How to teach kids about sustainability

Guest post by Elise Morgan

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by the problems of the world, imagine how your kids feel. You may think you’re shielding them but they hear about climate change, natural disasters and plastic in the ocean. This can lead to depression and feelings of despair if it seems they can’t do anything about it. It’s critical to teach sustainable practices in ways that empower children to be involved, promote creative thinking, and learn resilience.

Instead if you help them connect with what they care most about and get working on solutions, you can help them discover their life’s work. Here are a couple of ways:

Explain what you’re doing. Talk openly about why you recycle, choose to grow your own food, buy organic products or mend clothes instead of buying new ones is a great place to start. It is also important to incorporate eco-friendly practices at home and encourage your children to be involved in your sustainability practices, as it will further enhance their understanding and acceptance. When you simply plant a garden together or create a recycling routine that they are part of, it can make a huge difference to how they perceive sustainable practices.

Volunteer. Involve your kids with local environmental volunteer groups in your area. Help out with a beach clean-up, tree planting, or community garden as it benefits children in multiple ways - giving them a sense of pride, encouraging feelings of connection with their environment and community and empowering them to be part of positive action. Another great option is to volunteer with children as it makes them more likely to carry this behavior into adulthood and is a great way to lead by example.

Cultivate wonder. For many of us adults, we forget the sense of wonder that young children have about the world around them – full of excitement, beauty and awe. Encourage your young ones to explore this wonder about the world, whether it be by visiting their favorite natural landmark or even just exploring the empty lot next door. What better way to teach your children about sustainability than by giving them the tools and inspiring the ideas they need to understand that this world is truly worth sustaining. If you need another reason to let your children explore the nature around them, you should note that being outdoors in nature is associated with numerous benefits including better physical, mental, and emotional health for our children.

Uncover their life’s work. For older children, teaching sustainability helps them discover their passions and builds a sense of agency, that they can make a difference.

Each and every one of us is responsible for the health of our planet. Fostering and encouraging an understanding of the importance of sustainability for children is just one of the ways in which we can protect them, our futures and our Earth for generations to come.