10 Easy Conservation Tips to Teach Your Kids

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KID-FRIENDLY CONSERVATION

There are a number of small, simple ways a family can reduce their carbon footprint and live a more eco-friendly lifestyle -- even saving money in the process. These easy-to-incorporate ideas are kid-friendly and can be accommodated for children of all ages. Use these suggestions to jump-start your own list, and make a game out of adding a new green living tip to your home every week.

TURN LIGHTS OFF

Electricity costs an average of about 13 cents per kilowatt hour, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Day after day, hour after hour, the money adds up -- maybe enough for a brand new toy. When explained in those terms, it's enough to encourage kids to turn off the lights when leaving a room or make sure the TV is off at bedtime.

STOP WASTING FOOD

Americans waste $162 billion on food annually, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service. Much of this results from consumer confusion regarding the difference between "sell by" and "use by" dates. Generally there's no need to toss items immediately on the "sell by" date, which saves on grocery bills. Foods such as apples and eggs can last longer than anticipated -- up to three and five weeks, respectively. Get kids involved by having them create "eat by" stickers to place on foods to track when an item really needs to be dumped.

SWITCH TO REUSABLE BAGS

Make plastic baggies a thing of the past by letting kids pick out their own special reusable snack and lunch bags, such as owl-patterned, BPA-free snack bags from Target. They're a cute option that is also better for the environment.

TURN OFF THE TAP

Shutting off the water when brushing your teeth can save up to eight gallons of water a day, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Get kids in on the action of reducing the family's water bill by having them wet their toothbrushes, turn off the water, and then turn it back on to rinse their mouths.

WALK OR BIKE

Reduce energy usage by expending energy as a family instead. A weekend bike ride or walking to school each day instead of driving a car is arguably one of the easiest ways to be more environmentally friendly. Kids can take turns picking routes or families can even have a contest to see who walks the most miles in a week.

DITCH PLASTIC BOTTLES

With numerous kid-friendly reusable bottles available, there's no reason to continue buying packs of bottled water. Nalgene makes a variety of fun, kid-friendly designs (starting at $5) that will be around for years to come with proper care. With a cheap water filter, they can be refilled again and again.

ORGANIZE A TOY SWAP

Reuse and recycle by helping kids arrange a swap where they can exchange toys, books, and even clothes amongst friends either temporarily or permanently. It's a fun way for everyone to go home with a new toy or book without spending money and an easy way to declutter the house. Cheapism.com has additional ways to reduce spending on toys.

UNPLUG ELECTRONICS

Up to 10 percent of home electricity usage stems from devices being plugged in 24 hours a day, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Cheapism has found that unplugging everything from computers to game consoles when not in use can save families about $100 a year. Instead of pulling every plug out of the wall repeatedly, use power strips to make the job easier. With a number available in playful designs, kids can pick their own style to power on and off.

COMPOST TOGETHER

Composting lowers the amount of garbage that ends up in landfills. It also turns trash into something useful: ideal soil for growing vegetables and beautifying the yard. Composting is an activity that the whole family can participate in, simply by being in charge of their own food scraps. Visit HowtoCompost.org to learn the basics and Cheapism.com to find an affordable compost bin.

ADOPT A RAINFOREST

One creative way for families to do something green together is to donate a monetary amount of any size to a rainforest conservation project through the Rainforest Alliance. The organization lets donors choose from a number of different projects in countries such as Honduras and Brazil, and sends a certificate to show appreciation.