4 Planet-Saving Ways to Teach Kids About Money

In his second inaugural speech, President Obama spoke of our obligations to ourselves and to posterity. In particular, he noted climate change and its undeniable consequences.

“We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries,” he said.

In other words, ECOnomy and ECOlogy are tied to each other.

It’s actually a topic that’s close to my heart: My book, “The ECO-Effect™: The Greening of Money,” is all about saving money and resources—and creating an ECHO effect in which parents can teach kids to look at life from both an ECOnomic and ECOlogical point of view. Case in point: By doing things like earning and budgeting virtual money to buy food and shelter for endangered animals, kids can echo to their parents what they’re learning.

When you really think about it, ECOnomy and ECOlogy are related in many ways:

  • Organic vs. Non-organic Although they may cost more, organic foods that are grown and processed without pesticides are healthier for you and the environment.
  • Quality vs. Price If you buy a quality product, it may be more expensive, but you probably won’t have to replace it quite as quickly—saving you money. It also means that it won’t wind up in a landfill, which is as good for the planet.
  • Less Is Better When you shop, take time to examine the packaging. It’s simple—fewer layers of plastic and paper create less garbage, which means that less has to be hauled away to landfills in trucks that use fossil fuels. It saves the environment, and it may save you money.
  • Save Energy, Save Money If you make your home more fuel-efficient by insulating, plugging air leaks and keeping the furnace operating at optimal condition, you’ll save on heating costs and reduce your carbon footprint.

In the same way that the perfect family budget is a balanced one, we should teach our children the value of a balanced approach to the planet to keep it from going into debt by producing too much pollution that can’t be absorbed and recycled.

Want to get the conversation going with your own kids? Start by teaching them what I like to call the Four “R’s”:

1. Recycle—and Rejuvenate Our ECOnomy

Recycling in the United States is a several hundred billion dollar a year industry that creates jobs for more than a million workers. So stress that recycling is not only important because it uses less energy than making things out of raw materials, but companies can also use recycled goods to make new products.

2. Reduce Garbage

The average person in the United States throws away 4.6 pounds of garbage every day. Most of it ends up in landfills, creating land, air and water pollution. So think of active ways that your family can cut back on the amount of trash that you produce.

3. Reuse

Repurpose items as much—and as often—as you can.

4. React

Teach kids to be aware of their environment. If they notice lights on in an empty room, they should turn them off. And they shouldn’t leave the faucet running while brushing their teeth.

The big picture may seem overwhelming, but don’t give up. The important thing is to bring awareness of the issues to your kids—and encourage them to bring ideas to you, because reaction begins with raising consciousness.