Green Parenting Hacks: A Teen’s Tips for a Greener Household

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Global warming is real. Whether you like that statement or not, global warming is happening right now.

cigarette in brown liquid in a plastic cup. Ladybug on the rim.
Alice Nunes. Dupe.

Since the Industrial Revolution, and even before then, humans have polluted the earth with smoke and chemicals. We destroyed ecosystems and cut down trees. We spilled oil into the water and hunted animals to extinction. We have filled our days with war, bloodshed, injustice, segregation, and death since the beginning. I don’t mean to be anti-human, but we caused this problem. It is also up to us to fix it. 

I do not blame anyone for what their generation or the generations before them did. But I want to know what you are doing right now to stop climate change. If you are a parent, you owe it to your children and future generations to practice green parenting. 

If you are a human on this planet it is impossible to have no carbon footprint. Adopting green parenting strategies will help to significantly reduce your household’s carbon footprint

dumpster and abandoned shopping cart
Bryan Brasuk. Dupe.

But first, let’s look back at some critical moments and see how human interactions with the environment over thousands of years changed our world.  

1. In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon spilled 134 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Only 4 million gallons were recovered. 

This is the biggest oil spill in history. On April 20, 2010, the oil rig was drilling at the Macondo Prospect when an explosion on the rig killed 11 crewmen and the ship ignited a fireball that could be seen from 40 miles away. Two days later the oil rig sank. Oil continued to spill into the ocean until September 19, 2010, when it was officially pronounced dead.

22 species of marine life found homes in the Gulf of Mexico, including 5 species of sea turtles, manatees, dolphins, and whales. The Gulf of Mexico is a critically important habitat for these 5 species of sea turtles.

Many measures have been undertaken to recover the Gulf and restore the ecosystem. 65 projects focusing on the restoration of the Gulf have been put into motion with 18 other projects being made to help recover species out in the open ocean. 

The Deepwater Horizon accident is but one of many oil spills. There are an estimated 157 billion tonnes of oil in our oceans today from oil spills and although we have people trying to fix this problem we do not nearly have enough people working to make significant change.

2. 15.3 billion trees are cut every year. Deforestation contributes to global warming.

We cut down trees to harvest the wood to turn it into paper. Paper is a very important resource because it is used to teach and share information in schools, work, and governments throughout history. Even the ancient Egyptians had paper they made (papyrus) so they could communicate. 

We use paper to write down our thoughts, communicate via letters, solve math equations, remember important facts, or even create art. 

Our excessive use of paper created a demand that can not be met by a natural supply. This is to say, we need more paper products quicker than trees can grow and be harvested.

Fire is another big source of deforestation. Typically, humans use a controlled fire to clear the land quickly. (Often because they want to build a structure on clear land.) Or, as we have seen in Canada, the United States, and Australia just last year, forest fires start after droughts (which are more frequent and severe due to global warming.)

Fires kill people, animals, and vegetation. They burn through anything in their path and the only way to stop them is with water. The World Wildlife Fund states that,

3. Mass Extinction

The United Nations described increasing rates of extinction.

For various reasons including overconsumption, harmful information, and environmental destruction, humans have caused the mass extinction of many species. 

One example of how humans cause mass extinction is the Zanzibar Leopard, which was thought to have gone extinct in the 1990s. The tale of these leopards is tragic. People believed that these majestic creatures were kept by witches who sent them to cause harm; extermination was called for and rapid hunting began. Fear of the unknown killed an entire species. 

Another example is Steller’s Sea Cows. This marine cow is related to manatees and once lived peacefully in the Arctic waters of the North Pacific Ocean until their existence was discovered. These friendly giants were slow-moving and open to humans because of their gentle or harmless nature. This however is what brought upon their demise. Their size and fat storage made them valuable to European explorers. After years of relentless hunting, they were pronounced extinct in 1768; they lasted no more than 3 decades from their discovery before humans killed them all.

The World Wildlife Fund has a remarkable list of endangered species ranked by their danger of extinction. It goes from Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, Near Threatened, or Least Concern. 

With this background, my question is, what can you as a parent do to raise your children in a safe environment that is also safe for the planet? I’ve got some great green parenting tips to get you started.

  • Buy second-hand toys 

Not only will you save money buying used but you will help the planet by not throwing away a bunch of toys. And when your child grows out of those toys, you can feel zero guilt as you donate them and find new (to you) used toys.

My parents complained about how hard it was to find clothing for my sibling and me an unimaginable number of times. When you have a baby, you might want to play dress up and make them the cutest dressed baby you have ever seen. But, that baby will grow out of those clothes very quickly. So, instead of spending a small fortune on clothes they will wear ever so briefly, buy used clothing. Kids grow too fast and parents shouldn’t have to spend so much on clothes babies will wear for a month. You save money and help the environment.

  • Stop over-buying baby products

Have you ever seen an advertisement that shakes you to your core as a mother? A pop-up talking about everything you’re doing wrong and how your baby will have a horrible childhood because of you? And how you can prevent this future tragedy by buying these baby-friendly shoes…

Stop letting ads trick you into spending money for your children on crap they don’t need. 

Your baby, who can’t walk, isn’t developing bunions because of the shoes you put them in. These ads take your money by making you anxious about your parenting. When you purchase this stuff, you add to the demand for mass-produced products. You are being tricked. Buy stuff for your children, please do, but don’t buy everything you see, especially when it is not needed or helpful to you, your bank account, or the environment. Green parenting can save you money. 

Okay, I just lost you, right? You were on board with my ideas until this one. I get it, gardening is difficult. You’re a mom, focused on getting sleep, dealing with everyone commenting on your parenting, and trying to do one single thing for yourself. Starting a garden is the least of your concerns. 

Yes, that is true. But, if you have a toddler or even a child more grown up than that, gardens are a great idea. You don’t need a giant plot of land, gardens offer something you can do with your little one, and you might get your kid to eat the veggies they grew. 

Gardens are a commitment, so they are not for everyone. But, even one or two pots of radishes or lettuce can inspire your family to eat better and to care more about the environment. Green parenting is sometimes about laying the groundwork for eco-consciousness.

small raised garden

My mother made my baby food. She wasn’t a stay-at-home mom, but this was important to her. Homemade baby food is a good way to get food in your kids’ bellies while also making sure that the food is nutritious.

Composting is the law in Vermont today. When I moved to Vermont in 2023, it was strange to go from throwing everything in the trash to putting certain things in a separate bin to be composted. Now I am used to it and recognize that composting is a great way to help the environment with almost no effort. 

You also don’t always need to worry about having a giant pile of moldy, disgusting rotted food near your house for local animals to get into. A well-tended compost is pretty clean and not too smelly.

However, if you are concerned about local animals, you have two options: you can hire out compost pickup, or do what my mom did and order an electric composter. My mother ordered a composter online soon after we moved to Vermont. When it arrived she was so excited because her purchase could turn buckets of gross food into dirt! She made dirt overnight! 

My mom went on for days about how she could make dirt and she didn’t have to worry about a giant pile of trash on our property anymore. Our composter is small, but we’re a small family so we don’t need a giant one. The only downside is that it smells disgusting when it is turned on. That is why we almost always run it during the night hours when we are asleep. (Unless you go downstairs for a 10 o’clock ice cream binge.) 

  • Get a reusable water bottle 

As a mom, you are probably constantly struggling to figure everything out all at once. You are supposed to be some sort of “super mom” who knows everything all the time. You are also expected to be able to drop everything at a moment’s notice whenever you are needed. At least this is how it seems to me. Reusable water bottles offer an easy solution. 

You don’t have to worry about buying giant, heavy packs of plastic water bottles every week. You just need to spend $15- $30 on a machine-washable reusable bottle, and boom! No more worrying about hydration.

A stainless steel water bottle is a great way to track how much water you are drinking throughout the day. And it feels satisfying having to go back to the kitchen to refill your bottle when it is only 3 p.m. 

  • Carpool 

Kids nowadays have access to a lot of things you probably didn’t have growing up, like cell phones. These phones probably won’t help your toddler set up a ride to preschool, but they sure as hell will help you coordinate a carpool

Carpooling is a great way to save on gas and money and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Not every super mom can do things by herself; sometimes you need a friend to take your child to school so you can run to the store. 

Minivan in driveway
Photo courtesy of Beatriz Jarvis

And, the last but not least important part of green parenting…

When I say this, I do not mean sit down with your 4-year-old and talk to them about the global economy. That’s a battle you do not need to fight now. But, what I mean by educating your kids is teaching them things like how to turn off the lights when they are not using them, about their relationship with food, and how to be eco-friendly. You don’t need to check the ingredients in everything you buy, or only eat food from local farmers because that is the only way to keep you and the planet safe. 

There is a fine line between trying to help and ruining your life over a global issue. Green parenting means helping. You are not capable of single-handedly changing the state of the world. I hate to break it to you, but you’re not. It is good to look out for the environment and teach your kids about littering and respecting nature, but it is also good to let your kids be kids. 

You’re not a super mom, so get help when you need to get it. But also stop and think about how your choice might affect the environment. Can you lessen your impact? Do you really need to buy that extra set of baby onesies because they’re so cute? No, you don’t. Fast fashion may be insignificant to you but is very significant in other places around the world. 

Green parenting means thinking about your actions before you do them. Sometimes the easy way is not the best choice. Learn to cut corners when you can, but remember that sometimes cutting a corner now is the reason we won’t be able to in 10 years. We have to learn to care for the environment before it is too late. 

Guest Writer: Jett Black

Jett is a 14-year-old girl with a lot to say, but not enough people to say everything to. She loves reading, writing, watching movies, anime, and sleeping. She is very interested in Japanese culture and is striving to become fluent in Japanese. She hopes to one day live in Japan, whether that is for school or life, she does not know.

As far as goals go, Jett has them all. She doesn’t want to have a “normal” life. She wants to explore the world, write books, and help people. She doesn’t want to settle down and find a 9-5 job; it’s just not for her.

She is a very passionate individual who loves a little too hard and dreams a little too big, but that hasn’t stopped her yet. She can’t wait to see where her life takes her and where she ends up. But, for now, she’s getting her feet as an aspiring writer with Vermont Moms. She’s excited to educate parents on life as a teenager. 

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