What is sustainability for kids?
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 like 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. Color-coded recycling bins make this easier for kids. That way everyone knows where to put things like food waste, paper and cardboard, glass, and thrift store 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. For example, buy unwrapped produce at the grocery store and 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. Let your kids choose what to grow - sunflowers, strawberry plants, or tomatoes for example. Help them plant seeds, cultivate seedlings indoors and then plant them out in the backyard.
4. Reuse items for arts and crafts
Showing kids how easy it is to recycle and reuse items for arts and crafts is a great way to encourage a sustainable mindset. Use cardboard boxes and pressed flowers and leaves for models and pictures, Cut up old greeting cards for handmade jigsaw puzzles. 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 or head to the nearest wooded area so you can teach them to appreciate green spaces, 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, make three small holes in the top of the upper cup with a push pin, and poke several holes in the bottom cup for drainage. Hey presto: you have a mini greenhouse. Just don’t forget to recycle the cup when you’re done.
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 backyard compost bin
A good 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) plus a layer of soil. This 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: Trash, 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 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 US, over 900 billion liters of water are wasted. That's enough to fill 360,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Build your kids’ awareness on how to save water: Don't leave the tap running while cleaning 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. Stewardship is 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 sneakers
As sneakers are made from various materials, they can be recycled into many different things. Leather, rubber, and textiles from sneakers 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. If your child wants to get involved with donating, there are a number of charities they can support with their allowance.
- WWF - The World Wildlife Fund for Nature works in the field of wilderness preservation and the reduction of human impact on the environment.
- Rainforest Alliance — works to protect some of the most biodiverse, threatened, and globally critical habitats.
- Friends of the Earth - campaigns against plastic and working towards changing the world for the good.
- Ocean Conservancy — works to keep the ocean healthy, to keep us healthy.
- Oxfam - a global movement to end poverty, tackle climate change, and provide clean and safe water for all.