With the state that our world is currently in, it is important to set our kids up for lifelong habits that will help them and the world as a whole. Eco-friendly and sustainable living practices are important, and teaching that to the next generation could not be more critical to the Earth's health. There are many reasons why it's beneficial to teach your kids about environmentally friendly living, below are 7 of the key benefits to teaching you kids about eco-friendly living.
Gain a Deeper Appreciation For Nature
One of the easiest ways to explain the reasoning behind eco-friendly living to kids is by telling them that making sustainable choices will help the Earth stay healthy and beautiful. Emphasizing the beauty of nature and how the Earth helps us can make the importance of eco-friendly living more clear to kids.
Form Eco-Friendly Habits Through Quality Time
Especially with everyone staying at home right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic, introducing new kinds of quality time to keep your kids entertained and help the environment is a great option. Here are a few hobbies and habits you can do with your kids to bring some eco-friendliness to your new normal:
- Composting. Composting is a great way to get your kids involved in both helping out around the house and forming eco-friendly habits. If you don't have room to create and care for your own compost pile, many areas will have a composting program. These programs will pick up your compostable materials, such as food scraps and paper towels, and compost everything for you. Some will even return composted materials to use as fertilizer for your garden and plants.
- Gardening. If you're composting, using the composted material as your garden with your kids is a great way to show them how reusing materials can work. You can garden anything that you or your kids want, such as herbs and vegetables or just flowers. You can even put your children in charge of saving gray water for watering your indoor and outdoor plants, which will help teach them responsibility without having dire consequences if they mess something up. Gardening can also be quite tiring, so you can tire out your kids by having them dig up dirt or arrange plants.
- Camping or Hiking. If you're trying to teach your children the importance of nature, taking them to a place that is entrenched in the outdoors is a great way to show the importance of keeping the Earth healthy. Camping or going on long hikes is a great way to bond with your kids and an awesome form of creating memories that you can all hold dear for your entire lives.
- Eco-Friendly Transportation. Biking, walking, and taking public transit are all eco-friendly forms of transportation that mean more quality time with your children. In addition, walking and biking can help get out some of your kids' energy so you can save on creating a problem for bedtime and on creating extra pollution.
The Importance of Reduce Reuse Recycle
Your children will probably learn about the three R's (reduce, reuse, and recycle) while they're in school, and you can help give a concrete example of how those concepts work. Here are examples of how to teach your children about each term:
- Reduce. Carry around reusable water bottles or reusable straws when you go out and show your children that you have the option to reduce the amount of single-use products you use in your everyday life.
- Reuse. If you decide to have your kids help out in the garden by saving gray water, you are already showing them an example of reusing something instead of getting something new. Instead of getting water out of the tap, you're reusing water that may have otherwise have been wasted in overwater the ground.
- Recycle. Make a craft out of something that you would usually throw out. One idea would be making a glitter jar out of an old peanut butter jar. Now you have a fun craft contained in something that could've just been garbage.
Learn a New Way of Thinking
The key to critical thinking is learning how to look at problems from a new perspective. When you teach your children something new to consider in their day to day lives, such as remember to recycle and reduce the number of single-use plastics they use, you are having them reconsider the view of the world they've already held. In making them consider a new perspective, you are helping them practice their critical thinking skills.
Join in the Community
A lot of eco-friendly activities can easily be worked to include the community. For example, community gardens are a great way to get involved in the community and also spend quality time with your family, as I mentioned earlier. In community gardens, you will get a plot that you can work on, and everyone will work together to make the garden beautiful. This is a great way to garden with your family if you don't live somewhere where you have the ability to grow your own garden.
Another activity that is eco-friendly and helps you join in the community is shopping local. For example, choosing to buy produce that has been grown locally is not only good for your local economy, it is also good for the environment since it cuts down on the pollution and waste created by the transportation of materials.
Environmentally friendly practices often overlap with money-saving practices, and teaching your kids to partake in these types of practices can be very beneficial to the environment and your wallet. If you are one of the 13 million households that use a well for your drinking water then you may not be overly concerned with your water bills, but in other households, the overuse of water means higher water bills. If you encourage your children to turn off the water in the sink while they brush their teeth and take shorter showers, you are saving water that doesn't need to be wasted and saving on your water bill.
In addition, if you tell your kids about switching off the lights when they leave the room, they can help you on saving energy and saving on the cost of lighting your home, which the department of energy says is 5% to 10% of the cost spent on maintaining our homes. You can also have your children help you switch all of your lightbulbs to LED bulbs, which are both more energy-efficient and much longer-lasting than traditional lightbulbs.
You can also impose on your children the importance of saving the heating or cooling in your home by shutting outside doors and windows when your HVAC system is on. They may not respond well to statistics, such as the fact that 40% of heat loss occurs from attics, but if you link the idea of drafty attics and doors mean more energy and worse impacts on the environment, they will understand the link between those things. If you make them understand the importance of keeping the hot or cool air in, they will adjust and begin to take that idea into account in their day to day lives.
I think we've all forgotten our own sage advice before, only to be loudly reminded in the grocery store that plastic water bottles are destroying the world from the mouth of our children. Although it can be hard when you know that doing something that you know isn't eco-friendly is the path of least resistance, having your kids as a form of accountability can help you keep on track with more sustainable living practices.
No matter how you choose to teach your children about living an environmentally friendly life, the decision to set them up to lead an eco-friendly life is one that will have a positive impact on them for years to come. If you start teaching your kids about sustainable living while they are young, by the time they are living independently they will know how to make good environmentally-friendly choices for themselves.
Devin is a writer and an avid reader. When she isn't lost in a book or writing, she's busy in the kitchen trying to perfect her slow cooker recipes. You can find her poetry published in The Adirondack Review and Cartridge Lit.