April 22nd, 2019 marks the 49th celebration of Earth Day, which has now become the largest civic focused day of action in the world, with 192 countries and over 1 billion people participating. The goal of Earth Day is to demonstrate support for environmental protection, inspired by that first march in 1970 – which helped create the Environmental Protection Agency in the same year...so it’s a pretty important day!

It’s also a great opportunity to inspire your kids with a sense of responsibility for themselves, and for the environment – but there’s more we can do than composting and giving up plastic straws.

Kids learn best when they’re actively engaged, so we’ve put together a list of ways you can make them feel a part of the effort to green up our planet.

1. Clean up your local park

You might have seen a recent eco-friendly social media trend called #trashtag, where people from around the world clean up their local neighborhoods and post about it on social media. To make it more than a trend, start a tradition of going to your local park with some gloves and garbage and recycling bags with your kids!

To make it even more fun, game-ify it! It’s always good to give your kids a sense of personal accomplishment, so make it a points system – the more they pick up, the more points they get! It’s up to you how they can use those points.

2. Attend a March for Science Event

While it doesn’t fall exactly on Earth Day, the following Saturday, May 4th, is the day of action for the March for Science. They have events all over the country, just take a look and see if there’s one near you! We highly suggest getting crafty and making signs to hold up with your little ones.

3. Recycle old clothing

This is one of those things you don’t need to wait for Earth Day for, but it’s a great time to get started! Kids grow out of clothes so quickly, and even if they’re destroyed, there’s more you can do than throw them away! The fabrics, dyes, and hardware used in clothing can be harmful to the environment if not disposed of correctly – and the EPA estimates that textiles make up 5% of all landfills in the US, so it’s no small problem.

For clothes that can be donated (aka, the ones your kids haven’t destroyed), you can bring them to your local community center, Goodwill, or Salvation Army. For those that have just seen better days, you can ship them to TerraCycle, who will send you boxes to send all your unwanted clothing, where they’ll then separate the fabrics, upcycle, reuse, and recycle 100% of what you send.

4. Learn about endangered species (deep dive on an animal, go to a zoo/shelter)

It’s no secret that some of the most majestic and awe-inspiring animals in our world are threatened by climate change and human encroachment – and what would the world look like without lions, and tigers, and whales (oh my)? If your little one has a favorite animal that is endangered, that’s an opportunity for them to learn more about the dangers they face, and how you can help!

There are likely tons of books and documentaries available for your child’s animal of choice, as well as specific charitable organizations that can provide more insight into the challenges they face. For a general starting point, the World Wildlife Fund is specifically dedicated to endangered species conservation – so head there to find an animal that speaks to your child’s curiosity!

If possible, take their curiosity a step further and bring your little ones to your local zoo to see the animals there in real life. While not all zoos are the best places for these animals, they provide an opportunity to make their presence – and the danger they face – real.

5. Volunteer with the Animal Humane Society

While the endangered species of the world are a major concern for Earth Day, there are more familiar animals close to home that could use your kids’ help too! The Animal Humane Society operates and partners with thousands of animal shelters across the country, and they’re always looking for volunteers. While they only allow volunteers ages 16 and older, they do have a bunch of opportunities for younger kids as well. And, if your kids have been begging for a four-legged friend in your home, you can always apply to be a foster home!

6. Start an eco-minded reading list

If your kids are a bit too young for active volunteering, or there’s not that much you can do around you, you can always start reading eco-minded books. Of course, there are the classics like Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree and Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, but there is much, much more than that!

We’ve picked a few you might not know of:

  • All the Water In the World by George Ella Lyon
  • On Meadowview Street by Henry Cole
  • Bag in the Wind by Ted Kooser
  • A Boy and a Jaguar by Dr. Alan Rabinowitz
  • These Seas Count! by Allison Formento

7. Host a lemonade stand/bake sale

Lemonade stands are a hallmark of childhood – they can teach our children so much about business, responsibility, ethics, and socializing with other people. But they can also be a catalyst for non-profit organizations! Help your child set up a lemonade stand or bake sale, pick your favorite conservation-minded charity, and donate the proceeds to them. It’ll give your little one a sense of accomplishment while also showing how businesses can do good for the world!

8. Write Your Congressperson

To make real, lasting change in how we interact with the world around us, we need the people who represent us in government to put policy in place that helps, not hurts. While your little one might have a future as a politician fighting for the health of the earth, they can start having an impact right now. Writing in to your congressperson is a great way to encourage civic engagement from your children, and show them they have a say in the way the world works.

We, all 7.5 billion of us, have a responsibility to take care of this big blue planet we call home. Educating and getting your kids involved in conservation and environmental protection early on could be the key to ensuring it’ll be here for generations to come. So get out there and do some good, together!