to a stop in the most lush part of the yard. Many pairs of pants went green that way during the growing up years as we sported grass-stained knees and smiles during the long lazy summers.

In the teen years, “going green” was as simple as writing on both sides of the paper instead of only one. Boys were better at this since we girls preferred to write out our dreams in the form of names: Mrs. So and So, over and over again. If we girls were feeling really environmentally friendly back then, we’d use a little less makeup and save a container or two.

As we reached adulthood and became young parents, we began to seriously worry about the size of our landfills and what we added to the air we had to breathe. That’s when it happened: we started talking about “going green” in a whole new light. No longer did we want to waste the precious resources our children would one day inherit. We plotted, planned, and executed methods of preserving the very things we had once used without reservation.

In essence: we had become our parents-our worst nightmare. After a few tears and the realization that Mom and Dad had always been really cool and therefore, so were we now that we saw the light, we dismissed our mistaken take on all things hip and relaxed.

So, you may be wondering just what “going green” has to do with all of this. It’s simple really. “Going green” is just a way of growing up, becoming responsible citizens of planet earth, and sharing in the consequences of our society’s actions. It means changing our ways to improve our lives and the lives of generations not yet born.

Here’s a few ways we can accomplish the feat of “going green” painlessly:

Trash is a little more than garbage. By recycling materials, we can help preserve resources.

Recycling items doesn’t necessarily require separate trash bins, either. Plastic jars make great piggy banks for kids. You can even let them decorate the banks in any manner they wish for some great family time while saving the earth.

Paper towel rolls make great storage containers for artwork that you may want to save for the future. When your child’s masterpiece leaves the fridge, just roll it up and store it inside the tube. Label it and cover the ends with some tape to ensure nothing else gets to the art you have so carefully preserved. Then, store away for a rainy day.

Save plastic spray bottles to re-use. They make great plant misters or can be reused with the same cleaner they originally held. I love to use my old ones, after washing thoroughly of course, as water guns. My teen daughter and I have a great time cooling off together in the summer this way.

Glass jars can be used in a wide variety of ways. They can be turned into sand art for display, be filled with colorful rocks from outings, hold pencils, pins, or other office supplies, and even serve as a perfect place for odds and end nails that are forever showing up. The list of possibilities are endless.

Old computers can be donated to women’s shelters, children’s centers, and other places where they will be revamped into working means of communication. The best part is, you get to write off the donation on your taxes. Imagine that, getting paid for going green!

Paper items can be recycled in many ways. While not all paper should be reused straight from the trash, many of the paper products we toss could be. For example, milk cartons and the like make excellent planters and candle molders. Cardboard is great for making paper dolls, small houses for the kids, and even gardening mats to save the old knees.

For the trash you absolutely must throw out, try using paper bags instead of plastic bags. It may seem like an inconvenience, but plastic takes over 300 years to biodegrade. the paper will allow for faster degrading and therefore less problems down the road.

“Going green” can be fun and family friendly. With just a little imagination, you can save the planet and have fun. Oh, and by the way, the kids will love doing things like they were done in the ancient days of their parents. The reward for you is the knowledge that you learned it from your parents and you got the kids to sit down with you without complaint while participating in a family activity.