5 Ways to Teach Your Kids to Be Eco-Conscious
You probably wouldn’t be perusing our website if you weren’t a progressive parent hoping to raise progressive kiddos. But even the best of us can use tips on how to inspire our children to do so. Here are five things you can do to help them want to care for our earth and be eco-conscious.
- Make recycling a habit. Recycling is something that should be convenient to do in your household. For example, set up recycling bins somewhere handy so it’s easy to toss your cans there instead of into the trash. The cool thing about recycling is that you can even get toddlers involved! Begin teaching your kids about the basics of recycling at a young age if possible. Have them put the items into the bins themselves so they get used to it.
Additional tip: Seek out recycled items. If your children can see phone covers made out of recycled skateboards, or bowls made from old albums, it will give them a very real understanding that what we would have thrown out can be made into something cool if we recycle it instead. And of course, it’s great to show them everyday things too, like recycled paper and silverware.
- Teach them about the impact of food choices. Being vegan is one of the best ways to reduce our impact on the environment. So if you’re not already avoiding animal products, consider reducing them as much as you can. Teach your children to love animals and help them make the connection about what’s on their plate. Don’t worry, there’s no need to frighten them or be too graphic. Just the simplest of facts are usually enough for a child.
For example, if your child knows that a hamburger was a cow, and that making cows into hamburgers kills the cow and hurts the earth—and furthermore, if your child loves cows and wants them to live. They will make a very basic connection and most likely want to avoid eating them. Some parents make the mistake of giving their children way too much information, and not allowing them to think for themselves. By giving your kids the basics and encouraging them to think through their choices, you’re helping them become passionate caretakers of animals and the environment.
Additional tip: Watch a relatively mild (not overly graphic) documentary with your child, such as Cowspiracy or Forks Over Knives.
- Have a zero tolerance litter policy. I remember being about six years old and throwing a notebook out the window of our speeding car. I’m not sure what possessed me to do this, but my mother made it extremely clear right then that littering was absolutely not OK. I got a pretty good talking-to.
I also remember going on “clean-up adventures” with my uncle. He was a passionate environmentalist, and would create fun outings for us based around cleaning up other people’s litter. We’d take a garbage bag and some sticks and just head out on a walk. There was such pride in leaving something better than we’d found it. And in being part of making the environment cleaner and nicer. It was an instant payoff for us because it felt like we had power—in the best possible sense. And just on a personal note, it’s a really nice time to simply walk and talk with your children. They’ll always remember it.
With kindness and patience, do the same for your kids. Make sure they know why it’s never OK to litter. Ask them if they like seeing trash on a pretty hike, or if they’d rather just see flowers and nature. Take them out on a clean-up adventure. Get them to think through the importance of being responsible and never, ever littering.
- Compost and garden. Even if you live in an apartment amidst a busy city, you can garden and compost! Check out the many resources online that talk about urban gardening (or regular gardening, if you do have a nice space for it on your property). Children absolutely love to grow things! Help them plant seeds, water them, and tend to your garden In the process, show them how easy it can be (yes, it can be) to compost.
- Create nature lovers! Last but definitely not least, help your children truly want to care for the environment because they love it so much! No matter where you live, hopefully there’s somewhere nearby that can give them an appreciation of nature’s beauty. Even in the midst of cities, there are often botanical gardens to visit. From a young age, show your children the beauty of nature. Help them respect and appreciate it by sharing special times there together. For my daughter and me, it’s always been hikes and flower gardens. For your children, maybe it’s beaches and back yards. Whatever the case, instill a love of nature in your kids, and they’ll grow up to want to protect the environment. Just because they love it.