How to raise an eco conscious child

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Given it’s the next generation who will inherit the planet, it’s paramount that as parents we act as caretakers of our earth, and set a good example when it comes to living sustainably.

When my son was born in 2017, I was not at all prepared for the monumental shift in my priorities that happened when I became a mother.

Around this time there was increasing media coverage of the world’s plastic pollution crisis, and as I learnt more and more about the challenges facing our embattled planet, I grew deeply concerned about how the next generation will be affected by climate change.

So much so that I started to look at what my little family of three could do to reduce our carbon footprint, which led us to adopt a zero waste lifestyle.

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Raising an eco conscious child

Having strived to live more sustainably for some time now, it’s important to my husband and I that we pass on these values to our son.

While he may still only be two-years-old, there’s nothing to stop us imparting these values early. And as he gets older, more and more opportunities will arise that will allow us to teach him the importance of caring for the environment.

Here are some of the ways we are trying to raise an eco conscious child, as well as some tips to help encourage older kids to be more mindful of the environment.

Lead by example

This one is an obvious one. Children, especially young children, learn from what they see, hear and experience.

If it’s common practice in your home to compost, choose reusable items over single use items and consume mindfully, then your child is far more likely to take on these habits as they get older.

Kids are naturally curious, so explain to your child why you do certain things. Teach them about food waste and why composting is important, why reusable options are better than single use and the importance of conserving energy and water in your home.

Consider starting your own veggie patch, or at least growing your own herbs, eat less meat and recycle; your child will learn these valuable eco lessons simply by observing the way you choose to live.

Let your little one get up close to Mother Nature.

Let your little one get up close to Mother Nature.

Spend plenty of time outdoors

You’re unlikely to care for something that you don’t love, so cultivate a passion for the outdoors in your little one from an early age. This can be achieved by simply allowing them to spend plenty of time outside in nature.

Encourage them to touch and smell the plants and flowers they come across. Point out birds and insects and help them develop an appreciation of the natural world.

Head out on day trips or go on holidays to national parks or try a farm stay. Go camping and partake in activities that require time spent in nature such as bush playgroup (for the littlies), swimming at the beach and bike riding.

For the more adventurous and older kids, canoeing, abseiling and skiing will help them develop a love of everything Mother Nature has to offer.

Having your own veggie patch is a great way to teach kids about the amount of work that goes into growing food.

Having your own veggie patch is a great way to teach kids about the amount of work that goes into growing food.

Read eco friendly books

What kid doesn’t love being read to? With a growing focus on caring for the planet, more and more books are being written for children about how to be an eco conscious child.

Some of the favourites in our house include The Earth Book by Todd Parr, Plant the Tiny Seed by Christie Matheson, Dear Greenpeace by Simon James, Ten Things I Can Do to Help My World by Melanie Walsh and Lenny and the Ants by Jessica Chapnik Kahn.

For older kids you could try Wasted World by Nick Arnold and Tony DeSaulles and Ravenwood by Andrew Peters.

Keep the message consistent

If you’re trying to convey to your child the importance of reducing plastic use, but then regularly buying single use food items it will only confuse them.

While things happen that may see you briefly veer off your zero waste course – illness, a new baby or poor planning – explaining why you’ve had to make a last minute (plastic wrapped purchase) will ensure you’re not sending mixed signals.