20 Things Your Kid Can Do to Support the Paris Climate Accord

7/26/17 - By Julia Tolstrup

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." -Dr. Seuss

When it comes to making a difference in our world, even grown-ups can feel pretty small sometimes. It's hard to imagine that a single act could really change much of anything. But looking at the big picture can help. Imagine if everybody on your street did the same small things every day. And imagine if each of those neighbors told a friend, who started doing those small things, too. Before long, all of those individual little acts start to add up to big change. With the U.S. government's recent decision to back out of the Paris Climate Accord, an agreement in which individual countries pledge to do their part to curb global warming, now more than ever we need to think of ways we can start living a little lighter. Set aside a half-hour with your child and read this list of simple things kids and parents can do, together, to support the efforts and spirit behind the Paris Climate Accord.


1. Turn off the lights! This is something I swear I say a dozen times a day, maybe more. And it isn't just the savings on your electric bill that make this a good idea. Most of our energy does not come from sustainable sources, but from burning coal and other fossil fuels. This contributes directly to climate change. If we all remembered to turn off the lights whenever we leave a room, the impact could be pretty big. 

2. Skip the bottled water. The facts about what it takes to produce disposable plastic water bottles are so startling, they ought to be printed right on the label. In an average year, it takes around 17 million barrels of oil (which produces between two and three million tons of carbon dioxide) just to make the bottles. That doesn't include the fuel and fumes involved in the transportation of bottled water. What's more, it takes three liters of water to produce one liter of bottled water. Add to that the enormous plastic island floating in the Pacific (seriously, it's about the size of Texas) and you have a pretty solid case to cut out the disposable plastic. Instead, why not pick out a reusable water bottle—they come in every shape, size, and color imaginable and they'll save you tons of money while helping save the planet.

3. Bring your own bag. Again, we point to plastic: Every single piece of it is made with petroleum. So whenever you take a plastic bag at the store, there are consequences for the environment, from the production that made that bag to the simple fact that it won't go away anytime soon. Rather than relying on plastic bags when you go shopping, pick up a couple reusable bags (usually available for purchase very cheap at the grocery store) and—here's the tricky part—remember to bring them every time you go shopping.

4. Eat your veggies! Believe it or not, one of the largest sources of greenhouse emissions is mass cattle farming. Cows, ahem, emit methane, which is a gas responsible for the depletion of the atmosphere. By cutting back the amount of meat you eat, you not only opt for a healthier lifestyle, you help lessen your family's carbon footprint.

5. Hoof it. If you're able, walk or bike to places that aren't terribly far away. Also, use public transportation whenever possible. This is one of the most obvious ways we can personally limit our carbon emissions: simply by driving less.

6. Step outside the (juice) box. Juice boxes and pouches are notoriously difficult to recycle and they use up a lot of resources in the making. Instead, opt for juice in a large glass or plastic bottles that can be easily recycled. If you want to have a few sips on the go, invest in a thermos to keep your beverage nice and cold and avoid excess waste.

7. Sweat the small stuff. You know those little tags on bread bags? Or pretty much every bottle cap ever? They're hard to recycle and most municipal programs can't handle them. How about baby food and drink pouches? Those get tossed right in the trash most of the time too. TerraCycle is a national recycling program with a mission to recycle all those hard to recycle things. Find a collection program near you or start your own.

8. Find your green thumb. The food we eat comes from every corner of the globe. A lot of it is grown in places where it's warm all the time and those places might be pretty far away from where you call home. This adds significantly to our carbon footprint because all that faraway food needs to be transported. Plant some veggies of your own and seek out farmer's markets. Eat local to protect the whole world. 

9. Empty your mailbox. OK, this one is for mom and dad only. Signing up for electronic billing whenever possible helps reduce the number of trees cut down to produce all those paper bills that fill up the mailbox every month.

10. Plant a tree. No, really. Plant a few. If you aren't sure exactly how to go about it yourself, there are lots of programs out there that can help. You can plant trees as unique gifts that give back and then some. 

11. Be a water warrior. Fresh, clean water is hard to come by in some parts of the world and it's only getting scarcer. Encourage mom and dad to install low-flow shower heads and consider setting a timer when you shower. Don't leave the water running while you brush your teeth and only pour what you'll actually drink. 

12. Feel the wind in your hair. I know, I know. Summer is hot. But air conditioning not only uses up a lot of power, it releases some pretty gross stuff into the air. Sometimes it's nice to really cool off but when you can, opt for fans or, if you're in the car, roll down the windows. Tip for kids: Ask the grownup driving to put on the song Born to be Wild by Steppenwolf when you roll down the windows. Just trust me. 

13. Hand 'em down. When you grow out of clothing (like, every other week...) donate it, consign it, give it away to shorter friends, but for goodness sake don't just throw it away! Consider consignment shopping for yourself, too. You'll save money, and stepping outside the consumer stream is a great way to target climate change from every angle. 

14. Take what you'll eat and eat what you take. Mealtimes can be a battle but wasted food is a much bigger problem than just not getting dessert. Almost half of all food in the U.S. goes to waste every year. Open up the conversation with your family about waste and the impact it can have on the planet.   

Photo courtesy of Jessica Rosenblatt

15. Color on both sides! Paper comes from trees. Trees are one of our planet's best defenses against the gases that contribute to global warming. The more paper we use, the more trees get cut down. It's that simple. Save scrap paper, color on both sides of a sheet, and recycle when you're done!

16. Get smart about recycling. What happens to all the waste your schools make every day? Is there a recycling program in place? Find out, and if there isn't, consider forming a team to start one. That may sound like a big job but there are lots of resources out there to help you get started and build a successful recycling program that's not too difficult to manage. 

17. Put on a sweater! Just like reducing your air conditioning use in summer, using less heat in winter is one way we can all help combat climate change. Instead of cranking up the thermostat, keep it at a modest temperature and bundle up a little.

18. Commit. Doing something one time isn't going to make much of a difference. Even though it may mean giving up some little conveniences we are all used to, make a commitment to do some of these things every single day. If it helps, write up a "Save the Planet Checklist"—or print out this article—and keep it someplace handy to remind you of all the little ways you can help. 

19. Go outside! Spending time in nature is one of the best ways to get excited about protecting it. Get off the sofa and get to know the natural world with hikes and walks through woodlands, parks, and beaches. You don't have to venture to far off places to find the great outdoors. Whether you live in the city, the suburbs, or a rural area, nature finds its way in. Seek out the green things growing near you and make a promise to help protect them.

20. Talk about it. If you like some of the ideas here, don't keep them to yourself! Share with your friends and family all the ways they can help protect the planet, too. If we all do our part, we can make big changes.