Inspire environmental stewardship by adding this one item to your outing bag

Simple outings are often the best ones with my toddler: throwing rocks into a duck pond, discovering moss and tall trees on a slow hike (“oh trees high in sky”), finding small pools of water from neighbors watering their lawn (“jump muddy puddle?). The only thing that gets in the way of it being a perfect outing is the pang of annoyance I feel at the sight of garbage left behind.

If you want to eat Carl’s Jr while visiting ducks, that’s your business. Please don’t make it everyones business by leaving your cups behind.

We can’t do much about what people have already carelessly done, but we can model a direct, active response. My partner and I have made the intention of keeping a garbage bag (and gloves!) in the diaper bag so that on outings, whether to the pond, the beach, to rivers, or anywhere we find ourselves, we can take a minute to pick up what others have left behind.

I hope by starting this now, while my girls are in the baby and toddler stages, this becomes routine by the time they are older. I’ll consider it a personal achievement if they keep garbage bags in their first cars.

This can not be where the story ends, however, because the story of trash does not end when it is placed in a garbage can. I plan on a field trip to the local landfill when my girls are about four. And what happens when trash makes it to a landfill? What happens when landfills get full? I’ve got to reveal my ignorance here, because I don’t know.

Is not knowing bad? No, it just tells me where to start, where to increase my knowledge, which will teach me how to be more responsible and give me more to pass along to my girls. At minimum, it’ll be a part of the knowledge base I impart as I teach and model throughout their childhoods about using less and reusing more.

But that’s my homework, not something babies and toddlers are concerned with. For now, we pick up trash. If children are taught to take care of the places they love perhaps they are more oriented toward caring about what happens to lands and bodies of water on a larger scale.

photo: Western Gull with Wire Around Foot by docentjoyce (license)

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