Kindness, compassion and generosity are qualities most parents wish to see blossoming in their children’s personalities — and one of the most valuable lessons we learn from our parents is how to care for Mother Earth and give back to the community. Keep the chain going by showing your own kids what you were taught by pledging to do at least one of these 10 things together. Pick more than one for extra karma points!
1. PLANT SOMETHING
Plant a tree or a flowering bush in your yard together. Trees and bushes clean the air, provide food for butterflies and shelter for birds, and make fabulous rocket ships for imaginative tree-climbing children. A well-maintained citrus tree can yield a ridiculous amount of fruit that you can share with neighbors or a food pantry.
2. VOLUNTEER SOMEWHERE TOGETHER
Find a cause you can both rally behind and throw yourselves into it. Read to kids at the library, serve food at a soup kitchen, canvass for your favorite political candidate, spend time with the residents of a nursing home, make costumes for a community theater … the list goes on and on. You can mix it up each time and take turns choosing volunteer opportunities.
3. VISIT THE ANIMALS AT A SHELTER
Shelter animals spend most of their time locked in cages with very little human interaction. Give them the TLC that will help make them great pets in forever homes someday: Take dogs for walks, and give kitties some nice chin scratches. Donate items the shelter needs, like old bedding and towels, cat and dog toys, pet carriers — and lots of laundry detergent.
4. BAKE COOKIES (OR OTHER TREATS) TO SHARE WITH FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS
Do you bake the yummiest Rice Krispy treats this side of the Mississippi? Cupcakes, cookies, cinnamon rolls … you name it, your neighbors will love it. In fact, this is a great way to meet any neighbors you haven’t had the pleasure of interacting with yet!
5. CLEAN UP YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD
Grab a couple of orange vests and reaching sticks, and pick up the trash on neighborhood roadsides. Make sure to stay safe, and be aware of oncoming traffic. If you live in a bottle-redemption state, keep those cans and bottles separate and turn them in for cash, which you could use for a community initiative of your choosing.
6. LEARN HOW TO COMPOST AND USE THE MATERIAL TO FERTILIZE A GARDEN YOU PLANT TOGETHER
A well-maintained garden can yield vegetables nearly year-round in many climates, and compost is a fantastic fertilizer. Learn the ins and outs of composing, then plant your favorite veggies. Use them to cook yummy meals together (maybe even some to share with others). Get your neighbors in on it and throw a harvest potluck block party at the end of each growing season.
7. MAKE A PACT TO DUMP YOUR BOTTLED-WATER HABIT
No matter what type of spring your bottled water says it came from, it is much more likely that it actually originated from a municipal water source — aka, a city reservoir. There’s no reason to pay extra for plastic packaging that pollutes the planet when you can fill up your own reusable bottle at home. Get matching cups with your monograms and make a pledge with your mom to go bottle-free while looking super-cute.
8. CO-SPONSOR A COAT, SOCK OR GENERAL-CLOTHING DRIVE
Help keep clothing donations local and get them directly to the people in your town who need them most by putting together a clothing drive for a locally based charity. Make this into a friendly competition: Each of you coordinates a collection at your respective places of business, and the person with the second-highest donations takes the one with the most donations out to dinner.
9. USE YOUR SPARE CHANGE TO MAKE A KID SMILE
Pledge that you will both collect and pool the change you get back from cash purchases for a year. Use it to sponsor a family for a holiday toy drive, buy supplies for a school, or pay off a few school-lunch balances. You could also use it to buy gift cards for an animal shelter, a favorite teacher (for class supplies), or a children’s hospital (for family members of long-term patients).
10. COMBINE ERRANDS
Rather than driving to separate dry cleaners, drop your clothes off together, then swing by the post office, drop off your library books, go to the bank, shop for outfits for your cousin’s wedding, etc. You’ll save fuel and cause fewer carbon monoxide emissions than if you each ran your errands separately.