Teaching kids about sustainable living
Environment Study Is The Most Priority
Marianne Stenger :
Today's children will be tomorrow's leaders in the battle against climate change, so it's vital that kids understand the concept of sustainable living from an early age.
Research shows that modelling or teaching by example has a greater effect on children's behaviour than simply telling them what to do. So if you're looking to emphasise the importance of sustainable living, start by evaluating your own habits to see if there are areas you can improve in.
When kids see their parents actively making lifestyle choices that are less damaging to the environment, even if this means sacrificing some convenience, they'll be much more likely to do the same as they grow older. Of course, in addition to modelling the right behaviour, there are also things you can do to create teachable moments. If you aren't sure where to start, here some ideas for teaching kids about sustainability and lowering your family's carbon footprint in the process.
1. Read story books about climate change
Reading story books together is both a bonding parent-child activity and an excellent way to introduce your child to the issue of climate change, without being overly gloomy.
Some well-known children's classics can create opportunities to discuss the importance of living sustainably, such as Where The Wild Things Are or Charlotte's Web. There are also books that address the issue more pointedly, from Michael Foreman's picture book Dinosaurs And All That Rubbish to Elizabeth Beresford's series of children's novels The Wombles.
2. Let them accompany you to the grocery store
Kids can learn a lot from accompanying you to grocery store every now and then, although you will have to lay some groundwork ahead of time.
Before you head out, explain the concept of eco-friendly products to your child and make sure they understand how to check whether something is locally produced and organic. Once in the store, you can ask them to help you select the right products by looking out for certain labels or stickers, and looking for products without unnecessary plastic packaging.
3. Discuss and practice recycling at home
Another issue that's important for kids to understand is waste and recycling. You can talk about how paper is made and why recycling can help protect the forests, and discuss how some materials, such as plastic, take hundreds of years to break down naturally and are harmful to wildlife and the environment.
Once they understand the importance of recycling, you can create separate bins for plastic, cans, glass and paper, and then decorate each one with its own picture to remind them of what goes where.
4. Visit a local sustainable farm
Visiting a local sustainable farm is a great way to teach your kids about where their food is coming from and why it's important to buy organic and locally grown fruits and vegetables. Some farms even allow you to pick your own fruits and vegetables, which can be both fun and educational. Seeing how animals used for meat, milk and eggs are kept may also give your kids a chance to think about the animal products they consume.
5. Spend more time in nature
Spending more time enjoying nature trails, forests and parks will help your kids see value in protecting nature. While you're enjoying nature walks together, you can also broach the topic of how our actions impact nature and what we can do to minimise that impact. You could even carry an empty sack and make a game of collecting any rubbish you spot while you're hiking.
6. Start a vegie garden
If you have the space for it, starting a simple vegetable garden is a fun way to show your kids where their food comes from. You can start by getting together to research which vegetables grow in which seasons and deciding where you want to plant them. If you don't have a lot of outdoor space, you can grow things like tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs in pots or create a simple vertical garden.
7. Implement meatless Mondays
If your family eats meat, implementing meat-free Mondays is a great way to have an open conversation about the environmental impact of livestock farming and lowering your family's carbon footprint. After discussing why eating less meat can be a good thing for the environment, you can have some fun coming up with meat-free recipes you want to try.
8. Talk about conserving water and energy
Children can have a difficult time understanding that water is a limited resource or that electricity is usually generated from non-renewable natural resources. So rather than just telling them to turn off the lights when they leave a room or reprimanding them for leaving the water running while they brush their teeth, find some educational videos and infographics that will help them understand why conserving natural resources is a good thing.
You can also look for ways to make it fun. For example, you could make an effort as a family to reduce your monthly bills, and then donate the money saved throughout the year to a good cause.
9. Tackle an upcycling project together
Upcycling goes hand-in-hand with recycling, and creating something beautiful or functional out of an item you'd normally throw away can be a great lesson in producing less waste and using resources wisely. For example, empty plastic bottles can be turned into bird feeders; a pizza box can make an excellent surface to paint on and tin cans can be turned into DIY lanterns.
10. Start cycling more often
It's easy to fall into the habit of taking the car everywhere you go, but if you don't live too far from your child's school, the grocery store and other places you tend to go quite frequently, you should consider cycling when time and weather conditions allow. Not only will this save on fuel costs and minimise air pollution, but it's another teachable moment that will get your kids thinking about how their everyday choices can impact the environment.