As an adult, it’s relatively easy to appreciate your natural environment and develop the sense that it’s important to protect it. As a child, environmental friendliness is harder to understand. But as a parent, a teacher, or another influential adult in a child’s life, you have the opportunity to help them understand – and set them up for a more sustainable, more fulfilling future.
Prepare to Lead by Example
The “do as I say, not as I do” approach doesn’t work well for young, developing kids. You can teach them important lessons about conservation and environmental respect, but if you turn around and litter on the ground or avoid practicing conservation in your own life, your kids aren’t going to learn anything. They’re more likely to mimic your behavior than to follow your verbal direction.
For all of the remaining strategies in this guide, it’s important to represent these strategies and practice them regularly if you want them to stick.
Upgrade Your House
A good way to start is by upgrading your house to naturally support more environmentally friendly behaviors. For example, you can install a bidet in your bathroom. Bidets are devices that use a jet of water to clean you after using the bathroom; this way, you dramatically cut back on your use of toilet paper.
Over the course of years, you could end up saving thousands of dollars on toilet paper and reducing your total paper consumption dramatically. You can also make sure to invest in prominent recycling containers, making it easier to recycle, or water saving fixtures that reduce your water consumption throughout the house.
Spend Time in Nature
Children are going to be much more motivated to protect the environment if they have a visceral appreciation for that environment. That’s why it’s important to spend plenty of time in nature with your children. That could mean wandering the local forest, visiting the beach, or even having a picnic at the local neighborhood park.
When your children interact with plants, animals, bodies of water, and other forms of natural scenery, they’ll develop a fondness and appreciation for that scenery, and they’ll be much more motivated to protect it.
Foster a Love for Animals
Similarly, it’s important to foster a love and respect for animals. Environmental destruction often hurts animals first, threatening their habitats in pushing them to the brink of extinction. If your children care significantly about animals, they’ll be much more naturally motivated to protect their ecosystems.
There are many ways to do this. For example, you can read children’s books that feature animals as central characters or books that teach the importance of holding compassion for animals. If you’re open to the idea, you can bring pets into the house and teach your child how to raise them. You can also visit a local zoo or identify species of wild animals when you’re engaging in nature.
Plant a Garden
Consider planting a garden with your young child. This is a valuable opportunity to teach them how plants grow and help them better understand where their food comes from. It’s also going to serve as an important teaching tool or explaining certain concepts of sustainability; for example, you can teach them that their habits are protecting gardens all over the world.
Teach Future-Focused Values
Environmental friendliness doesn’t always pay off in the short term. In fact, protecting the environment often comes with many short-term costs, forcing you to spend time and money, while inconveniencing yourself. That’s why it’s important to teach children about the importance of planning for the future and sacrificing present conveniences for future gain.
Get Involved in Recycling
Recycling is vital for protecting the environment, since it allows us to conserve natural resources and reduce waste simultaneously. Your child will be much more interested in recycling if it’s something you practice regularly. Teach them about the different types of recyclables that exist and consider taking them to a recycling facility, so they can see recycling unfold in real time.
Pick Up Litter
When you’re in public with your child, make it a point to pick up litter with them. You can even make it into a game, or a competition to see who can pick up the most. When your child actively enjoys environmentally responsible actions, and they learn to appreciate how much better a cleaner environment is than a dirty one, there’ll be much more inclined to see the value in environmentally sustainable lifestyles.
Teaching your child to favor environmental friendliness may take some time. But as long as you are clear and straightforward about what you’re teaching, and you’re actively involved in practicing conservation and sustainability in your own life, it’s only a matter of time before they pick up on those values and begin to embody them independently.