Small changes, even by the smallest people, can make a difference. It’s important that you’re teaching children sustainable practices and sustainable living from a young age. This will ensure future generations live in an eco-friendly way and are passionate about protecting the natural world. You never know, you could be teaching the next Greta Thunberg!
It can be daunting teaching kids about global warming, climate change, and the emissions we produce by doing something as simple as driving a car. But, let these words spoken by perhaps the most famous environmentalist, David Attenborough, give you some inspiration:
“The truth is: the natural world is changing. And we are totally dependent on that world. It provides our food, water, and air. It is the most precious thing we have and we need to defend it.’“
See below for some simple ways to change daily life behaviors and help children with hands-on ways to build sustainable practices.
If you’re after some fun ways to learn sustainability activities please see here for our guide to sustainability activities.
Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Rot, Recycle
The most effective ways to be sustainable are to refuse, reduce, reuse, rot, and recycle. Obviously, lots of these decisions aren’t made by children, however, there are steps that children can take to reduce their carbon footprint. That means eliminating the use of single-use plastic. This video is a fun way to explain the reduce, reuse, and recycle concept to your students. Once they understand the concept, your students could have a crack at this quiz to calculate their own carbon footprint.
This is the first step toward trying to live a zero-waste lifestyle. Obviously, kids love new things. But, by teaching kids the value of what they already have, they can manage their carbon footprint before they even start to reduce it!
Stop using single-use plastic items where possible. Single-use plastic generally goes straight to landfill after it has been used once. Either try to avoid using it or save that single-use plastic and reuse it. Try to stop using plastic bags by using reusable bags. Using a reusable coffee cup instead of the takeaway version is a good first step to reducing the waste you create.
The easiest way to reduce carbon footprints is to reuse items. Yes, making things from recycled materials is helpful, but if we just reuse items and use second-hand items, we’re giving those items a much longer lifespan. You can donate items to second-hand shops, buy old clothes, swap toys, and read books from the library. All of these things elongate the life of items and prevent us from buying something new that has contributed to emissions unnecessarily. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure!
Reduce the amount of food waste going to landfills by setting up a composting system at home. Sustainability means living in a way that lessens the way you harm the planet. Composting reduces waste at landfill and helps the soil to recover nutrients. If you’re not convinced, take a look at San Francisco where it’s mandatory to compost!
As a last resort, if none of the above are options, you should recycle. Recycling saves energy, reduces the number of items going to landfill, prevents pollution, gives trash a second life, and creates jobs. Use this game to see what can be recycled in your area.
Sustainable living and trying to reduce your carbon footprint are all in the pursuit of preventing global warming. To help children understand why we’re doing the above, it’s a great idea to encourage them to learn about all the ecosystems in our natural world, and how they’re being impacted by climate change. The WWF’s YouTube channel has some great videos which are a fun way to bring the natural world into the classroom to motivate the children with age-appropriate resources.
Group clean up
Speaking of conservation, why not take the first step more locally? Take the kids to the local park and do a clean-up of all the waste. This is a fun activity to see how much the kids may have understood about the recycling lessons we’ve covered above. You could even time it with Earth Day and see if there are organized clean-ups near you.
Celebrate Earth Day 2023
On April 22 it’s Earth Day 2023. Use this celebration of environmental activism to teach kids about the achievements of the organization in changing policy. Although reducing your collective carbon footprint is important, it’s vital that we pressure governments to change policies that are harmful to the planet and contribute to air pollution and climate change, as well as protect our natural resources.
So, why is sustainability important for kids?
That’s easy. Because their future depends on it. Healthy ecosystems and environments are essential for the survival of all flora and fauna, and that includes young children.
If a child takes responsibility for their actions, plans their future, and forms a deeper connection with the wonders of this world, they’ll be healthier, happier, and better able to contribute to a thriving future for all.