“Where Are the Children Going to Play?” is the name of a popular Mexican pop rock group’s song I always listen to. Every time I hear it, I sit back and ask myself a similar question: How can I teach my child to lead a healthy and environmental-friendly lifestyle like I had when I grew up?
I spent most of my time growing up in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic before moving stateside. Because they are islands, the electricity and the water are incredibly expensive. Regardless of which island I was on, I learned from my parents, my teachers and my elders to respect the water, the air, and to always reduce electricity usage.
Growing up, conservation was a way of life. When I was young, I never thought of it as “saving the environment,” to me it was more of doing the right thing because that’s what we were supposed to do. My friends always comment on how environmentally conscious I am, but it comes second nature to me because of how I was raised.
I clearly remember my parents saying, “Close the refrigerator door please,” or “Turn the TV and lights off when you leave the room, Judy!” These habits were ingrained in my memory and have stayed with me to this day. In fact, I even turn off the lights of some bathrooms in businesses to help them save power, whether they want to or not.
Today, I’ve incorporated many of the same principles I grew up with into my family life so my husband and my five-year-old son, Anakin, pick up these habits. Not only does my son help me by putting the bottles, aluminum cans and paper in the proper recycling receptacles I’ve set up at my house, but he also sings a song he learned at school: “The 3 R’s” by Jack Johnson, which stand for Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. It’s one of his favorites.
Besides recycling, I always show my son that by taking care of our planet, the planet takes care of us. I will always remember explaining to him that fruits and vegetables don’t grow from the supermarket, but from trees and plants. We are fortunate that an organic hydroponic farm opened near our home recently. The farm gives my son a similar experience that I had when I was a little girl. He gets to pick the fruits off the plant, and enjoy their delicious flavors without my worrying about pesticides.
Every time I have an opportunity, I always tell him the importance of protecting the environment by selecting produce from nearby farmers who do not have to spend money in transportation, thus reducing costs and carbon footprint. Plus, the produce tastes much better when they are organic or hydroponic, in my opinion.
In addition to reducing and recycling, I practice reusing in numerous ways. For example, I donate Anakin’s gently used toys and clothing to charity. One of the greatest places to take children’s items are in charities such as Central Florida Children’ Home on Narcoosee Road, a non-profit organization where they take care of foster children and keep siblings together. My conviction to help children started when I went to the Dominican Republic. I noticed for the first time that there were some children in the world who did not have enough clothing or food. I saw dozens of Dominicans, as well as Haitian children, in the street asking for help. The sight left such an impression on me as an eight year old that I started giving my allowance to underprivileged children.
Helping conserve the environment, as well as other people, has always been a part of who I am. By being me, and teaching my family and friends the things that matter most to me, I hope to make a small difference in the world. This is our opportunity to act on those words that my Anakin always sings: “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.”
Article by Judith Willemsen