For me it seems quite obvious that if we are wanting to live in a more sustainably, we are going to have to start with the people who will be most effected by our actions today; the people who I am meaning are children. I believe it is vital that if we are wanting to make significant changes to how we make (informed) purchases (of any kind), then we are needing to teach those who will be inheriting the world from those who are 'running' it. I think it is vital that we teach a more Earth friendly way of living to elementary kids in order for them to develop good environmental habits, or at the very least be aware of them.
Teaching children about healthy eating, buying local, and wasting less can influence them to live better and longer and possibly influence others such as their parents and families who may not be as aware of how their actions, purchases, and food habits can negatively effect the environment. Granted, this can be somewhat of a challenge in our busy 'American' lifestyle for a child to encourage an adult to change how they buy groceries, for example. Cooking a scratch meal from fresh local ingredients may seem like an impossibility to a family with two working parents (or for a working single parent), especially when a packaged processed meal is as easy as throwing a box in the microwave and pressing the 'START' button. Not only do the packaged meals, more than likely, travel an extremely long distance to be distributed, but more waste is generated from the packaging of the food; cardboard, polystyrene (styrofoam), plastic, etc.. A lot of the packaging can be recycled, though if there is food contamination on cardboard or the cardboard is waxed, many counties cannot recycle the material and it must be land-filled or shipped to another county for reuse. Also, most styrofoam packaging is not recyclable. Very few places recycle styrofoam being that the cost efficient. Informing children of the reality of the amount of waste generated by purchasing mass produced factory foods, I believe can only have positive results; maybe not immediately, but over time.
I also believe it is important to teach children about gardening, and that one is not completely dependent on the supermarket to feed one's 'belly.' Teaching a child to grow food not only teaches a child about sustainable living, but it also can give a child a boost in pride, a sense of accomplishment, and teaches patients and responsibility. Gardening can also be fun and give kids a healthy break from their studies. Kids can actually see where their food comes from and see how life 'works' and what it takes to care for an organism to grow. Children become more aware of the seasons and what vegetables are available to grow in their area; this also crates an awareness of what vegetables are not available except through shipping from far away lands.
Fun article from the Oregonian's web site: Teaching Children to Garden
----submitted by Tim Bergam