Start Early on Educating Kids About Sustainability
This is something that should not be an afterthought in your children’s education. It’s something that they should experience in every day decisions.
Similar to money attitudes, if we only tackle sustainability with our kids when they are in their teens, then we have missed a decade of opportunity. Our mindset should be prevention over cure. It’s easier to build good habits from childhood than to correct them or re-direct them when our kids are older.
Like with money and saving, long term impact matters in your daily actions and practices. Imagine if you used a reusable water bottle instead of purchasing 1 litre of water in a single-use plastic bottle every day. That’s at least 30 bottles that don’t end up in landfills every month. Especially in countries where they don’t get recycled.
Imagine how much less plastic production and pollution that will be in a year…2 years…10 years even!
Try explaining to little children the repercussions of responsible versus irresponsible consumption practices. Every time we forget to care for the environment, the planet that suffers and that as individuals, the little things that we all do will matter a lot!
Be Practical: Show Your Kids How To Save The Planet!
To start, let’s look at ways to be kind to the planet by taking better care of the land. These practices are easy to teach to your kids and can turn into precious family moments!
RECYCLE: Segregate your trash
Segregating your trash means that less waste go to the landfill. Food waste that can be compostable can end up nourishing someone’s garden. Waste that can be reused and recycled can be given another life. At the same time, it keeps your immediate environment healthy and clean by reducing trash and health hazards.
Bonus points: you can also use trash segregation as an additional chore for your kids. You can also opt to attach extra allowance money in this to give them some encouragement to segregate the trash properly.
REUSE: Use reusable water bottles
The example we mentioned above is really important! According to National Geographic, 91% of plastic is not recycled. Imagine how much plastic is simply left to the landfills. Show them how much less is used if the whole family always bring their own reusable water bottles to save on waste.
REDUCE: Support local farmers and lessen meat consumption
Many of you might raise an eyebrow on this. I’m not trying to dictate a specific lifestyle or diet. But it is scientifically proven that the meat and dairy industry is one of the largest drivers of pollution on the planet. Simply reducing the amount of meat you consume will help reduce your carbon footprint.
In addition, supporting local farmers also means less carbon footprint for your food, as it won’t need to travel far in order to reach your tables! Show children on a map how far their food has traveled. You can turn this into a family moment with the kids. Then show them how much less food travels if you go together to the local market: let them help them pick which vegetables cook for dinner and involve them in preparing it!
RETHINK: Be more critical of industries that degrade the environment
A good example of this would be the palm oil industry. A lot of products contain or make use of palm oil as it’s very cheap and easy to produce. The production of palm oil has caused deforestation in many of the world’s biodiverse areas like Malaysia and Indonesia. This, in turn, further damages the habitats of already endangered animals like the orangutan, the pygmy elephant, and the Sumatran rhino.
To help mitigate the effects of palm oil farming and production, the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil or RSPO was established. Make sure that the palm oil you purchase is RSPO certified to make sure that the product you buy does not directly contribute to irresponsible production.
It might be hard to explain all of this to very small children, but you can involve them into this practice by gamifying it when you’re in a supermarket run. When you’re about to purchase anything containing palm oil, make sure to ask for their help in looking for the RSPO logo. If you like, you can give them a little treat or prize for spotting it!
DONATE to your favourite charity or nonprofit
A good way to show your support for the protection, restoration, and sustainable use of land is to donate to charities or nonprofit organizations that are doing the groundwork, and have a proven impact track record.
For example, the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) help prevent biodiversity loss through various efforts like helping create sustainable food production, helping tackle the climate crisis, and helping in the preservation and protection of animal species.
To turn it into a family moment, show your kids some of the world’s endangered animals and explain to them that without these organizations, some of these animals may die out. Then you both can pick organizations to support to and donate to – even just a little amount of the child’s savings can have a positive impact and can be the start of a good money practice. The WWF makes supporting more inclusive with the donor because you “adopt” an animal. When you choose to adopt an animal, the money you donate will go towards conservation funds for that species. It’s something the kids will definitely like!
The Little Things Matter: Teach Sustainability In The Everyday
Dear parents, remember that we don’t have to be perfectionists nor spend hundreds or thousands to make a difference. Just the fact that we all take small concrete steps to become more conscious about our choices and purchases already matters. We are our kids first teachers and role models and there’s no better way to live up to those two important jobs than by showing them good practices.
Bear in mind that money is also a transmission of values: where you choose to spend your money supports and perpetuates the business practices of that company. The fact that you’re choosing less harmful products or visiting your farmer’s market more often, already shows your commitment towards protecting our planet.
Keep going, and keep being open with your kids when they ask questions about the choices you make. It may get frustrating or tiring because little kids ask a lot of questions. But do take time to patiently explain the reasoning behind your choices and your actions! Cumulatively, you’ll be having huge impact every day!
If you’re interested in reading more about money tips and sustainability tips, especially for the kids, then I highly encourage you to subscribe to my Monthly Money Tips newsletter.