6 Ways to Teach Your Kids About Sustainable Living
Once you have a baby, your life changes. Not only in the small ways – you have less time for yourself, you drive slower, and maybe you even buy life insurance – but you start to take a look around and see ways to improve the world. One of the ways that many people choose to do so is choosing a more sustainable life.
What is that, you might ask? A sustainable lifestyle uses resources minimally, with minimal negative impact on the earth and with maximum potential and benefit for others. The standard, traditional industrial model utilizes genetically modified ingredients, non-organic methods and cares very little for the impact on the environment. In short, it’s a selfish way to live.
I’ve been trying, for several years now, to teach my children what it means to live in a sustainable manner. To teach them why it matters how the animals were raised, what chemicals were poured into the soil, and how things just don’t disappear when you toss them into the trashcan. The can that we have for recycling is a good start, but it’s just a small step and I want my children to take gigantic leaps toward making the planet a better place for their children.
We vote at every single meal. We vote to eat the right things for our body, but that voting should begin with the purchase and preparation of the foods we ingest. Local, organic, sustainable. One great way to help your children see this is by growing your own food. It doesn’t have to be a large garden at first – maybe just tomatoes and herbs in a pot on your porch. Once you do this, you’ll see how easy it can be to grow your own foods, and as a bonus, those foods are healthier for you, especially if you chose to grow them organically.
Start a rainwater collection area, and use that water for your garden. This is a simple, albeit messy, way for your kids to be actively involved in the process that doesn’t need too much supervision.
Start composting. Creating a compost pile reduces food waste while providing organic fertilizer for your garden. If you use worms, your children are sure to be interested in helping – I’ve yet to meet one child who can stay away from worms. If all of this sounds like too much work, or you just don’t have the time or space to garden, see if your community offers a garden plot. One year I put in a garden at my father-in-law’s house. Think outside the box and your taste buds will appreciate the effort.
Turn to your local farmer’s markets. They can be fantastic sources of fresh, organic produce, and usually offer dairy, butcher or baker products too. It’s a perfect family outing for a Saturday morning or weeknight evening. Everyone can walk, hand-pick their produce choices, smell the herbs for themselves, and maybe even hear live music.
Eat as close to nature as possible, with more fruits and vegetables, seeds and whole grains. We try to eat as many colors as we can at a meal, but not day-glow orange or sickly green. Institute “Meatless Monday”, and try to eat vegetarian for every meal on Mondays. Reducing your family’s intake of meat helps the world. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions, more than the transportation industry! One fantastic way to do this is by making your own pizza, which children love to help prepare.
Avoid single use products. This has been a huge teaching moment in our family, more so due to the larger number of people we have. Paper towels, disposable diapers, scratch paper, triple-wrapped convenience foods and female products all contribute heavily to a large trash load, and those things don’t disappear when the trash truck leaves. Visit the recycling plant and help your children learn how to recycle the “right” way. Buy reusable water bottles for each member of your family and get in to the habit of taking them with you whenever you leave the house.
Often, I feel overwhelmed at the reality that one person, or one family, really won’t make a difference in the world. Much of what needs to change can only be accomplished on the government level. Vote with these thoughts in mind, and inform your congressmen and senators of the reasons behind your votes.
Sustainable living sounds like a very overwhelming concept, but it’s not when you make small changes that slowly added up to make a big difference. Each change you make offers a learning experience for your kids that they’ll probably enjoy being a part of.
By Carmen Staicer for DietsInReview.com