Ways to partner with you teen in greening your home

Submitted by mfitch on February 13, 2009 - 06:38. ::

I started recycling at a very young age.
Behind our house in Freeport there was a little path through the woods. The path led right to a parking lot that was located between our school and a little general store. And in that parking lot, there was a huge recycling receptacle--the kind we New Englanders call a "Silver Bullet." You know, it's one of those big metal containers with windows for different types of recyclable material--and usually a bit of graffiti on the outside.
That Silver Bullet was a beautiful thing.
When we were little, Clark and I used to race each other down the path. He always won. But I didn't care most of the time, because whenever our destination was that Silver Bullet, I was the real winner.
Panting, we would wait until no one was around, then Clark would boost me up to the "paper" window. I was small enough to wriggle through the opening into the little room carpeted by newspapers, cardboard boxes, and magazines. We had to go at just the right time: If it had just been emptied, there wasn't much in there and it was hard to climb back out; but if we went too late, not only was it hard to sift through all the contents but somebody might see me through the window. We also had to get there at the right time of day: Too early, and the sun wasn't high enough to shine through the little windows to illuminate my searches; too late, and people might dump paper on me as they brought their recycling during lunch break or after work.
With my brother keeping lookout, I would scrounge around among all the recycled paper, looking for two things: 1) interesting magazines we could cut pictures out of or use for origami paper, and 2) cereal box tops--the kind your school can get five cents for if you rip them off and bring them into the school office.
The school receptionist must have thought the Sleeth family did nothing but eat Cocoa Puff s all day. Actually, we never ate them--Mom always went for the healthy, granola-ish cereals that didn't have refundable box tops. But we managed to bring in many dollars worth of cardboard rectangles.
From our rather devious salvaging escapades as children, Clark and I learned a few things about recycling. We learned that cooperation is necessary for success: Yes, I did get stuck more than once when I tried to go in by myself. We also learned the truth of the old cliché: "One man's trash is another man's treasure." And finally, we learned that recycling often translates into money.
Recycling remains one of the most important things you can do at home to help care for the environment. If your family doesn't recycle, start now. At our house, we have four plastic tubs lined up in the pantry underneath the shelves: one for paper and cardboard, one for glass and plastic, one for steel cans, and one for aluminum cans. Some communities make recycling super-easy by offering curbside pick-up--you just set the recycling containers out with the trash cans. We need to take our materials to the recycling center, but we've found it's really not much extra effort. Whenever we need to run errands in Littleton, we take the first three bins to the center there. Whenever the fourth one fills up, we take it into the can refund center in St. Johnsbury. Recycling all these materials means we rarely have more than a paper bag full of garbage on the curb on trash day. Plus, there's the added bonus of being able to peruse the used book exchange at the recycling center whenever I go with Mom. One of my best Bible reference books came from the recycling center.
Composting comes right along with recycling. It makes so much sense. We have a pitcher that stays right by the sink to put food scraps in when we're doing the dishes or cooking. When the pitcher is full--usually about once a day--one of us will dump the contents on the compost pile by the side of our property. We've tried more complicated things like worms and different additives that are supposed to speed up the composting process, but we've found that our simple piles work just fine. Every few years, we just begin a new pile and add the decomposing material in the other pile to our garden. And because we take out the compost so often and clean out the pitcher each time, we've never had a problem with the food scraps getting smelly or attracting bugs. There's no lid, nothing added to the scraps to reduce odors--just quite a few apple cores and broccoli stalks that get taken out quite frequently.
There are so many things you can do around your own home to make it better for the environment. Some of the changes will require the cooperation of your family to maximize the impact, but you can start alone. Some of the changes may seem inconvenient at first, or too much like chores, but they can add so much to your life if you see them for what they really are: ways of honoring God and great opportunities to spend more time with your family working toward a common goal. Many of the changes will seem less onerous if you compare your lifestyle with those of teens living in areas of our world most severely affected by poverty and environmental problems. The worst "inconvenience" you encounter in trying to live a more earth-friendly life might seem like the height of luxury for teens in countries like Honduras or Haiti, who have to wonder if they have safe drinking water or clean air to breathe. And I'm willing to bet that a lot of the simple changes you can make around your house will also save money--money that you'd probably prefer to be giving to a charity or ministry rather than an electric company.
Emma Sleeth was fifteen years old when she wrote "It's Easy Being Green". As a junior in high school, she felt called to write about the biblical mandate to protect the environment--especially her generation's responsibility. She is a leader of the evangelical movement to prevent climate change. She learned about and developed her passion for environmentalism from her father, a doctor who wrote Serve God, Save the Planet: a Christian Call to Action. Now seventeen, Emma has received a scholarship to attend Asbury College. She and her family live in Wilmore, Kentucky.
Learn more about and purchase the book, "It's Easy Being Green" here: