As parents we want our children to become active participants in their world. To mature into men and women that pursue noble causes, work for peace, and pursue justice. We want them, as the saying goes, “to make a difference” – and perhaps to discover the true wisdom behind all of our philanthropic slogans. ‘Tis better to give than to receive. Friends are more important than money. You can’t take it with you.’

I devise endless schemes to infiltrate the minds of my children with notions of beauty and goodness. Books authored by Nobel Peace Prize winners, vignettes about true happiness, trips to donation centers to drop off piles of unused toys and trinkets. It is important but frankly, it is exhausting. Teachable moments vanish in a cloud of hockey practices, homework, missing lunch totes, etc. Grooming a world-changer seems comical when sneers and arguments erupt over clothing, curfew, or broccoli.

And the list of ways to save the world seems way too long to tackle on most days anyway. To teach about peace, tolerance, forgiveness, be nice to the neighbor kid, then add green living and recycling, composting and all the other eco-ways to save the planet. Who has time for anything else?

So, on the off chance you are a bit like me and find your noble list long and your time and patience short, consider combining a few excursions and opportunities to help your family realize that saving the planet is about more than recycling, it is about helping the people who share this globe of ours. For example:

  1. Consider donating extra produce from your garden to a shelter or food pantry. Fresh fruits and veggies are often in short supply. A family in need can enjoy the sweet burst of flavor only a homegrown tomato can offer.
  2. Recycle or repurpose items through a charity. For example, cell phones and chargers as well as many electronics can be refurbished and donated to organizations that provide low-income families the technology they need. Shoes, old buttons and even safety pins can be sent to communities in Africa who need such items. Check out earth911.com for a few ideas.
  3. Many schools and community organizations make money on paper recycling. Check with schools in your area and take your curbside paper to their bins so that they can receive a financial kickback just for recycling paper.
  4. Remember the wisdom in walking places whenever you can. Along the way you of course save on your CO2 output, but more importantly you begin to meet people and catch names and faces of stories all around you. When you see a need, stop and help, put that peace-seeking heart to action and watch the world change right before your eyes.

Tracey Bianchi is a freelance writer, speaker and mother of three squirmy, messy children. She is the author of “Green Mama: The Guilt Free Guide to Helping You and Your Kids Save the Planet.” You can catch her musings at www.traceybianchi.com or pick up her book on Amazon or wherever books are sold.