How to Make Kids Care About the Environment
We often wake up to the harsh reality of dwindling resources of our planet via either a social media campaign, or a friend (from a developing world) reminding about 'basic survival' problems, or even our kids' school assignment. With the recent outrage expressed by a very responsible Swedish teen, Greta Thunberg, about our lack of will to address climate crisis, it seems our younger ones are well-aware of why environmental-friendly practices are important for the sustenance of this Earth. If they are not as well-versed yet, we as parents and caregivers, can assist our kids in adopting earth friendly practices using little effort on our part, along with a dash of creativity.
Here are some suggestions to turn our children into future environmental stewards of our beautiful planet Earth:
Teach Respect for Outdoors
We often go outdoors with kids as a chore, but this time when you go out with them, make good use of the opportunity. Say you are at a family vacation or have planned a long hike or let's say it is a lazy afternoon at the beach - all of these can offer you plenty of opportunities to show your children the wide variety of plants and animals out there and why it's important for us humans to preserve and protect their environment. If your kid likes sea turtles, show them what they eat, where they live, what they need to protect and shield themselves from predators. We need to inculcate a sense of oneness with the environment in the hearts of our younger ones.
Recycle be The Mantra
Make sure you recycle all the waste at home. In Hong Kong, we have plenty of recyclable bins at every nook and corner. One for glass, one for paper, and one each for cans and plastics. You can involve kids by asking them, for example, to rinse the cans and glasses, if they are dirty and drop off the used items at one of these bins. Have them do it repeatedly till it becomes a natural habit for them.
Say No to Plastic Water Bottles
Encourage your kids to carry their own water bottles especially if they are off to tuitions, playgrounds, or any other social event. We need to discourage use of plastic bottles as they are most commonly made from PET (polyethylene terepthalate), and eventually end up in landfills.
Show them How to Conserve Energy
Whenever you leave the room, turn off the lights, the fans, the aircons or any other power geared equipment that is not going to be in use. Many times, the TV would be switched on and our kids would be busy on their phones or ipads. Tell them how this is wastage of electricity to keep all the equipments running at the same time. Make sure you practice what you preach. More than your words, your actions will leave a more lasting impact on them.
Make it Fun
Challenge your kids to come up with a few green initiatives by themselves. They could volunteer to use the back sides of printed papers to draw/sketch. They may consider reducing the font of their assignments so they need fewer A4 sheets. You can also encourage them to use double sided prints instead of just single sided ones. You could consider offering a reward at the end of each month if your child can come up with say, more than 3 novel ideas to go green.
Be a Role Model
Children are always watching us; they may not say it or feel it but our actions get registered in their impressionable minds. You can use this to your advantage by being the role model for sound environmental practices. For instance, on a really hot day, stand under the shade of a large tree and thank the tree for shielding you from the scorching sun. Further, you could make sure you always carry a canvas bag when you go grocery shopping instead of asking for a plastic bag. Your child will follow suit and comprehend the importance of trees and reduction of plastic in their lives.
Don't Forget the Movies
The best way to educate kids about environment is through a medium they are fascinated with - Movies. There are plenty that you can enjoy as a family. Two movies that comes to mind are: 1) Free Willy - It features a young boy who befriends a captured whale in a local ocean park. The boy, Jesse, and the whale, Willy, bond, but Willy is in danger as the park owner threatens to kill Willy. The movie shows the courage of a this young boy, Jesse who releases the whale back into the ocean with the message that wild animals are better off left alone. 2) Rio II- This is a fun and colourful animation for kids. The birds in the movie are a treat for younger audience. The backdrop of the movie is an illegal logging operation that has the potential to destroy parts of the Amazon. The movie goes onto show how the characters help preserve the environment by bringing an end to this illegal operation. So again, a great one to educate our kids about how to take care of our environment.
Involve them in Local Green Initiatives
Always be on the lookout for a local support group undertaking green initiatives. You and your kids can chime in, for instance, to help clean up a local park or playground, or find an area where you can plant trees.
Pass it On to the Needy
Ask your kids to collect the books, toys, or even clothes they no longer need and have them donate these items at a local charity to drop them in one of the Green Train boxes for others to use. The best idea would be in-person donation as they will be able to see how their contributions actually help those in need.
Our society is built around fast consumerism and it can be challenging to show the importance of environmental friendly practices to our kids. But it is important now, more than ever, to adopt some lifestyle choices to ensure there is a green future for our kids. While some kids are really ahead of the curve and know what they must do, others need a bit more awakening. It is our responsibility to not just do our bit in preserving the environment but also assist our younger ones to follow suit, should we want them to enjoy this planet, much like we have had the opportunity. Just remember to make it fun and interesting for your children and it won’t be long before we can together reverse the damage we have knowingly/unknowingly caused to our beloved planet.