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Green parenting: where to start

Parents are doing more than tossing empty cans into a recycling bin to teach their kids to be kind to the environment. Green parenting today clues kids in on how what they consume affects the community, and ultimately, the world.

Jayne and Howard Rosenbaum of Bay Harbor Islands teach their kids, Joshua, 14, and Dara, 9, how the resources they use touch those around them.

"We teach the children not to be so 'me, me, me' but to think of others,''

Jayne Rosenbaum said. "We want them to see how their choices affect others and the earth.''

Over the years, the Rosenbaums have purged their household of products laden with chemicals that pollute the environment, instead relying on biodegradable house cleaners, all-natural body products and organic foods.

Five years ago, Jayne started an organic produce co-op to pool the resources of families on a similar mission. The co-op now serves about 1,000 South Florida families.

"We take a strong stand about how food is processed on this planet,'' Howard Rosenbaum said. "Whatever is negatively going to affect the environment is going to negatively affect our health.''

The family also tries to reuse and recycle what they can. They throw vegetable peelings in a backyard composting bin to use as organic fertilizer. They use cloth towels instead of paper to pick up spills. They buy fresh, sustainable items such as produce, fish and beef in bulk, then split them into portions.

Jayne Rosenbaum said they never throw anything away that can be passed on to someone else.

"That way, something is reused, instead of going into the trash and into a landfill,'' she said.

John and Monica Evans of Plantation show their kids pictures of plastic bottles crowding garbage dumps and floating in water sources to illustrate what happens when recyclables are not properly disposed.

They not only recycle, they teach their kids to use less.

That means buying a gallon of water instead of individual bottles, turning off lights when they leave a room, or making sure exterior doors stay closed when the air-conditioner is on. It means washing only full loads of laundry, using environmentally safe cleaners and not turning on lawn sprinklers.

With five children age 2 to 14 in their household, John Evans said they try to set a good example.

"It's things the kids don't always see, but it's a conscious effort on our part,'' he said.

John Evans, now store manager of Whole Foods in Coral Springs, said he remembers in excruciating detail the moment he realized his personal impact on the environment.

"It's horrible to tell the story now, but I was a teenager and I dumped 4 quarts of oil in a drainage ditch,'' Evans said. "When my father came home, he flipped.''

It was a turning point for him, Evans said.

"It made me think, 'Where does this stuff go?' Just because you don't see it doesn't mean it disappears,'' he said. "The bottom line is being green is a recognition of everything around us.''

LIVING GREEN, TEACHING GREEN

Here are some local resources:
  • NatureScape Broward is a county program that encourages homeowners to turn their back yards into natural habitats. "It's a green opportunity for kids who are spending their days text messaging and playing video games,'' said Victor Suarez, NatureScape education specialist. "They're not getting enough green time.'' By using native trees and plants in their landscape, homeowners help the environment, Suarez said. "There is less of a need for water, because they're using native plants, and there is better air quality and less emissions because they are mowing lawns less,'' he said. Creating a natural habitat also "creates homes for wildlife on the move, green spaces for them to go while they're migrating,'' Suarez said. There are about 2,000 certified habitats in Broward.
  • Young at Art Children's Museum in Davie has a permanent exhibit, Earthworks, that teaches children to reduce, reuse, recycle and create art from recycled materials. Kids can sort plastics on a conveyer belt, powered by pedaling, and create original art using bins of donated materials. A recycled shop allows youngsters to stuff a paper bag with reusable odds and ends to take home for a dollar. "We teach them that trash can turn into treasure, depending on how we see it,'' said Yumina Myers, manager for school and public programs.
  • The Broward and Miami Sierra Clubs offer family-friendly outings such as camping and canoeing trips, but have had trouble attracting young families. "Now, both parents are working,'' said Jim Gross, outings chairman for the Miami club. "People are too busy.'' Judy Kuchta, who coordinates outings for the Broward club, said they would love more family participation at activities such as field trips to see turtles hatching. "We need more people to come,'' she said.
  • Whole Foods Market, which has several South Florida stores, offers community outreach programs that include beach cleanups, catch-and-release fishing tournaments and recycling workshops for kids.
  • The Organic Produce Buying Club of South Florida is a food co-op that serves about 1,000 families in several South Florida areas. Member families pay about $49 every two weeks for their share of organic fruits and vegetables.
  • To turn your trash into someone else's treasure, trying swapping your unused goods for someone else's. Click here for a list of free recycling groups in Florida. Post stuff you want to sell, trade, or give away in the MomsMiami Swap Your Stuff forum.
  • The Rethink and Reuse Center in Doral collects clean, reusable materials from businesses and distributes them to teachers, parents and children for art projects to encourage community-wide ecological responsibility.
  • The Kids Ecology Corps in Sunrise is a 10-year-old nonprofit that offers free, hands-on activities at beaches, parks and historic sites to help preserve the environment. Spokeswoman Cristina Virsida said the group offers programs about water and energy conservation, as well as environmental topics such as sea oats, mangroves and sea turtles.
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