How to Raise Earth-Friendly Children
Everyone has a role in protecting the planet, including the youngest family members. Indeed, climate change affects them the most, as reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 is critical to keeping global warming to no more than 1.5 C. Scientists warn of widespread catastrophe if humanity fails to achieve this goal.
Children are our future. How can you best inspire a sense of environmental stewardship in your kids? Here’s how to raise earth-friendly children.
Get Them Out in Nature
Studies show youth who spend time in nature exhibit more sustainable environmental behavior than their peers who remain indoors. Perhaps the easiest way to raise earth-friendly children is to expose them to the great outdoors.
You’re in luck if you live in a rural area or have a nature preserve nearby — you can take daily, after-dinner walks in which you bond and appreciate the world around you. Those in more urban or suburban locations can plan weekends camping or day-off excursions to popular hiking destinations.
However, you don’t always have to make a special trip. Your neighborhood playground is also perfect for enjoying fresh air and sunshine every day. You’ll do your children a double favor by helping their social and emotional development. Equipment meant for more than one encourages cooperative play and teaches your child the delicate art of compromise and sharing.
Walk the Walk
You can preach to your children about the importance of earth-friendliness until you’re blue in the face. They’ll adopt similar practices if they see you tossing otherwise recyclable materials in the regular bin or taking those awful supermarket plastic bags without saying a word.
Children learn by observing what you do far more than what you say. Young minds don’t have the cognitive ability to grasp abstract concepts, like why you might utter one thing but do another sometimes. They’re monkey-see, monkey-do — so start greening your behaviors.
What are some earth-friendly behaviors you should encourage in your kids? Try the following:
- Sort your recycling: If you want the maximum impact with your recycling efforts, separate and rinse items like bottles and cans and take them to the sorting center. Single-stream recycling is convenient but recaptures far less usable material because of contamination.
- Walk or bike: If your child’s school is within walking or biking distance, why not double down by getting your morning exercise while escorting them to class? They’ll master the route they’ll someday take independently with you by their side while saving carbon emissions from lingering in the pickup-drop-off lane.
- Pick up litter: Plastic litter is particularly nefarious because it doesn’t biodegrade. Let your little one see you pick up that piece of sheeting that fell off a work truck, or plastic bottle left in the park, and deposit it in the correct bin. They’ll follow suit.
Gardening is a fabulous way to introduce your children to the joys of the natural world. You also teach them a sustainable skill, as knowing how to grow food can be vital in times of scarcity. Plus, digging in the earth and learning how to raise plants together is a fun and mindful activity for you both.
Learn to save the seeds from the produce you already buy — tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are three easy species to dry and plant. Repurpose egg cartons by transforming them into seedling starter kits, and beat the February doldrums by watching your baby veggies emerge from the soil.
Speaking of dirt, you can also enhance yours naturally, saving money on mulch while greening your footprint. Consider making a compost bin, even if you only have a small container patio garden. You can even find miniature models designed for countertop use that produce no odor. Still, you can replicate the effects with nearly any suitable container, if you remember to turn your pile every few weeks.
Visit Science Centers and Zoos
Science centers and zoos are fantastic ways to learn more about the natural world, as well as endangered species and animal conservation efforts. There’s no need to wait for your child’s next field trip. Many such institutions have special family days with discount rates, if money is a concern.
Participate in Volunteer Activities
Involving your child in earth-friendly volunteer activities inspires environmental stewardship. It also offers oodles of mental health benefits for you both, increasing levels of positive neurochemicals like serotonin that help ease depression.
Make Environmentalism Into a Teachable Moment
Actively seek ways to make environmentalism into teachable moments. How can you do so? Consider these examples to help you raise earth-friendly children:
- Go mindful shopping: Evaluate the packaging as you browse products. Is the item you want wrapped in tons of excess plastic? Can you find an alternative with more earth-friendly wrapping?
- Embrace meatless Mondays: You don’t have to go vegan, but you should know that meat production impacts global warming. Teach this to your kids by letting them get in the kitchen with you for meatless Mondays and throw in a bonus cooking lesson.
- Hike mindfully: When you take your weekend outings, discuss why you leave the native flora where it is instead of picking every flower and why you remain on marked trails instead of disturbing the Earth’s delicate crust.
Raise Environmentally Conscious Kids
It’s crucial to raise children as good environmental stewards so they can pass on this sense of caring to future generations. Embrace these tips to raise earth-friendly kids. Your example can help change the world for the better.