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Parent to Parent: Celebrate Earth Day all year

By Betsy Flagler
John Rosemond
Betsy Flagler, who lives in Davidson, writes the nationally syndicated Parent to Parent column.

As Disney’s mermaid Ariel sings on the album “Songs From the Sea”: “We share the earth, every forest, every ocean, each drop of rain, each bit of dew.” That’s not just on Earth Day, April 22, but all year long.

Little kids can help beautify and protect the environment by planting flowers, keeping neighborhood parks clean and learning not to waste water. That’s a good start. For older kids, going green often starts at school. Here are some ideas:

• Teachers, give extra credit for children who recycle paper and folders for their projects, and encourage use of the front and back of paper. Instead of communicating with parents via often-misplaced paper notes, use school websites or message groups when possible and appropriate.

• As a green fundraiser for your child’s school, set up a collection site for used ink and toner cartridges, cellphones, digital cameras and small electronics. For more information about how to recycle gadgets to raise money, go to fundingfactory.com. The FundingFactory organization says it has kept 30 million pounds of these items out of landfills since it began in 1997.

• Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus, Ohio, recovered 18.36 tons of paper in 2012, winning a recycling award from the American Forest and Paper Association. Students and staff recycled notebook paper, workbooks and other school supplies. Usable items were donated to local inner-city schools. What supplies could your school recycle? Go to paperrecycles.org for ideas.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s tips for families to save water include:

• Turn off the water while you brush your teeth.

• Take a shower instead of a bath.

• Make sure your toilet isn’t leaking and wasting water. To check, place a drop of food coloring in the tank. If the color shows up in the bowl without flushing, you have a leak.

• Water your yard in the early morning or late evening. Watering when it’s hot and sunny is wasteful, since most of the water evaporates.

• Wash your bike or car with a bucket and sponge instead of a hose.

Recycling-themed crafts save money and materials. Ideas include:

• Make a “litter bug” with an empty egg carton as the base. Let your child go on a treasure hunt through your house to find straws, toothpicks, buttons, beads, pipe cleaners or golf tees, and decorate the “bug” with these extras. You could also keep a shoebox of junk for the kids to rummage through when a creative whim strikes.

• Turn plastic jugs into bird feeders or watering cans; turn old coffee cans or pie pans into instruments; make old clothes into costumes; turn old puzzle pieces into picture frames.

• Wash out plastic laundry detergent caps to use as scoops for sandboxes.

• Make a model of Earth by covering a paper plate with green and blue magazine-page scraps.

Environmentally minded books for preschoolers include:

• “I Can Save the Earth,” by Allison Inches (Little Simon, 2008), for ages 4 and up. Max the Little Monster is an environmental nightmare: He’s such a power hog that he causes an outage. The green creature learns to recycle and teaches kids how to go green.

• “The Earth Book,” by Todd Parr (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010). It contains simple tips for children ages 3-6, such as taking reusable bags to the store and planting a tree to keep the Earth happy.

The nonprofit Earth Day Network supports Earth Day, of course, but also runs the Billion Acts of Green campaign throughout the year. The goal is to get billions of people around the world to take action on behalf of the environment. The group has already tallied more than 1 billion “acts of green,” and is trying to get to 2 billion. Register your own acts of green at earthday.org.

Recently, the Earth Day Network helped install an outdoor classroom at a public charter school in Washington, D.C. The facility, backed by a grant, is an observation deck over a storm water pond. For more than a year, parents and teachers have been cleaning up a 2-acre area around the school to be used as a nature center for the students; this observation deck makes the pond a usable part of that initiative.

Betsy Flagler is a mother and preschool teacher. Email her at p2ptips@att.net.

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