A sustainable lifestyle for future generations
Living a more sustainable lifestyle is paramount, as is passing on the ideals to our children…here are some simple tools to teach young ones the way of the future.
If we are going to pass on the concept of sustainability we first have to practice it, leading by example is the best lesson and the easiest way for a practice to become standard. So if eco-friendly routines are incorporated into daily life a child will hopefully inherit these ways and continue them. For a child it can be confusing to grasp so continuous conversation on the matter in a household can help, as can the following;
Always explain why…
One of the most fundamental things about teaching anything is to be able to pass on the understanding as to why something is so. Children need to realise the reason behind what they’re being told. For example, telling a child to switch off the lights when they leave a room is one thing, but knowing the effects of not doing so is another. To understand the impact something so simple can have on the existence of our planet is a difficult thing to conceive, but when you explain how it has a negative effect, they can begin to realise their role is an important one. My son has been turning off all the unnecessary appliances and lights for a couple of years now whilst saying “save a polar bear”! Recycling is all well and good as a practice within the home, yet a child needs to know the purpose behind it. More to the point what happens if we don’t do it. That all that waste goes into landfill or gets burned and pollutes the air. Take the kids to your local recycling plant so they can see what happens to all their waste, and vitally, show them examples of what pollution and waste has on our environment. Don’t be afraid to outline that a turtle, a beautiful creature, can die if they keep swallowing plastic bags, to show them the devastation that is a direct result of human consumption and disregard for the planet, let them see images of garbage being dumped into the ocean, of people wading waste deep in it. It is all real and relevant and contributes to their understanding and can empower them to take on a responsibility in their own life to protect our world.
This does all sound a bit heavy I know, but you can turn the concept into a more fun practice by giving them tasks to ensure their involvement. We often play “rubbish in nature” when out and about; if one of the children notices some packaging lying in a bush or by the side of the road they have to call out and we often stop and pick it up. Once they adhere to this message they can pass it on to their peers, and, just as relevantly, educate their elders who missed out on such lessons. They can also be responsible for identifying the packaging which is recyclable and the correct way to dispose of it. Involving the children in the disposal of your household waste is also a good way for them to learn; going to drop plastic in the relevant bin or a glass bank, and letting them throw the bottles in for example.
Recycling is only a fragment of the issue here though. Reducing the amount of packaging in the first place is just as, if not more, important. We can make a game of this for the children by taking them shopping with us for groceries and asking them to gather fruits and vegetables without packaging, to find stores which have banned plastic, to always bring our own sustainably manufactured bags, to adapt dinner plans to suit what is seasonal and locally produced. Head to your local vendors and support trade within the community and do not accept packaging that is not recyclable; once this becomes routine it will turn into a way of life. Teaching children the importance of good food, reliably sourced, and how to turn that into a meal all helps to build their knowledge and comprehend the amount of waste we produce (and can prevent from producing) as a household.
As mentioned, switching off the lights as we leave rooms, turning off appliances that are not in use, not being wasteful with water…these are all ways children can contribute and be aware, and again must receive an explanation as to why this is vital. We need to conserve our limited resources which can be very difficult for any child with running tap water in their home to understand. Perhaps showing them how much a gallon of water is (and then using it!) and that one bath is around 70 of those, can give them more of a vision towards the idea that an average family of four uses approximately 400 gallons per day (in the USA). To give them the challenge to reduce as much as possible can be a great way for them to increase their awareness. Not that we suggest they don’t wash or clean their teeth but it may be more meaningful if they realise that some places have no running water, and others are running out. This energy saving policy will also lower the household bills which you can congratulate them for and work on together as a family. It is all positive!
Teaching children about fresh food is one thing, but giving them the ability to grow their own and the reward of being able to eat it brings things to a whole new level. There are so many simple ways to grow foods such as taking the end of a piece of ginger or a clove of garlic or a sprouting old potato; plant it and it will grow. Growing cress on the window sill in the kitchen, or even starting a little herb and vegetable garden that they can tend to, nurture and eventually reap the rewards from. On top of this composting is a fantastic way to reduce household food waste; feed your garden the best soil going and raise the bar on your eco home life. Visiting a local farm or farmers market can instil the theory and understanding of such a project and inspire them that pesticide-free home-grown food is the best you can get! They can choose their own seedlings, put together their own window box, planter or vegetable bed (whatever you have space for) and get to work on feeding themselves and their family, an all together rewarding experiment from start to finish.
One thing the modern world has sadly taught us is to consume. We buy it, it breaks, we throw it out and we get another one; and the cycle continues and the landfill increases. It is bad; no, it is worse than that, it is devastating. If a jumper gets a little hole in it, there’s no shame in repairing it, get the needle and thread out and stitch it up. We are so trained to discard items the moment they are no longer perfect, as though it is a status symbol to not have less than perfect possessions. This is an invaluable lesson to pass on to our children; that we ought to aim to possess things that are built to last, if it breaks try and fix it, to not get sucked in to the material world where possessions are more important than they should be, but to take care of their belongings and realise they’re important to maintain. Ways to achieve less consumption are by swapping clothes and toys that they no longer wear or use, this is just as satisfying (if not more) for a child to be receiving something ‘new’ with the added bonus that they have “bought” it themselves with their own belongings. Give them that concept and they can carry it throughout their lives.
Here are a few other activities or actions we can take to achieve a more sustainable lifestyle:
This content was originally published here.