10 Ways to Teach Your Kids About Sustainability

May 13, 2020

10 Ways to Teach Your Kids About Sustainability

Whether you're an avid recycler who keeps a compost bin in your backyard, an environmentally-friendly shopper who uses canvas, reusable bags, or a busy parent who would like some simple tips on sorting plastic from glass, it's simple to get your family on board with greener living.

However, the best eco-friendly practices will require the cooperation of everybody in your household. So, as a parent, how do you get your children to reuse, reduce, recycle, and embrace environmental responsibility? Here are ten ways to teach your children about sustainability.

Tips for Teaching Kids Earth-Friendly Practices

  1. Recycling

Recycling is simple, and is mandatory in some, if not most, communities. You should check with the recycling office in your community to ensure you're aware of all the rules. Some communities will let you co-mingle where you can place all recyclables in one container, while other communities ask you to sort items in separate containers. You might require bins for each recyclable type; one for:

  • Glass
  • Plastic
  • Cans
  • Paper

Let your children sort and rinse items, put them in the proper bins, and take the bins to the curb to be collected. After the city has emptied the bins, have your children rinse the bins out, and bring them back into your garage or home.

  1. Gardening and Cooking Together

Along with practicing composting, teach your kids about the Earth's and sun's precious energy, and about gardening. It's essential for your kids to learn that food comes from the Earth, and it needs to be taken care of for them to have healthy food to put into their bodies.

Your children can pick and eat straight from the garden. Involve them in cooking the foods they've picked from the garden, or healthy foods you've bought at the grocery store. When they invest their time and energy into the process, it will help them become more excited about it, and they'll want to learn more about each food's benefits, which can motivate them to eat healthy.

  1. Practicing Mindful Grocery Shopping

Grocery shopping can provide you with plenty of opportunities to teach your kids about being conscious about what they purchase, and how it can influence how businesses make and package their items. Before you head to the store, conduct research on products that have been acknowledged for their sustainability.

Once at the store, show your kids how to choose environmentally-friendly foods and products that won't deplete the Earth. You can:

  • Choose organic foods
  • Purchase products made with recycled materials
  • Buy in bulk for reducing packaging waste

Choose biodegradable cleaning items, and explain to your kids how certain chemicals you use for cleaning your house can affect the environment. You can expand this teachable area, to let your children know there are other sustainable products to use in the home, include sleeping on a latex mattress.

  1. Teaching Water Conservation

The younger your children are, the more difficult it can be to have an understanding of how limited of a resource water is. The average family of four uses over 400 gallons of water each day, according to the EPA. While this number can be difficult for kids to visualize, when you compare it to terms they can relate to, it can help. For instance, show them how much water one gallon holds, and that their bath at night can hold upwards of 70 of these gallons.

  1. Leading By Example

Keep in mind, YOU are the biggest role model for your children. Therefore, when you lead by example, you're using one of the best ways possible for teaching them to care about things like:

  • Recycling
  • Conservation
  • Eco-friendly practices

When you make eco-friendly choices in how you live, shop and travel, you're setting great examples your children can replicate each day.

  1. Showing Them How to Respect the Outdoors

You can begin with your own backyard. Help your children plant a tree or garden. Teach them how to set up a birdbath, bird feeders, and birdhouses. Your children can clean and refill the bath each day, and clean up the empty seed shells around the feeders, and then restock them. On a bigger scale, you can plan a family vacation that focuses on the great outdoors, like a trip to the Grand Canyon.

  1. Cleaning Green

You can use natural products in place of commercial (potentially dangerous) cleaning preparations. For instance, you can deodorize your carpets by sprinkling them with baking soda, waiting 15 minutes, and then vacuuming. You can use baking soda and vinegar for everything from drain clearing and oven cleaning to metal polishing and stain removal.

  1. Carpooling and Talking About Emissions

Highlight how carpooling is not only convenient, but that it's also great for the environment as well. Transportation is a top contributor in the U.S. to greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 35% of New York state's emissions. It can help decrease your environmental impact.

  1. Providing Environmental Education

Environmental education starts in your home. Teach your children about our planet's history, and which activities are unhealthy for it as well as those that make it healthy.

Once they completely grasp that information, you can lay down "green living" rules in your home that will actually now make sense to them, since you've now explained the importance of each, and how the practices they embrace can help save the planet. Some house rules you can set include:

  • Unplug electronic devices when you're not using them
  • Turn off lights when you're not using them to conserve energy
  • Compost food scraps
  • Conserve water by taking quick showers
  • Pack zero waste kits in their backpacks
  • Recycle paper, boxes, drink cans, and plastic bottles
  • Water their herb garden before and after going to school

Practicing green living in your house is the simplest way for your kids to learn sustainable living, since you'll be leading by example, and will help your kids pick up great, eco-friendly lifestyle habits.

  1. Downloading Sustainable/Eco-Friendly Apps

Many children have smartphones and tablets they carry around with them everywhere. Rather than letting them use their devices to play video games, have them download apps that teach them about the changing climates. For instance, "The Painting with Time: Climate Change" app is a good example that helps them see how a certain place has drastically changed over time due to climate change. It shows how glaciers have melted drastically, and how the increasing temperatures have brought about droughts and floods.

Your role as a parent is helping your kids navigate the world, and be constructive and productive members of the society, which is becoming increasingly global. By informing and educating them, you can jump start their environmental consciousness, helping them to contribute to a healthier planet. These tips are only some of the ways you can involve your children in a more earth-friendly lifestyle.

Patrick Gunther

Patrick is an accomplished writer. He has been in the retail mattress space for the past 13 years, and more specifically in the natural mattress niche. He blogs on the subjects of natural mattresses, sleep, health, fitness, and green living.