Forward to School, Not Back: Confronting Climate Change

Busesby Julie at ProgressiveKid

When children return to school this fall they will be exposed to the topic of climate change much more than ever before. Since the release in February of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report and the recent explosion of press coverage on global warming, more and more schools across the country are adopting climate change curriculum.

With increasing climate change awareness rippling through our society, chances are your child is already thinking about and discussing it with friends. A UK survey of 1,150 seven to eleven year olds found that half felt anxious about global warming and in many cases to the point of losing sleep. If it hasn’t happened already, your child may soon be coming home with questions and worries. How can you help your child understand the issues at stake? How can you foster in your child a sense of hope and motivation to work for positive change?

This fall, as you prepare your child for returning to school, show that you are aware of climate change and taking action to fight it. Start a campaign at home to reduce your family’s carbon footprint and help the environment: use less electricity and gas, conserve water, recycle and reuse as much as you can, convert your grassy yard to native plants and trees that absorb carbon dioxide and support wildlife. And when it comes to back-to-school shopping, refrain from buying new clothes and supplies that you already have or that you can get recycled (e.g., through a freecycle). When you do need to shop, make your purchases planet friendly:

  • Kick the plastic water bottle habit. Get your child a reusable Swiss-made (and tested to be leach free) aluminum or stainless steel water bottle.
  • Make sure your child’s lunch bag is lead-free. Find a healthy option on the Center for Environmental Health website (
  • Get soy crayons instead of petroleum-based varieties.
  • Look for backpacks and messenger bags made from recycled materials.
  • Buy organic cotton, hemp, or used clothing.
  • Choose recycled paper or hemp notebooks.
  • Buy recycled fleece winter gear.

Just as important as taking action is talking to your child about climate change. Make use of resources to educate yourself and your child on the subject. Visit the National Wildlife Federation Kids Zone page and others like it online. And look for kid-focused books on climate change that you can read together and use as a springboard for discussion and action. As your child learns about climate change at school this fall, take the opportunity to make it a time of learning, talking, and positive change at home as well.

Julie Hall is co-founder of ProgressiveKid and author of the forthcoming book A Hot Planet Needs Cool Kids: Understanding Climate Change and What You Can Do About It (Green Goat Books, Fall 2007).

Image by Racoles 2006, Creative Commons license.

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