Growing Up Green

When I was a kid, the word green conjured up three ideas. A colour. A greenhorn – as in being new, and usually not very good, at something. I remember that term being thrown around a lot on my favourite childhood show – Little House on the Prairie. At the time, I thought it was something bad to call people, and I may have tried it out on my little brother once or twice. And finally, a feeling – as in being green with envy. This one was adopted into my vocabulary via The Berenstain Bears books. Remember the one where Sister was envious of Brother’s new bike? The green-eyed monster appeared. I’m still traumatized.

Nowhere in these three definitions was there any reference to the planet. I’m not sure if the adults were thinking about it much, but as a kid, being a global citizen and treating the earth with kindness was nowhere on my radar. I remember the first time I became aware we might be causing irreparable harm. It was when the scientists discovered that all the Final Net Hairspray required to keep our bangs reaching for the sky had actually put a hole in it. I cried. Not about the ozone layer, but about the rumour that they were going to stop making aerosol cans for hairspray. Looking back on how my friends and I wore our hair, I can tell you there might actually be a significant hole directly over Mt. Baker High School in Cranbrook. I don’t know for sure. But in the words of the great Oprah Winfrey, “when you know better, you do better.” With a heavy heart, I freed my bangs from their life of crunchy confinement and let them blow in the wind.

That was the first time I was conscious that changing my personal actions was important to preserving the planet. It was a wake-up call. Everyone has a part in the responsibility of preserving our planet for the next generation. I might have to sacrifice something, even something as important at the time as my own style, to help the greater good. Since then, protecting the environment has become something most of us accept and take pride in doing.

My girls live in a different world than I did. At the young ages of six and seven they are fully enlightened about conservation and recycling and climate change. Part of this comes from home, but I have to give a lot of credit to the wonderful programs that travel through the schools and help teach our children how important it is to be responsible global citizens.

Wildsight has the kids understanding how precious our water and vegetation and biodiversity are from the time they are old enough to wade in the river. In their own words, “Wildsight gives kids the knowledge and experience of the natural world that they need to protect, conserve and cherish it.” When my kids are on a Wildsight field trip they come home full of knowledge and invigorated about their environment. I feel so lucky to not have to bear this burden of education and appreciation alone.

Another wonderful program we have in our community is Earth Rangers. “Earth Rangers is the kids’ conservation organization, dedicated to educating children and their families about biodiversity, inspiring them to adopt sustainable behaviours and empowering them to become directly involved in protecting animals and their habitats.” The school programs and website encourage kids to get involved, sign up, and save animals. And it works. My seven-year-old is turning eight next week. Instead of presents, she has asked for donations to help the Western Painted Turtle. Seriously. As a parent, I would never have had the time or energy to research local threatened animals and then figure out a way to get my kids passionate enough to donate money that will actually help conserve these little guys, so the next time we’re at Surveyor’s Lake, they’ll be lining those logs basking in the sun.

My point? We’ve come a long way, baby. And I know we have a long way to go, but I’ll tell you what -  we’re raising some pretty awesome environmental stewards. I like to think it all started with putting down that can of hairspray.