How to Encourage Environmentally Friendly Behavior in Your Child

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Environmental friendliness and sustainability are more important than ever nowadays, especially considering the unfortunate state of our planet’s health.

One major endeavor you can take on as a parent in order to help prevent further degradation of the planet is to encourage your child from a young age—the younger, the better—to incorporate environmentally friendly and sustainable practices into their day-to-day life.

What follows are a few tips for getting your child on that environmentally-friendly (and smog-free) path.

Recycle Anything and Everything

Recycling is perhaps the most important lesson to teach your child when it comes to environmental friendliness because it ultimately decreases the amount of garbage that ends up in your local landfill. We’ve all heard the saying: Reduce, reuse, recycle.

In order to encourage your child to recycle as often as possible, it might be beneficial to place multiple different bins in your house—or maybe out in your garage or under the kitchen sink—and label them according to what type of recycling goes into each. You could simply label the bins as “paper,” “plastic,” “aluminum,” and “glass.” Once you have your recycling bins set up, demonstrate to your child what type of recycling goes into each bin and why, then gradually encourage them to use the bins rather than the trashcan whenever possible.

If your child is unsure of what can and cannot be recycled, encourage them to come to you with any questions and gently guide them in the right direction.

Fill Your Home with Reusable Items

Zero waste goods, net, cotton and paper shopping bags, wooden comb and toothbrush, glass bottle and cup with metal straw. Vector cartoon set of recycle eco packages with food and reusable goods

A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people

Franklin D. Roosevelt 32nd U.S. President

Reusing goes hand-in-hand with recycling.

You can easily send an environmentally friendly and sustainable message to your child by replacing your disposable items (Ziplock bags, plastic grocery store bags, batteries) with their reusable equivalents (Tupperware containers, cloth grocery bags, rechargeable batteries). Your child will then see these reusable items as a normal part of life and maybe more open to reusing other items, as well, such as clothing.

The clothing industry has played a major role in environmental deterioration, so teaching your child the benefits of reusing, repurposing, and donating clothing from an early age will greatly reduce the environmental impact of the clothing industry for future generations.

In order to encourage your child to reuse clothing—or choose secondhand clothing—rather than new clothing, it would perhaps be useful to take them out to a thrift shop or a secondhand store and show them the amount of clothes that already exist and are currently unused. Even further, you could explain to them why it is unnecessary and sometimes irresponsible to purchase brand new clothes since it creates demand for retailers to produce even more clothes.

Who knows, your child might even enjoy the thrill of thrift shopping!

Emphasize the Value of Growing Your Own Food

A beautiful slender girl collects cucumbers in the summer in a greenhouse. Eats cucumber. Harvesting in the vegetable garden in summer

There is nothing more environmentally friendly and sustainable than growing your own food. It reduces the amount of food packaging that often comes with purchasing food from the store, while also minimizing any fossil fuels that might be used to transfer food from one area of the world to another.

Reducing our levels of consumption will not be a sacrifice but a bonus if we simply redefine the meaning of the word ‘success.’

David Wann Author

Growing your own food can also be extremely satisfying and rewarding.

In order to get your child interested in growing their own food, you might start by picking out a small corner in either your greenhouse or garden and allowing them to grow their own food there. Encourage them to pick a few fruits and vegetables that they really enjoy eating like strawberries, tomatoes, carrots, or cucumbers; teach them how to plant, water, and care for their fruits and vegetables; and finally watch them harvest and enjoy the fruits of their labor once all is said and done.

And don’t be surprised if they ask for a slightly bigger section of the garden to grow their own food next time.

Practice What You Preach

Now, this is the kicker.

You can show your child how to recycle every kind of plastic, paper, aluminum, and glass under the sun; you can teach them how to utilize Tupperware and cloth bags so they barely ever find themselves using disposable items again; and you can teach them how to plant and raise a successful garden to such an extent that they don’t just have a green thumb, but a green hand.

None of this will matter, though, unless you practice what you preach to them. If your child consistently witnesses you forgetting your cloth bags at home and buying plastic bags every time you’re at the grocery store, or sees you throwing your plastic bottle into the trashcan when you’re done with it rather than the recycling bin, it’s very likely that they will pick up the same careless habits. This means that the environment will suffer doubly as much, too.

So, why don’t you do the environment and your child a favor by simply practicing what you preach when it comes to environmental friendliness and sustainability! 

Reference and citation:

  1. How to Raise an Environmentalist
  2. Play and the Learning Environment
  3. Children’s Perceptions about Environmental Sustainability, Food, and Nutrition in Chile: A Qualitative Study

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