Pitch In to Clean Up
Green living can seem overwhelming at times. Sometimes it's hard to understand how one person, one family can truly impact the well-being of the earth. The spirit of believing that your family's contributions make a difference is embodied in the slogan for the Great American Cleanup — "Green Starts Here" — with one person, in one community. The Great American Cleanup is a nationwide community improvement program spear-headed by the nonprofit organization Keep America Beautiful.
Last year, more than 80,000 volunteers in North Carolina cleaned up roadways, parks, trails and rivers; planted gardens and trees; and painted over graffiti. "This is a time for us to practice what we preach," says Matt McKenna, CEO of Keep America Beautiful. With a couple of Keep America Beautiful affiliates in the Triangle, the Great American Cleanup could be an entry point for your children's environmentalism.
Join "green" community activities
During April and May, families can join events related to the Great American Cleanup through either Keep Durham Beautiful or the Town of Cary Spruce Program. Any Keep Durham Beautiful activity during March, April and May is considered part of the Great American Cleanup. During this time, efforts are focused on community cleanup projects, especially picking up litter in public parks, on roadways and at bus stops. A calendar of cleanup and other activities is frequently updated on www.KeepDurhamBeautiful.org.
Dorothea Pierce, executive director of Keep Durham Beautiful, urges families to participate in these projects, but to also consider adopting a park for a year, which involves picking up litter biweekly. "It's a great experience for families because it gives kids a before and after picture of what the park looked like and the difference their time made," Pierce says
The main Great American Cleanup event at the Town of Cary Spruce Program is the Spring Litter Sweep. Families can choose a predetermined site, usually a park, and spend the day picking up litter. You can also choose a site of your own, like a neighborhood, and the Spruce Program will provide the necessary tools to clean it up.
The Litter Sweep and other spring events are listed on the program's Web site at www.townofcary.org. While not all of them are affiliated with the Great American Cleanup, they all provide children with a fun and educational way to help the community and the environment.
Activities after school and on weekends are perfect for teaming up as a family to participate in a cleanup project. After all, "The best thing you can do to encourage your kids to be earth-friendly is to lead by example."
Your family also can "go green" at several Earth Day events in the Triangle. Each event is unique, but all will teach how sustainable lifestyle choices can preserve human life and the environment. Visit our Spring into Green Living Guide in the flashing area of our home page to learn more about local Earth Day celebrations.
Take this opportunity to enjoy live performances, music, food and your natural surroundings while participating in creative activities and learning new tips and tricks for protecting and preserving the environment, McKenna says.
Danielle Cushing is a student at UNC-Chapel Hill and an intern at Carolina Parent.
More Earth-Friendly Resources for Kids
* Girls Gone Green by Lynn Hirshfield. An inspiring book for teenage girls featuring young activists, experts and celebrities who are taking action to save the environment.
* The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. A classic children's book, The Lorax takes up environmental issues like clear-cutting and pollution in a way kids will easily understand.
* Green Mama: The Guilt-Free Guide to Helping You and Your Kids Save the Planet by Tracey Bianchi. Offers readers small steps toward being more eco-friendly.
* Disney Friends for Change: Project Green (www.disney.go.com). This interactive Web site encourages children to join together to help the planet.
* Kinder Art (www.kinderart.com/recycle). Kids will find a heap of ideas for turning your family's trash into beautiful pieces of art.
* Disney's Earth. A story of three animal families — polar bears, elephants and humpback whales — on a journey across the planet.
* Disney's Oceans. Opens in theaters on Earth Day, April 22. This movie shows families both the majesty and the harsh reality of the wildlife found in our oceans.