To mark World Environment Day, mother-of-two Jen Vuk provides some tips on motivating kids to become more environmentally-conscious.
When it comes to the environment, it seems all news is bad news, and so one of the greatest challenges of any parent is to teach their children that, despite what they may hear or read, little changes can make a big difference.
After all, our kids are the future custodians of this beautiful planet, and while they may not be able to turn around all the bad environmental decisions of the past, they have the power to set the world on a greener, cleaner course.
To mark World Environment Day next week (5 June), here are my top seven tips to encourage the kids to be more engaged with the environment.
Living in one of the driest places in the world means conserving water is pretty much a no-brainer, so most Aussie kids have grown up understanding something about water conservation. Nonetheless, there are times when my kids have left the bathroom after brushing their teeth with the tap still running, or have stayed in the shower a good five minutes longer than they needed to.
What’s worked for my husband and me is the gentle reminder to the kids of the litres of water that are disappearing down the drain (never to be seen again). With a set timer those 10-minute showers have easily been cut down to five minutes or less.
Turning off the light
At certain times, in neighbourhoods across Australia, you can undoubtedly hear a chorus of parents screaming: “Turn off the light [insert child’s name] when you leave the room.” My husband and I have lent our own voices to this chant, and it’s only now starting to take effect. Have faith. They do start listening. Eventually.
Introducing them to a compost
Even before we had kids, my husband and I were avid composters, and as a result my kids have learnt from an early age that organic leftovers belong in the white bucket, not the black bin. It’s an added bonus when you can encourage them to take the bucket and empty it in the backyard compost.
Most schools nowadays encourage a ‘nude food’ (aka no plastic bags or wrappings) philosophy in kids’ lunch boxes, so it’s become second nature to our kids to pack their lunches and snacks in recyclable containers.
Once again, recycling is just a part of life. Not only have we encouraged recycling in the home, we’ve also taken our kids to museums or factories that show recycling in action and help demystify it.
Planting a tree or cultivating seedlings
With a father who’s a horticulturist, my kids have had ample opportunities to get their hands dirty and plant a tree. We also often have conversations with them about the importance of trees in supplying clean air, and providing habitat for native animals—as well as beautifying nature, too.
Recently, our sons have accompanied my husband to the nursery where they were encouraged to choose their seedlings and then look after them. Growing food such as broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes and herbs not only shows the kids where some food comes from, but can have the added bonus of broadening their tastes.
Walking and/or bike-riding
All too often we jump in the car when we could just as easily go for walk or get on our bike. Like many things kids pick up, it starts with the adults first adopting the action themselves. So put away those car keys and get your runners on. It’s time to walk the walk.