As parents, we spend a lot of time educating our children about different things that we deem essential for their wellbeing; there are common skills we teach them (feed yourself, dress yourself, get on well with other humans), the learning of new things (all that school stuff that you have to try and keep up with) and all those life skills that they will need to survive in the big, bad world (don’t spend your entire pay on pay day, cake is not a meal, don’t kill anybody), but it is also becoming increasingly important to teach your children to live an eco-friendly life.
It is imperative that we add lessons about our impact on the world we live in to the mix of direct and/or subliminal messaging that we parents use so well – we need to teach our children about the environment and how their choices and actions have consequences that may affect it. It is vital to help them to understand the significance of preserving the environment, adopting eco-friendly habits, and how they play a part in their own future. We need the next generation to see the damage that has already been caused and not just see it as the new normal.
Sidenote: when I say teach your children, I don’t mean sit them down and gnaw their ears off with boring statistics and scary facts, I mean, lead by example! Show them how to do things around the place and get them to participate. Talk about things throughout your day as you stumble across something that would be a good ‘teaching moment’ – connect the learning/message with the real life environment and things you come across. Pretty soon your kids will be coming right back at you with ways to live a greener life!
So to get going in the right direction, here is a list of 5 things you should definitely teach your children about sustainable living:
It is a must that we educate our children about water usage and wastage. Teaching our children about where their water comes from and how we need to use it conservatively is important; they need to understand the relevance of water restrictions and why they are put in place.
Things to touch on include:
- What drought is and how it impacts the population
- What happens when we don’t have enough water
- How to save water on a daily basis by taking simple actions at home e.g. washing hands with the plug in, short showers, washing with full loads, collecting grey water for the garden
- Keeping up to date with local water restrictions and following the guidelines
- How much water it takes to raise one head of cattle and how reducing your meat intake can help the environment
Rubbish and landfill are not the nicest topics to talk about and are often treated as an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ thing which is why talking about it is necessary as part of any environmental conversation with your kids. You need to teach them that once rubbish is thrown in the bin it doesn’t just disappear, it actually goes into the earth! Tell them about the amount of waste that cannot be recycled and how it ends up in landfill; explain that many products that can be recycled won’t be due to an overloaded recycling system. It helps kids to understand the need to use more eco-friendly products, to upcycle and reuse items, and to be conscious of buying fewer items made of virgin plastic or non-recyclable plastic.
A great experiment to do with kids is to bury a non-biodegradable item and a biodegradable item next to each other in the backyard e.g. a cotton washcloth and a baby wipe. Come back and dig them up in a month and show your children the difference! There is nothing like practical experience to send a clear message.
Another topic to discuss with your children is the effects of high electricity usage on the environment. It may be a bit tough to explain carbon emissions and the like to young kids, but explaining to them that things like turning lights off and keeping windows and doors shut to conserve heat helps the environment, will make the teaching moment a lot easier. If you have older children who use a lot of technology, get them in the habit of shutting down computers and turning off chargers at the end of the day and using rechargeable batteries wherever possible.
Caring for the environment
Not only are there simple changes we can make to our everyday tasks to preserve and protect the environment, but there is also the task of simply looking after it. Things such as not littering and leaving plastic waste laying around which animals may ingest; not damaging or destroying plant life when outdoors and taking care not to invade or damage animals’ habitats.
Teach children to lower their impact by walking or cycling rather than taking public transport or driving as a family; set up regular gardening activities each week and watch children enjoy the fruits of their labour (literally!).
Take children on organised clean up days such as Clean Up Australia so they can see firsthand how litter is damaging our environment.
The Plastic Problem
This is a biggy and a huge impact can be made by just avoiding or drastically reducing the plastic you use.
Teaching your children the difference between products will help them to understand the important part we play in how our waste effects the environment. Talk to them about plastic products, the difference between virgin and recycled plastic, how the manufacture of plastic produces chemicals that pollute the air and how plastic that ends up in landfill also pollutes the earth by leaking chemicals into the atmosphere.
Show children the dramatic effect that plastic is having on our oceans and wildlife. Choose images wisely as some can be quite distressing, but don’t shy away from telling kids how it is.
Talk to them about recycling and the importance of it. Also talk to them about the different sustainable options that are available these days and the importance of using sustainable resources when creating products. There is a wealth of information out there and the environment theme occurs regularly in children’s movies and television shows so keep an eye out for relevant viewing too.
Our children are the future and we want to make sure that there is a healthy environment for them to live in once they grow up. Keep them informed on different eco topics and let them take part in the changes with you. Make it fun and interesting for them and let them ask lots of questions. And most of all – let them spend as much time out in nature as possible so they really appreciate the world they are preserving.
If you would like some more practical examples than this post offers, stay tuned for my upcoming blog post on practical eco-friendly activities you can get your kids involved with at home.
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