I’ve always been a voter, but other than that I never really considered myself an activist. It turns out that I’ve been “pocketbook activist” for quite some time. I’ve spent time looking for recycled products, even though they are sometimes a little harder to find and a bit more expensive. I’ve elected to not eat meat or dairy products or purchase products that are tested on animals. I drive a Prius and purchase wind power from my power company. I have an organic garden in my backyard and don’t use chemicals on my lawn. These are conscious decisions I’ve made that I’m hoping will influence people and companies to keep working in a sustainable manner—and maybe, just maybe, get the attention of those other companies that just aren’t living up to my standards.
I realized this week that these decisions are encouraging my daughter to be an activist. She’s participated in four Farm Sanctuary walks and joined us this year at Vegetarian Summerfest. She started a petition drive to include vegetarian options in her school cafeteria. When we visited Farm Sanctuary several years ago, she decided to become a vegetarian; now she’s vegan. We’ve always raised her to ask questions and speak up for herself–and I’m glad that she understands that this means you also stand up for those who don’t have voices.
It turns out that even though I wasn’t raised vegetarian and my parents didn’t bring me to the same kind of events, they were still encouraging me to be an activist. I was encouraged to go to college and figure out my own path in life. I was also taught to think beyond myself and value other beings. I still remember my dad being furious with our neighbor, who had put out a metal trap for the groundhogs (who lived in our yard, not theirs). He was so mad he threatened to call the cops (they didn’t put another trap out as long as we lived there). He also saved a bat that was trapped in a barbed wire fence and took it to an animal sanctuary. My mom can’t seem to help herself from rescuing one cat at a time from the streets (she’s currently working on trapping a mangy little cat in her neighborhood —who is most likely deaf—so she can get it vaccinated). I never though much about it before, but in their quiet way, my parents passed on their compassion for animals to me.
What things can you do to make activism an important part of your family’s life? First, be a conscientious consumer. Check packaging and ingredients on your purchases. Eat a plant-based, seasonal diet. Choose environmentally friendly options for your car, your appliances, and your home goods. Fix up your house with no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) paint. Showing your family that you care about the health of the environment, animals, and people will pass along your ethics to your kids, guaranteed. Share with your family why these choices are important, that we are interdependent and don’t live in a vacuum. The more you research and learn about different options and ways of doing things, the more you teach your kids to ask questions as they grow up. You can also learn things together, which shows them that you really don’t know everything (even if you think you do) and that you are open to learning new things. We all know people who aren’t willing to learn–and no one wants their kids to grow up thinking you stop learning when you’re an adult.
Getting your kids involved in advocacy campaigns is also important because you’re including them in your world—they get to see firsthand why it’s important to stand up for your principles. Go to an Earth Day event or a VegFest if you can find one in your area. Start building a community of like-minded individuals and your kids will see positive influences all around them. By including them, you’re showing them they are also part of this community–then they’ll see the importance of building that community in their lives, too.
As parents, most of us are very aware of the scary realities of this world. It’s our job not only to gently educate our kids about what’s wrong with it, but also to encourage them to take part in the world and not be afraid to live in it. You can plant the seeds of change within them—then, just watch them grow and flourish.