Sustainability is the idea that we all must look after the environment so there will be enough resources left for future generations. With nearly 8 billion people living on Earth, that means being mindful of what we do, careful with how we live and doing our bit to help.
Why is it important for children to learn about sustainability?
Sustainability is an important area to discuss as our kids will be the adults of tomorrow. So just as we teach them life skills such as financial education, and how to look after themselves, it’s also important to help them feel passionate about sustainability and looking after the Earth.
20 activities to teach your kids about sustainability
1. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle!
Make recycling a part of everyday family life. Colour-coded boxes make this easier for kids, so everyone knows where to put things like food waste, paper and cardboard, glass, and charity shop items.
2. Go plastic free
Kids can start cutting down on plastic waste with a few simple steps: ditch single-use drinks bottles, and avoid products made from or packaged in plastic whenever possible e.g. select unwrapped produce at the supermarket, use non-plastic products like bamboo toothbrushes and paper straws.
3. Plant a garden
Nothing will inspire an interest in the environment faster than kids knowing they can grow things. Ask your kids to choose what they want to grow - sunflowers, strawberry plants, tomatoes or carrots. Then help them plant seeds, cultivate seedlings indoors then plant in the garden or in large patio pots.
4. Reuse items for arts and crafts
Showing kids how easy it is to recycle and reuse items for arts and crafts is a good way of establishing a sustainable mindset. Use cardboard boxes, dry leaves and pressed flowers for models and pictures, cut up old birthday cards for handmade jigsaws. Even use old clothes for collages.
5. Go outdoors
Talking about sustainability is a lot easier when you're outside. Go on a bike ride, visit wetlands areas or head to the nearest woodland so you can teach them to appreciate green areas, plants and trees.
6. Plant a tree
Trees help to combat global warming by absorbing carbon dioxide and removing and storing carbon while releasing oxygen back into the air. Get your kids involved in a plant a tree donation program to help nature thrive.
7. Make a plastic bottle planter
Plastic bottle planters are a great way to teach kids to look after plants and the environment. All you need is a large plastic bottle, some string/ strips of fabric (for the water to "climb"), soil and various seeds to attract the bees and butterflies.
8. Make a mini indoor greenhouse
Kids love watching things grow, so help encourage them to plant by making a mini indoor greenhouse. Take two clear cups, and in one, add soil and seeds. Place an upside-down cup on top as a cover. Secure with tape, punch three small holes in the top of the upper cup, and hey presto: you have a mini greenhouse.
9. Gift old toys to charity
When you talk to your child about giving, make sure it's not just about money. Old toys, unused toys and games can all be resold to help raise funds for children's charities. Ask your kids to give to others in need and see what they can collect around the house.
10. Teach your kids to cook a vegetarian meal
Adding just one or two vegetarian meals to your weekly menu is a great way to help the environment because vegetables require far fewer resources to grow than dairy and meat products.
11. Start a garden compost bin
A good garden compost (stored in a plastic bin) includes three types of ingredients: dead plant material from the garden, household waste ( including vegetable scraps, tea bags, coffee grounds and eggshells) and a layer of soil which adds earthworms and microorganisms that are necessary to break down organic materials.
12. Create a worm farm
A worm farm is an excellent way for kids to learn to take care of the environment. Worms show how something small has a significant role in the natural environment. When worms tunnel through the earth, they help plant roots get greater access to water and air and the nutrient-rich waste they leave behind also helps the plants grow..
13. Read books about sustainability
Books such as: What A Waste: Rubbish, Recycling, and Protecting our Planet, A Planet Full of Plastic: and how you can help, and How to Make a Better World: For Every Kid Who Wants to Make a Difference (Take on the World) can help kids to understand the bigger picture about sustainability and give them ideas on how to help.
14. Shop and buy local
Buying and shopping locally can help to cut carbon emissions and air pollution by reducing food miles. Plus, it's better for the planet and helps support the local economy.
15. Work on saving water
Every day in the UK, over 3 billion litres of clean water is wasted. That's enough to fill 1,200 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Build your kids’ awareness on how to save water: Don't have the tap on as you clean your teeth; take showers, not baths and avoid long showers.
16. Volunteer outdoors with your kids
Volunteering outside, whether picking up litter, helping in wetland areas or clearing beaches, teaches children about environmental stewardship. This refers to the protection of the natural environment through active participation in conservation efforts and sustainable practices by people.
17. Repurpose items
The World generates 2.01 billion tonnes of waste annually, which is why repurposing helps. This means giving new use to something for a different purpose than the one for which it was initially intended. For instance, turn old clothes that can't be donated into cleaning rags, glass jars can be made into gift jars, and plastic bottles can become planters.
18. Read labels when shopping
Make it into a game with your kids to look for locally sourced fruits and vegetables and choose toiletries and household products with sound eco credentials on their labels.
19 Cut down on online shopping
It’s hard to forgo the ease of online shopping. Yet, there’s nothing sustainable about piles of packaging, and cheap goods that arrive with thousands of air miles attached.
20 Recycle your old trainers
As trainers are made from various materials, there are many things they can be recycled into. Leather, rubber, and textiles from trainers can be turned into everything from garden furniture to clothes and even new pairs of shoes.
Going Green Helps Everyone
Going green helps everyone in the world and if your child wants to get involved in donating and giving to support sustainable issues there are a number of charities they can support with their pocket money.
WWF - The World Wildlife Fund for Nature works in the field of wilderness preservation and the reduction of human impact on the environment.
The Wildlife Trust - a movement of 46 Wildlife Trusts working to save wildlife.
Friends of the Earth - campaigns against plastic and working towards changing the world for the good.
Oxfam - a global movement to end poverty, tackle climate change and give clean and safe water for all.