How to Teach Sustainability From a Young Age

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Teaching child to be sustainable. All the way back during the Industrial Revolution, high-profile names like Adam Smith and David Hume were already speaking out against a failure to protect the natural world in which we live.

In more recent years, the threat of a rapidly changing climate and the importance of sustainable living have been even more keenly felt as bigwig personalities, like Robert Downey Jr., have continued the push to save the planet through modern technology

However, the effort can’t stop with the celebrities. It must trickle right down into the homes of the parents of the next generation as well. If you have young children, here are a few simple ways you can begin to impress upon them the importance of preservation, environmental care, and good stewardship in a world that desperately we need to tend.

Go Paperless Together

An excellent yet simple lesson in sustainability is going paperless. In a world powered by numerous cloud storage options, there’s little need for paperwork anymore. Going paperless is a great way to show your children how to avoid the unnecessary use of natural resources actively.

Additionally, if you have sensitive paperwork that you’re getting rid of, take the opportunity to talk with your kids about how to dispose of the destroyed documents properly. Shredded paper can’t be traditionally recycled. However, if you take your paperwork to a professional shredding location, the shreds can be recycled appropriately, and thus reused.

Think About Your Usage

Another simple way to teach sustainability comes in the form of monitoring your usage of essential things like fuel. Rather than simply turning the heat up if you’re cold, explain to your child what carbon emissions are and how they increase by merely bumping up that thermostat a few notches. Then brainstorm for a better solution to warm up (hint: get a sweater or cozy up under some blankets!).

Along with fuel, you can green your energy use both in your professional life at the office and home through the same initiatives. For example, you can encourage your children to turn off lights when they leave a room, teaching them about the difference between LED and traditional lightbulbs, and even simply turning off the water when you’re not actively washing your hands or brushing your teeth.

Go Green Together

“Going green” is a popular movement, but it too often leaves the kids out of the equation. If you’re thinking of cleaning up your lifestyle, don’t be afraid to go green as a family.

Invite your kids into the conversation or, at the least, let them observe and absorb as you sort through organic food options, select non-toxic cleaning supplies, and replace your toiletries with chemical-free products.

Weave Sustainability Into Your Everyday Life

While you can teach specific actions, one of the best ways to genuinely cultivate a sustainable lifestyle is to teach your children to think before they act.

In an era where the answer to nearly every practical question is a Google search away, your four-year-old doesn’t need to know whether or not a shopping bag can be recycled. They simply need to be trained to think before they toss it in a recycling can — or a dumpster, for that matter. A quick question to a parent can reveal the fact that plastic shopping bags should be returned to the store to be recycled appropriately.

Teach a Man to Fish (and a Child to Sustain)

Whether you’re turning off the water while they brush their teeth, working together to fully greenify your child’s birthday party, or any other eco-friendly activity, there are numerous ways to teach a sustainable mindset to your children.

The important thing is that you, as their parent, commit to an honest attempt to infuse their life with sustainable lessons and examples truly. If we bring up our children with an awareness that their actions actually make a difference, it’s only a matter of time before the passion for a thoughtful, earth-conscious living will catch fire all on its own.

mother and daughter on nyc bench
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Sam Bowman writes about families, wellness, and how the two merge. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time, he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.

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