It’s easy to fall into bad habits that don’t encourage kids to act in environmentally friendly ways. We “treat” them to Kinder Surprises because they’re finally being well-behaved in the supermarket. We grab them Happy Meals after a long day because it’s easy. And we drive to school because we’re running late, again!
You shouldn’t feel guilty about doing these things, this is the world we live in and you need to cut yourself some slack sometimes. We’re all doing the best we can. The important thing to remember though is that our kids are watching and learning from this behaviour and we have to counter it wherever we can by setting a good example of what it means to protect and preserve our environment.
You can offset some of the behaviours you wish you did less and be a more well-rounded example of the way we should be treating our environment by following some of the tips below with your children.
Work those legs
Encourage your child to walk or bike-ride to school, friend’s houses, the local park and anywhere else you head that is within a reasonable walking/cycling distance. When they inevitably ask “Why do we have to walk?” you’ll have the perfect opportunity to spend some time talking about the difference we can make to the cleanliness of the air by leaving our cars at home.
Clean up your community
You don’t need to wait for Clean Up Australia Day to lend a hand keeping the community clean. Grab your kids, some gloves and garbage bags (preferably the compostable kind) and pick up any litter you see while you make a point of explaining that litter gets washed down our drains and harms birds, fish and our eco-system by ending up in the ocean. You can even turn your clean-up mission into a Recycled Scavenger Hunt and incentivise the winner with a prize. If you’re unsure of how to best dispose of waste in your suburb, the Sutherland Shire Council website has a wealth of information, including posters you can print out for the kids, to help you out.
Live the low-waste life
The best way to encourage kids to care about the environment is to be a living example of the lifestyle you hope they will emulate. Living a low-waste lifestyle simply means refusing that which we don’t need, reusing items more often, repurposing what we do use wherever possible and recycling anything that can’t be repurposed so that very little ends up in landfill. We’ve provided a comprehensive guide with tips and links to more resources on how to live as a low-waste family here.
Return and Earn
Primary school-aged kids are always looking for ways to make extra pocket money! Give them a box they can place any used water bottles, pop-top bottles, poppers or cans into and let them know that once they’ve filled it you’ll take them to a local Return and Earn Reverse Vending machine where they can receive an electronic refund to a nominated account, or receive a retail voucher which can be spent instore or exchanged for cash at a participating retailer such as Woolworths, Coles or IGA.
Take a waste-wise workshop
The Sutherland Shire Council regularly hosts online waste-wise workshops that aim to help you reduce waste. From gardening and composting, repairing clothes and keeping chooks to decluttering, DIY cleaning products and pickling foods- these interesting and useful workshops will help you reduce your waste. Most are suitable for kids over 10 and some younger children may be happy to watch along with you.
Encourage Eco-wise screentime
If our kids are going to be on screens, they may as well be learning. Enlist the help of the following movies and TV shows to teach your kids about the importance of protecting the environment and how we can each play a part in keeping our world beautiful and clean.
- Storybots “Why do we recycle” (Netflix)
- Reduce Re-use, Recycle (Youtube)
- How to care for the Environment (Youtube)
- Teaching kids sustainability: What does it mean to be green? (Youtube)
- Fern Gully (Youtube or Google Play)
- The Lorax (Youtube or Google Play)
- Happy Feet (Netflix or Stan)
- The Magic Schoolbus Season 3: Ep 10 and 12 (Netflix)
Search for local initiatives
Lots of local schools and pre-schools have community recycling schemes that you can get involved with. Check to see if your child’s school or daycare has any Terra Cycle initiatives already in place. Some of these accept your old writing materials, bathroom products and office supplies. You can make your kids an integral part of collecting their old textas, pens, toothpaste tubes and toothbrushes to contribute to the recycling boxes, and you may even like to consider encouraging your local school to become a community hub where donations can be made, if they aren’t one already.
How do you show your kids you care about the environment and get them to do the same? Tag @mumsoftheshire in your Instagram posts or stories so we can share your ideas with our community.