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Recycling and materialism

May 7th, 2008 / 4 Comments


“Mom, don’t throw it away! You can reuse that.”

I rolled my eyes as I fished the empty jelly jar out of the trash. (To tell the truth, I just didn’t want to have more to wash!)

My kids are growing up in a culture much more environmentally sensitive than the way I grew up. To me, styrofoam was the best invention since the crockpot.

But I am glad my children are teaching me to save. This goes well with the value that I try to teach them about not being materialistic.

I wrote a post for Margit Crane at Rock the World on battling Materialism. I didn’t mention this in that piece, so I will add that here. Encouraging our children to “reduce, reuse and recycle” is a great way to learn not to be materialistic.

Here are some suggestions on putting that into practice with our children:

1. When your children want to buy a toy, ask them which of the toys they have that can do a similar thing. My girls love stuffed toys. I have to always remind them, “Don’t we already have a plush bear?”

2. “Shop” hand-me-downs at home. I am not shy about asking my sisters and friends for clothes that their children outgrew. Children’s clothes are hardly ever worn out. When I get a bag of “pre-owned” clothes, I tell my children, “Let’s go shopping.” We lay out the clothes in my room with a full-length mirror, and they have fun trying on clothes that is as good as new.

3. Start a compost. I have not done this but several of my friends have. This is a good project to do with your children.

Teaching our children to be mindful with our possessions and not be wasteful goes hand in hand with teaching them not to be materialistic.

Visit Margit’s site to read my article on teaching our children to overcome materialism.

What other ideas do you have to practice the three R’s?

Photo by gavinandrewstewart

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  1. Definitely an important topic. I would also encourage people to check out the following link. It was a fun and informative flash video.

    From the Site:
    The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It’ll teach you something, it’ll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

  2. Thanks, Dan. It offers some good solutions at the end, but I don’t agree with their tone at the beginning – implying that Americans are always the bad guys using up the world’s resources. We happen to have a large economy. Whenever there is a disaster anywhere in the world, who gives the most financial aid? We supports other countries as well as provide us with a high standard of living.

    Yeah, I can get off on that…

  3. Great post. Your timing is incredible! JC just got home last week from a week long camping trip at Catalina and one of the things he was completely stoked about was learning how to go green. We’ve got lots of work ahead to get to where we’d like to be, but every day, bit by bit counts. 🙂

  4. Kids these days are really materialistic–to the point where they have trouble entertaining themselves without ‘stuff.’ And by ‘stuff’ I mean toys or video games or whatever. I remember when I was a kid–we could go outside for hours with nothing and have fun just being out there…we would come up with things to do.

    It seems as if a lot of kids grow up thinking that they have to have ‘stuff’–even babies have all kinds of ‘stuff’ like tons of rattles and toys. I have a friend who buys her daughter ‘stuff’ every time they go to any store–just because it is “so cute!”

    My kids are learning the value of things, though–we regularly “shop” at thrift stores, and the kids find that just as fun as going to any other store. We get clothes and toys there. And we get hand-me-down clothes from friends. My kids also get excited about Freecycle.


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