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Have you been observing this young student from Sweden? Greta Thunberg is a teenager who is credited with raising global awareness of the risks posed by global warming/climate change, and with holding politicians accountable for their lack of action on the climate crisis. “People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?!” Whether or not you subscribe to global warming or climate change, look at the impact on raising awareness this one person is having.

What, as parents, can you do to support your child’s place in the world and reinforce all the global citizenship lessons they are learning about at school? Here are some ways that I do my part that your family might consider. When you engage in conversation with your child(ren) about these ideas, you are opening up new channels of dialogue as well. It’s a win-win for all.

When I was 14 or so, my friends and I (I was along for the ride at the beginning and for context this was in 1969. Yes, that makes me 64 and counting) organized a club called STEP, Students to End Pollution. We organized some of the very first paper-recycling drives on Long Island, New York. Later, we added aluminum can recycling as well. We did this all throughout our high school years. Being a part of this early movement made me very conscious of my place in the universe. And, while I might have strayed from time to time (yes, I used disposable diapers on my twin daughters), I have always tried to do the right thing by our planet.

Last year, my husband and I went solar. It was a rather large investment. Some of our neighbors questioned how people in our age bracket could justify such an expense. We’d been thinking about it for several years and finally decided it was just the right thing to do.

Tim Seldin, his wife, Joyce St Giermaine, and our Accreditation Director, Lorna McGrath, all drive either a Prius or an electric car.

I’m just one person, the same as Greta Thunberg. But when all the “one persons” tally their numbers they become a huge amount of people who can make a difference.

Our county recycles, and we read every single label on everything we purchase to make sure anything that has the now famous recycle logo ends up in this container.

For this holiday season, I have purchased 4Ocean bracelets for my four granddaughters and bought them each a copy of a (very unMontessori-like) book about a sad straw that lands in the ocean to help them get some of the connection between what 4Ocean does and how to prevent it from getting worse.

We’ve recently purchased stainless steel straws and ask waitstaff in restaurants not to open plastic on our behalf.

My daughters and I have purchased reusable snack and sandwich bags. We try to limit the number of plastic bags we use. I chose mine from a company called Art of Lunch because some of the money from their profits goes to helping the elephant population.

I do not purchase toys for my grandchildren made out of plastic. I try to purchase solid wood or items made of sustainable bamboo.

When we are in extremely dry or drought weather conditions here in Florida, I use a giant pot in our shower to catch water while it’s heating up and use that to water our plants and landscaping.

When we send packages to Foundation clients, we use newspaper that would have gone in the trash or shred paper we couldn’t use. We reuse the few plastic garbage bags we have from super markets, but tend to use those conference bags I save from all the conferences I attend instead. Did you know that each of those bags (most supermarkets sell them at the check out stands) uses approximately 20 of the plastic bags they collect for reusing? Remember, bring your plastic bags back to the store for recycling.

Several years ago, I was a chaperone on an overnight experience with our laboratory school students (The NewGate School, Sarasota, Florida). One of the activities during the two days was communally eating our meals with our group in a large dining hall. All the meals were buffet style. At the end of the mealtime every group was assigned their own garbage pails to scrape food off the plates and then bins for the plates and utensils. Each group was then taken into a room and one of the camp personnel came in and talked to us about the impact of food waste. Our garbage was then weighed and charted. We were told it was fine to get more food if we wanted. The point was to raise our awareness of how much waste we created. This went on after each of the three meals we ate during this time and each meal our weight of waste decreased significantly.

This exercise had a lasting effect on me with regard to food waste. My husband kids me that I will eat the same leftover food for days rather than trash it. And he’s correct, I really do that.

I’m just one person, the same as Greta Thunberg. But when all the “one persons” tally their numbers, they become a huge amount of people who can make a difference.

Instead of some plastic toy, as a gift to your child(ren), buy a small composting kit. Some are as small as a quart and can sit on a windowsill or counter. Even apartment dwellers have room for this. If you don’t have a garbage disposal, try putting your food scraps in here and composting.

Don’t have room for a few pots of veggies? Bring the new soil to your child’s school. I’m sure they have a garden of some type, and all gardens need good rich soil. Most Montessori schools also instill a sense of stewardship as part of the curriculum. Children at very young ages are learning that trash is bad, recycling, reusing, and renewing is good. Help bring this concept alive at home and discuss with them why it matters.

Most communities have beautification or clean-up days. Here in Sarasota, they do this in our gated communities and beaches. People love to use our resources but aren’t always very careful about disposing of their garbage. When the birds living at the water’s edge eat plastic or human food, it has a lasting impact on them. They are not engineered to eat plastic or hot dog buns—another conversation starter with your children.

One of the environmentally conscious businesses in town uses recycled denim jeans as insulation in building. See if your community has such a business, what the criteria for donating old clothing is, and do it.

Our lab school participated in this fun event years ago where they purchased a rain barrel from the county and had a decorating party. They use the water to offset the need to irrigate their many gardens. Years ago we actually auctioned off a barrel I painted for one of the annual conferences I run for the Foundation. How about getting one of those barrels and having a group of your child(ren)’s friends have a barrel decorating playdate?

How many times do you go out shopping and run from one side of town to the other instead of planning your errands to minimize driving? If errands can wait until you can do them all in one trip, try to organize it as such.

Use your plastic egg containers to put in your child’s art corner and use as a palette. At least it will get one or two more uses.

Purchase gifts for everyone that help support organizations that are trying to do some good for the environment. There are plenty out there to choose from such as 4Ocean. Don’t expect a fouror five-year-old to totally appreciate the full scope of the gift, but when you explain to them how much good the money you spent on this item is doing for the ocean (and maybe find a relevant book to pair with it) then sit and read together, you will create lovely memories for all while helping your child see you, too, are stewards of the earth.

Turn off the water while you are shaving or brushing your teeth. Finally, one birthday our editor, Joyce, gave me a selection of ten pairs of Bombas™ socks in every color imaginable. Bombas’ ads claim that socks are the numberone item requested by people in homeless shelters. For every pair you buy, they donate to a shelter, so ten pairs were donated. Joyce gave me a much-needed gift, and the homeless shelter received ten pairs as well. It was the gift that kept giving, and I loved the whole idea of it.

Become aware and remember, we each have a part to play in keeping the planet safe and sustainable. We are all stewards of the planet. •

Margot Garfield-Anderson is on staff at the Montessori Foundation and the Membership Director of the International Montessori Council. Her four granddaughters have often been the inspiration of her writings.