Sustainability is a broad concept that can be hard for adults to grasp, much less children. Teaching children what sustainable living really means is not just about giving them a glimpse of the big picture. Although it’s important for children to know why they should develop sustainability practices, the actual steps in teaching them need to clear-cut, and kiddos need to have fun in the process.
Why Sustainability is Important
Although sustainability is a multi-faceted and far-reaching philosophy, the reason it’s important is straightforward: We cannot maintain quality of life for ourselves and future generations without it. A lack of sustainable living in the world will result in little or no fossil fuels, forests and lumber, or healthy air to breathe. Sustainability is essential for our survival. It’s also important and relevant because it is attainable. We can foster it in our ecosystem, our communities, our homes, and our children.
Why Teach Children About Sustainability?
Teaching children sustainability is vital for many reasons, including some that don’t even relate to the concept directly. The main point is to teach them how their actions affect the world we live in, of course. They also learn important skills within that lesson, however, such as problem-solving, innovation, creativity, and self-awareness. By engaging in activities with children that relate to sustainability, you help them to understand how what they do connects to a larger plan. This takes them out of co-pilot mode, places meaning on their actions, and introduces the concept of being intentional with their behavior and engaging fully in their life.
3 Lessons to Teach Children About Sustainability
1. Gardening and the Benefits of Plants
Plants are all around us, so it’s easy for them to blend into the background and not acknowledge how important they are to sustainability. You don’t have to take on a whole vegetable garden to teach children this concept. You can plant seeds in tin cans and repurpose other containers you have around the house to germinate seeds or grow plants on your deck or indoors. Teach them how plants purify the air and provide us with oxygen to live - and don’t forget to connect the concept to deforestation. Let them grow a plant in their bedroom. They can even name it to make it more personal.
2. What Happens to Your Home’s Recyclables
It’s not only important to teach kids how to help with recycling in your home, but to also show them where it goes and what happens to it when it leaves your house. Visit a recycling center so that they understand the scope of how much trash would go into a landfill if it weren’t for people like you and them that have the awareness to recycle.
We know it’s almost impossible to avoid purchasing plastics and thus impossible to reduce the need for landfills. But we also know that cheap, disposable products that provide short-term benefits so that consumers purchase more often is part of the past. By informing our children that there are companies, like EcoEnclose, out there that are looking to reduce waste through using as much recycled content as humanly possible, they can grow up aware of the alternatives to the all-too-common mindset of “take-make-waste” that drives so much of the world’s corporations today.
3. Conserving Water
It’s hard to understand how much water gets wasted around your home because it washes down the drain. Out of sight, out of mind. It’s the same concept with rainwater that rushes from gutter spouts only to be soaked away. If you have rain barrels below gutter spouts, allow your children to be involved with putting it to use on your plants or to see how it’s connected to an irrigation system. For indoor water, teach them to turn off the water while they’re brushing their teeth or lathering their hands.
Remember to have fun while you teach your children the importance of sustainability. This will make the lesson soak in more effectively and provide them with valuable lessons to pass on to their children.
Elise Morgan is a freelance writer living in the mountains of North Carolina. She found her passion writing about sustainability and “going green” when she was in an environmental science class in college, and hasn’t looked back since! When Elise isn’t writing, she is probably taking her fur babies on a walk through the mountain trails, attempting to practice yoga, or trying out a new recipe at home.