We are in the middle of an unprecedented climate crisis, which means the time to act is now. Luckily, there are many ways for people of all ages to reduce their impact on the environment. In fact, it is especially important to begin teaching children from a young age what the best practices are regarding waste and recycling. Studies have shown that a whopping 42% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States are caused by the energy it takes to produce, transport, and dispose of food and other goods. Albert Boufarah is an entrepreneur based in Lakewood, New Jersey. He currently serves as the CEO of SAMR Inc., an electronic recycling center. Thus, he knows firsthand the important role that recycling has on the environment. He believes that there are two questions that people need to consider at all times.
Do You Need It?
The first question that Albert Boufarah urges all parents to ask their children is “do you need it?” When your child is asking for a new toy, item of clothing, or something else, it’s important to make them consider how necessary that item is. For example, is the item in question something that your child thinks they will use regularly. If not, then perhaps consider borrowing or renting the item if possible. Party decorations are an example of something most families will use only a few times per year at most. Consider asking a neighbor to borrow some or even visiting a local thrift store. The second aspect to the “do you need it?” the question is whether you are looking to buy an item in order to replace another. For example, if you were planning on purchasing a new sweater because your old one has a hole in it, you should instead try to repair that item if possible. Generally speaking, Albert Boufarah always recommends maintaining and/or repairing an item rather than replacing it with a brand new one is the best way to help recycle old goods.
How “Green” Is it?
The second question for children and parents to consider is “how green is it?” By this, Albert Boufarah is referring to how environmentally friendly a certain item is. People of all ages need to be more conscious of the environmental impact that an item has. Ideally, you want to only buy goods that have as little impact on the environment as possible which means buying local as often as possible. Thankfully, there are various standards and programs in place so that when businesses create sustainable products, those products will usually have an eco-label on it. Examples of eco-labels include Energy Star, WaterSense, and Design for the Environment. Beyond looking for these labels in retail stores, a few other factors that you and your child can look for include whether the item is made of recycled materials and can be recycled, whether or not the item is made from high quality materials and is thus built to last (meaning you won’t have to replace it anytime soon), and finally, whether it is better for the environment to buy the product in bulk versus individually, in order to reduce unnecessary waste such as extra packaging. Albert Boufarah adds that this can be used both as a learning experience for children to consider how environmentally friendly an item is, but it can also double as an opportunity to teach children about how to properly read labels to understand what they are purchasing. Thinking about the environmental impact of everything you buy is a great habit to develop from a young age.
Can You Reuse It?
Third, Albert Boufarah says that the last question to pose to yourself is to consider if a product can be reused. Although it might be cheaper to purchase a disposable plastic water bottle, spending a little more to get a reusable water bottle will save you money in the long run and help the environment. Another thing to consider is that if you know you are going to be eating out — such as at a picnic or during a sporting event — you can bring your own utensils from home to avoid having to use plastic utensils that will then be tossed out.
Additionally, when you are looking to purchase any product, consider if the product could be purchased used and still provide the same results. If the answer is ‘yes’, then you can help both the environment and your wallet at the same time. These are both important skills for kids to learn as it helps them to develop their ability to critically think about what they are planning and how they use items and it helps to show them that they do not have to throw things away when they no longer need them. Rather they can give items away for others to use.
Overall, Albert Boufarah urges parents to instill good recycling habits in their children from a young age. One of the best ways to do so is by asking insightful questions, like the above, that cause your children and yourself to consider the environmental consequences of purchasing goods and their reusability.