You probably care deeply about keeping the environment clean. You likely take steps to be an environmental steward, perhaps rinsing and sorting your recycling, composting, conserving water, reusing items and more. You may even encourage members of your household to do the same. But have you considered how to explain the importance of these actions to your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews or friends? How will you help to prepare the next generation to work hard to make the planet a more sustainable place?
Whether you’re seeking a starting point for conversation, you want to further your own knowledge or you’re looking to join a global movement, the reading list below will help you find a place to start.
TODDLER THROUGH PRE-K
10 Things I Can Do to Help My World by Melanie Walsh
10 Things I Can Do to Help My World gives very young children (and their adults) a foundation from which to begin talking about conserving natural resources. Made from 100% recycled material, the book will catch the attention of little ones through touch worthy die-cut pages, lift-the-flap design and kid-friendly illustrations. In addition to tips such as planting seeds, recycling and turning off the faucet, 10 Things I Can Do to Help My World provides simple, tangible explanations of how certain actions will make a difference.
You and your toddler may also enjoy The Earth Book by Todd Parr.
Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Siddals
Composting enables you to turn your organic waste — items such as fruit peels, food scraps, coffee grounds, leaves and more — into a resource that can help nourish your soil and spruce up your yard. At the same time, you can prevent the very same items from being thrown into a landfill, where they will break down slowly and produce methane, contributing directly to global warming. This fun, rhyming ABC book takes readers through items that could be used to make compost but that may otherwise be thrown away. Naming an alphabet’s worth of items from apple cores and eggshells (crushed, of course) to dryer lint and zinnia heads, Compost Stew is an excellent tool to get youngsters interested in what happens to our “trash.”
Your child may also like Why Water’s Worth It by Lori Harrison.
One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul
Set in Njau, Gambia, and based on the life of Isatou Ceesay, Miranda Paul’s One Plastic Bag portrays what can happen when a cheap, convenient item is improperly discarded, time after time. Broken basket cast aside, young Isatou carries her fruits in a found plastic bag. When it tears, she “drops it to the dirt like everyone does.” Over the years, however, Isatou sees this garbage multiply and resolves to make a change. Eventually, she brings others to support her work and up-cycle alongside her. Artist Elizabeth Zunon’s collage illustrations from recycled materials echo the book’s focus on turning trash to treasure.
Your young reader may also like Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World by Laurie Lowler.
LATE ELEMENTARY AND MIDDLE SCHOOL
The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming by Laurie David and Cambria Gordon
This easily digestible guide takes readers through the science behind climate change and describes a host of ways that kids can make a difference, from recycling to choosing careers in the field of sustainability. Co-authored by Laurie David, the Oscar-winning producer of An Inconvenient Truth, and Cambria Gordon, it is packed full of photographs, graphs, cartoons and other illustrations that help illuminate this complex topic for younger audiences. The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming leaves kids feeling empowered and prepared to spur change in their homes, schools and communities.
Your middle-school reader may also be interested in Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion by Loree Griffin Burns.
TEENS AND ADULTS
Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming
Ed. Paul Hawken
In Drawdown, an international coalition of researchers, professionals and scientists offers a set of practical solutions to climate change. Through a collection of short, accessible essays, editor Paul Hawken identifies 100 economically viable actions that are already in effect around the globe. He makes the case for how, if deployed on a global scale over the next three decades, these solutions could help us to reach drawdown — the point in time at which greenhouse gasses peak and begin to decline on a year-to-year basis. From girls’ education, plant-rich diets and reducing food waste to solar energy and improved land use practices, Drawdown offers a truly wide-ranging and upbeat take on reversing global warming.
Teens may also enjoy The Green Teen: The Eco-Friendly Teen’s Guide to Saving the Planet by Jenn Savedge and Generation Green: The Ultimate Teen Guide to Living an Eco-friendly Life by Linda Sivertsen and Tosh Sivertsen.
Adults may also be interested in The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming by David Wallace-Wells.
By Mary Alice Hartsock
This article originally appeared in Academy Frontiers, the Academy’s member magazine.