Teaching our Children about Sustainability!
Written by S.Saunders.
There are many things we hope for our children as we watch them grow; happiness, safety, good health, quality education and for them to be ‘good’ people.
‘Good’ is a broad and subjective term, but what we often want is for them to have empathy for others, care about their world, those in it and to be responsible, kind and compassionate citizens.
What our children also need, is a place that is ‘liveable’, and bringing together all of these elements is sustainability.
Now, sustainability is also very broad; it can mean Economic, social or human sustainability, but what I’m talking about here is Environmental Sustainability, however, these are all linked to our survival on this planet.
The term Environmental Sustainability is based on the concept that ‘we use only enough of the worlds resources to keep it going for future generations and we must ensure time for it to regenerate’, this is how we manage natural resources and our carbon footprint that we leave behind from our use of the planet.
To understand this completely, there is a great ‘Carbon Footprint’ calculator of the WWF ‘World Wildlife Fund’ website to see the individual impact you’re having on our planet, I like to ask older children to explore this too.
How do we involve our children in the care of our world?
Its like a WHS policy, when it asks, ‘who is responsible’, the answer here is everyone, but we as adults and parents of the next generation are responsible, not just for educating and encouraging our children to be responsible, but we are in charge of role modelling this to them.
Model Care and thoughtfulness
Naturally, children are curious and wonder about their world, they stop and look at bugs, flowers and the smallest pebble on the ground, but often it's us as adults that hurry them along in our rush of daily routines *insert embarrassed monkey emoji here*, which can hinder this thoughtfulness.
So what can we do to assist? Here are some red hot tips:
Ensure to take the time to let children wonder and observe, ask them questions about what they are looking at and teach them to respect and care for their world; people, plants and animals. Lets use ‘Ants’ as an example, children always stop to watch ants, I get it, they are intriguing. First, encourage them to walk around the ants, not squash them, teaching them to have respect for living things, this is important to do for things like garden plants and people too. “What do you think the ants are doing? Where are they going?" When children have wanted to step on ants, I like to point out and question what they are doing, “Do you think they are collecting food for their family, is that where they’re going, taking food home to them?” This is encouraging them to consider living things as a unique part of our world to be cared for.
We, as role models need to show the same care if we are going to preach it, make sure to point out thoughts that involve compassion, care and responsible actions. If we dropped our rubbish, where would it go and how would it impact on our world, what will I do with my rubbish? Would that be the right thing to do? If we don’t pick up the rubbish, who will? Maybe nobody? Instead of giving children answers, ask them to reflect themselves and think about actions- believe me, they know the answers.
What can we do around the home?
There are many actions you can take to encourage sustainability, but make sure (not always, but often) you make it known what you are doing and why, so that children understand the benefits.
You could discuss:
Minimising waste of food
How to dispose sustainably of any left over water e.g. ask children to pour their left over water into a garden, bird bath or pet bowls, so that it is not wasted down the sink.
Not just to recycling, but REUSE: it’s great to discuss recycling, what it is and how it helps our world, asking children to assist to separate what is and isn’t recyclable is an active learning task. Have discussions around ‘Reusing’ objects, how can we reuse an item, is it reusable to us or maybe someone to else? It can become a game, ‘Reuse, recycle or give away?’ If you don’t have a compost, worm farm or animals to eat any left over composting food, do you know someone that does? Or a school?
Bring recycling into your everyday life; at work, do they have waste printing paper? Can you take it home for the kids or to a childcare or school to use? Clothes that are not suitable for giving to charity, find a reusing rag organisation is a helpful action. Can you use those old yoghurt containers as planter boxes? It really is about being more thoughtful.
Find a cause.
Most of the concepts relating to sustainability are really about thinking about more than just yourself, learning to consider others is an important virtue for anyone to have. Consider finding a charity or a cause to work for or give to consistently. It doesn’t have to cost much or anything at all, it really is just about thinking about others.
You might look into:
Helping your local community pick up rubbish or care for a community space.
Adopt an animal that is in danger of extinction or needs help
Give to organisations that support children(or adults) in need, whether it be locally or internationally
Volunteer to assist organisations, even if you don’t have the spare cash to donate to them yourselves, let the kids be involved or around this as well.
Have frequent discussions about being a kind person, it’s wonderful just to see a child that cares for another who may need their support, even if peers don’t.
How to implement all of these ideas and more?
Take- it- slow; you do not have to do everything at once. Take on one concept and let it grow, naturally, it will expand into the other areas and be taken in easily, as the ideals have already begun. You do not have to go all ‘living off grid’ or Captaining the ‘Sea Shepherd’ in one day, so take your time.
This article was written by Sara Saunders, a mother, author, small business owner and passionate advocate for educating children on our environment. Check out Sara’s business here: My Play Boutique