8 Super Satisfying Ways to Help Save the Planet

by Meghan Fitzgerald

No matter their politics, every parent wants a safe home for their kids. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.” In the current context, it’s terribly hard to reconcile the moral imperative to provide a healthy planet to our kids with actions that defy science and unravel progress made towards that goal. Frankly, it boggles the mind.

Frustrated though we may be, parents can help the cause every day. Each night, we all tuck in future protectors of the planet. And, each day, we can make a real impact by nurturing their potential. In lots of little but profound ways, we can help our kids develop a foundation in environmental stewardship, doing our part of growing a generation that will be empowered to fight for their planet. 
Research tells us that this is not hard, and we play a key role in making it happen. For example, one study examined the lives of the most famous conservationists of all time. The analysis revealed key, shared patterns in their childhoods. They all: spent considerable time interacting with nature; had an attachment to a familiar, natural place; and benefitted from the modeling and influence of a family member. We can be that family member and provide our kids the same opportunities.

If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the Earth before we ask them to save it.
— David Sobel
Passion is lifted from the earth itself by the muddy hands of the young; it travels along grass-stained sleeves to the heart. If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.
— Richard Louv

In short, our work is to make sure our kids can fall in love with their planet. All the while, we’ll deepen our love for it too. Now that is a gratifying way to fight for the Earth!

Here are 8 of our favorite, easy ways to get started. For future activists at or under 2 years old, we invite them to join us, but let them explore alongside as they choose. You’re modeling great ways to connect. As a result, your wee ones are connecting as well, whether they join in your activity or not:

  1. Find even 10 minutes to be in nature together every day. To us, “nature” is anywhere with earth, sky, and other living things. Get somewhere ten minutes early and hang outside before whatever you are supposed to do begins. Use as many senses as you can to notice and connect to what is around you. Close your eyes, breathe deep and feel the impact.
  2. Have a meal, or even just a snack outdoors. If you can pack a picnic dinner, great. If not, grab a handful of fruit and step outside between dinner and bedtime. We used to gobble cherries on our stoop in Brooklyn, and it did the trick. Something this simple can feel so special to kids.
  3. Take off your shoes and walk barefoot in the grass, sand or, better yet, a little patch of mud. There’s no better way to feel grounded and close to the Earth. Read more about the many benefits of being barefoot.
  4. Focus on the little things. Get down on the ground and look closely at a single square foot of Earth. Marvel at what is growing, crawling and hiding in even the tiniest portion of our planet. To a child, a small scale is accessible and still thrilling (and still can be for us big kids too).
  5. Pretend to be some of the animals you see. Scurry like squirrels. Fly like sparrows. Hop like bullfrogs. When children use their imaginations to “become” another creature, they develop lasting empathy and love for that creature—love that can extend to all creatures.
  6. Befriend a tree. Trees hold great meaning in human’s lives and give us a sense of place. Find a tree to love in your yard or park. Give it a name based on its best features (We still treasure our “lumpy bumpy tree”). Get to know it as you feel its bark, lay in its shade, and climb on its limbs. Collect its fallen fruits, leaves and sticks, and see what you can make out of them. Thank the tree for the raw materials, as you show her what you’ve made with her loose parts.
  7. Party like wild things! Read Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, make your own nature crowns and throw a wild rumpus fit for Max and his friends.
  8. Build your gratitude practice. Give thanks or make wishes for the trees, the birds, the water in a pond—whatever your kids notice and treasure about your outdoor space. Genuine gratitude when cultivated over time translates directly into a lifelong calling to protect our planet.