Updated: Apr 11
How To Teach Kids To Be More Sustainable
Many of us started living more sustainably in adulthood. We’ve had to learn new habits and unlearn old ones on our quest to live more eco-friendly lives. By teaching children these principles from a young age, we’re equipping the next generation with the knowledge and tools they’ll need to make the world a better place.
Here are a few simple ways to teach kids to embrace a more sustainable mindset.
Encourage Them to Spend More Time In Nature
One of the most effective ways of teaching children about the environment is to expose them to it. When they develop a genuine appreciation for nature, it’s easier for them to feel a personal responsibility to protect our natural resources. A trip to a local park, forest, or sanctuary is a great way to spend a Saturday morning or afternoon. While you’re there, encourage them to appreciate the beauty of what they’re seeing, while taking advantage of teaching moments. For example, if you’re surrounded by trees, you can talk about how millions of trees are cut down each year to make paper products. This is a lot more effective than simply telling kids to conserve, and will help them to understand the impact of products like reusable paper towels.
Another fun idea is to go on a litter hike. Visit a popular local walking or hiking trail with trash bags and gloves. As you walk, pick up any trash you see along the way. Besides helping to keep the environment clean, a lot of lessons can be learned here. You’re teaching the importance of proper trash disposal and how littering can make a beautiful place look ugly. Compare plastic waste to paper waste to show how different materials decompose (or not) over time. Use this as a moment to discuss the impact of littering on the plants and animals. Make things even more fun by offering a reward based on the number of pieces of trash your child picks up.
Conserving Resources at Home
Teaching kids about conservation not only helps them to build more sustainable habits, but can also help to reduce expenses at home.
Turn off the lights when you’re leaving a room
Turn the faucet off while brushing your teeth
Keep the windows closed while the air conditioning/heating is on
For short journeys, ride a bike or walk if possible
Wear warmer clothes instead of turning up the thermostat
Conservation goes beyond utilities like electricity and water. Teach kids to conserve other limited resources such as school supplies and food. When doing craft projects, remind them not to overdo it with glue and paint, and to only use what they need. The same goes for food - don’t
share out more than you need and be sure to save leftovers for later. This creates a culture of minimalism and reduces an attitude of consumption.
Build On What They’re Learning In School
These days, kids are learning all about climate change, recycling, and single-use plastic in school. Encourage them to share what they’ve learned and discuss how these lessons can be implemented at home. Ask if there’s anything they’re not sure about so you can clear up any misconceptions they have.
You may even end up learning something new from your child during these conversations!
Turn It Into a Game or Project
By gamifying sustainability, you can make it a lot more fun for kids. Set a timer at shower time to encourage them to beat the clock and use less water while still getting clean. Tell them they’ll lose points if they keep the water running when they should turn it off. Think of other habits you’d like to enforce and consider how you can turn it into a game or a reward system.
Sustainability can also be learned through fun projects at home. Start your own garden and see if you can grow your own vegetables or herbs. Select plants that are fairly easy to grow and show your kids how to nurture them over time. Imagine how happy they’ll be to eat a fruit or veggie that they helped to grow!
Another eco-friendly project for kids is a compost bottle. By using a transparent bottle, they’ll be able to see how compost is made.
Scraps of fruits and veggies
Leaves from the yard
Spoiled produce from the fridge
Old newspapers or cardboard
It’s super fun to watch the compost bottle change over time. After a few weeks, the compost can be used to fertilize your outdoor garden or indoor plants.
Lead by Example
Children live what they learn. While teaching kids more eco-friendly practices, it’s important to ensure you’re modeling these habits yourself. When they see you making more sustainable choices, they’re very likely to follow suit. They’ll take these habits with them into adulthood and pass them on to the next generation. For example, if you live in a household that has ditched paper towels in favor of reusable cloth towels, your kids are likely to grow up, move out and do the same.
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Thank you again for reading & be well.
Soft Landings Home Team
Blog Written by Francine