Amidst the current buzzwords of “environment”, “sustainability” and the latest, “carbon-neutral”, how well do children understand the urgency in caring for the earth?
It is promising that preschools are exposing students to environmental topics such as land pollution and reducing waste. Such mindsets towards the environment need to be ingrained from young. While there are a multitude of days dedicated to caring for the environment, such as World Water Day (22 March) and World Environment Day (5 June), it should take us more than just singular days in a year to shine a light on pressing environmental issues.
Here are a few ways families and schools can teach children to be more environmentally friendly.
Eat less meat
Making subtle changes in diet could go a long way.
It takes a lot of land, water and precious resources to raise livestock and cultivate their feed. More than a third of America’s agricultural land is dedicated to producing corn and soy – however, less than 10 percent is consumed by humans; majority becomes feed for livestock. It has also been estimated that without meat and dairy consumption, 75 percent less land for agriculture would be used globally.
Use non-disposable home items
The idea of using biodegradable disposable plates and cutlery sounds great, but how eco-friendly are they really? When disposed of in our landfills, they still release greenhouse gasses (carbon dioxide and methane, the latter of which contributes to global warming).
Instead, use washable containers and utensils as much as possible. When grocery shopping, make it a habit to bring your own bags. Children can also have a designated reusable backpack or tote they can use to help carry groceries!
Children (and adults too) should read food labels and know how and where their food is produced. Cultivating an appreciation for the resources needed to get food to our tables may push us to buy, consume and waste less.
On a similar note, any extra unopened packaged food items that are at least a month from expiry can be donated to local food banks to help the needy.
In school and at home, encourage children to clean their disposable plastic bottles and dispose of them, along with other recyclable items such as cardboard boxes, in the recycling bin. Alternatively, keep them and reuse them for arts and crafts! One man’s trash is another’s treasure after all.
Take literal steps, to reduce your carbon footprint
Reducing vehicle usage decreases greenhouse gas emissions. Simple acts like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking whenever possible, or taking public transport instead of driving, add up and make a difference.
Set achievable goals
Little changes in habit in school, work or at home, make a difference to the world – and also your utilities bill. For example, children can reduce the number of hours they use the air-conditioning, and also learn to take efficient showers. Switching off the lights when they are not in use and using energy-saving appliances work too!
It all comes down to habit. Children look up to their parents and teachers for an example of conduct, and it is up to us to walk the talk. Let’s take collective action and teach our children to care for the world.