Sustainability is the watchword of our generation, so how can we help our children to live more sustainably and understand why it’s so important?
It might feel like a tall order to expect our children to live more sustainably than our own generation has done, but the time for change has come.
The current adult population has made unmatched strides toward using renewable energy, insulating our homes to save heat (or to keep us cool in hot climates) and to preserve resources like gas, oil and water.
By teaching our children sustainability from an early age, we can make sure they grow up in a world that will remain a safe and comfortable home for the rest of their lives, and for their own children too.
Here are some simple things you can teach your children to do at home that will benefit both you and the environment.
- Don’t waste water – use only what you need, ensure taps are turned off and recycle where you can.
- Manage your waste – reduce what you send to landfill sites by reusing or recycling where you can, including composting your organic waste.
- Reduce your energy consumption – turn off lights when you leave the room and switch off computers before you go to bed.
- Recycle glass, cans and newspaper.
- Use the other side of paper as scrap and reduce waste by only printing documents you really need.
- Plant a tree!
These simple measures can really make a big difference – you could even see a big reduction in your household or business bills. And just think how much difference we could make if everyone did these simple things!
First of all, you need a definition of sustainability – and for children, it’s sensible to talk about this in very practical terms, like switching off lights in the daytime or when you leave the room, and avoiding food waste.
As a concept, sustainability means monitoring our use of resources in such a way as to take only what we need to live, while ensuring that future generations can also do the same. A truly sustainable approach means that this can continue ad infinitum.
Whatever your age, sustainability means only using what can be replaced, although for many of us it also means not using more than our fair share of those resources too. There are plenty of books available on the market today that illustrate sustainability in easy-to-understand ways – just make sure they’re printed on recycled paper!
Events like Earth Hour (8:30pm-9:30pm local time on the last Saturday each March) help you to highlight sustainability, as you explain to your kids why you’ve plunged the family into darkness and taken away the TV for an hour!
Different countries might also have special days for reducing waste or raising awareness about recycling or water consumption – even your own state or city might have its own events.
Children learn especially well from getting involved in these kinds of practical demonstrations of ideas that might otherwise be hard to grasp, so make the most of the opportunities open to you during your child’s early years.
Other events to look out for:
- Nature walks and litter picks.
- Open days at local wildlife sanctuaries.
- Environment days at nearby schools/colleges.
Living With Sustainable Ideas
The more you can include ideas about sustainability into your everyday life, the more it will become second nature to your children.
Consider getting your child outdoors so they appreciate nature more in general, and use the outdoors as a classroom to teach them about solar and wind power, as well as non-renewable natural resources.
Sustainability is also about ensuring that the resources and materials we use don’t come at a cost to others – consider where items have come from, the fuel taken to ship them, the environments and eco-systems that may have been damaged by their removal and how much the local people at the other end of the chain are paid for them – is it fair? Will these resources run out if we keep taking them?
We also need to teach our children to walk, cycle and use public transport in order to reduce carbon emissions – one of the biggest contributors to those nasty greenhouse gases.
The Water Cycle is a good learning tool for sustainability issues, so teach them about evaporation, how clouds form, and where our drinking water comes from – and why the cycle means the planet is connected as a single ‘living’ organism.
Other sustainability learning topics:
- Natural forests and eco-systems
- Energy for sustainable development
- Sustainable cities
- Eradicating poverty
- Sustainable agriculture
- Climate change and protection of the atmosphere
- Where does our food/drink come from?
Embracing a Sustainable Future
The UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals cover sustainability in a very broad range of different forms, including poverty, food security, inequality and infrastructure.
Under this definition, sustainability means living toward outcomes that are positive not only for the planet, but for the people living on it too, including people who are less fortunate than others.
Embracing this broad definition means living peacefully, safely and respectfully, as well as being careful about our consumption of energy, food, water and so on. We need to balance the needs of the economy, environment and human communities, by making smart decisions and encouraging our children to do the same.
We might never see a world in which everyone embraces this kind of ideal, of course – but for those who do, there are practical benefits like reduced energy costs and healthier diets.
If sustainability is important to you, you can start your kids off on the right foot by providing green and eco-friendly toys for their enjoyment, such as those available at Kiddit.