Sustainable Transportation Made Simple for Kids

By Sher Warkentin in Thinking Sustainably

From school to extracurriculars, your kids are constantly being shuttled around. But how aware are they of the environmental impact of that transportation? Cars release an average of 9,737 pounds of greenhouse gas carbon dioxide every year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Public transportation like the school bus can reduce those greenhouse gas emissions by 37 million metric tons annually, but other options, like walking and biking, are even better for the environment. They’re also great exercise.

Sustainable transportation, however, is a big idea to grasp— especially for younger kids. Thankfully there are a few simple ways you can teach your family about the importance of choosing sustainable options to make it easier to understand.

What Is Sustainable Transportation?

My one year-old’s favorite book features pictures of twenty different vehicles. He’s still too young to know what “transportation” means, but the book is a great way to build the vocabulary he needs to learn about it in the future. One of the most basic lessons you can give even very young kids about alternative methods of transportation is to define what those options are. Check out a book about transportation from the library to read together. Talk about the ways each method of transportation in the book compares to driving your car. Make a fun project out of having your kids invent and draw their own form of transportation, and what eco-friendly elements it can include.

A girl reading in the library.

Go for a Ride

Kids often learn best from hands-on experiences, so if you really want to teach them about sustainable transportation, there’s no better way than to actually put it into action. Make a point to go from one place to another—a trip to the park or a grocery run, for instance. Ask your kids to come up with ideas for eco-friendly trip you can use instead of your car, like riding the bus, biking, or even walking on a nice day. Decide which method you’ll use and set out together.

After you’ve arrived, help your kids become more mindful of their choice transportation by playing a game. Let them shout out differences between this form of transportation and your car, and talk about what makes those differences more eco-friendly. For example, a bus can transport more people than a car, which is more sustainable because it uses less gas than several small cars carrying the same amount of passengers. Create a simple equation to calculate how much gas would have been used if each person riding the bus drove a car instead.

A child riding on a commuter train.

Take a Challenge

Once your kids are “on board” with some alternative modes of transport, you can apply the lesson to a fun challenge that teaches them a bit more about how much sustainable transportation actually makes a difference. Create a chart (hint: kids love whiteboards) that demonstrates just how much  estimated gas you use each time you drive in your car to regulated visited locations, like school, work, the grocery store, or the soccer field. For each location, determine the distance traveled in miles and gallons of gas used.

Challenge your family to use alternative methods of transportation, like walking or biking, for a week. Each time you use an alternative, mark down on the chart how much gas was saved. Come up with a goal number of gallons to save for the month, and see if you can meet or surpass that amount. Consider using the amount of money you would’ve spent on that fuel to buy a family reward.

A child riding a bicycle.

The most important part of these lessons is getting your kids to become more mindful of their environmental impact. You don’t need a complete lifestyle change to make sustainable transportation more effective. Getting your family to think about alternative ways to get around—and using those methods even just once a week—makes all the difference.

What’s your kids favorite form of eco-friendly transportation? Tweet us your answer @TomsofMaine.

Image source: Sher Warkentin

This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.

Why It’s Good

Sustainable transportation doesn't have to be a difficult concept to explain to kids. In fact, it's easy to teach with some hands-on activities that make small but manageable changes to the way your family gets around.