A truth many of us are coming to realize, is that we all need to become climate activists if we are going to have a planet to hand down to our children. Our planet is showing rapid and alarming signs of climate change, which we feel is a strong call for global citizens to start taking actions now. One way to do this is by teaching our children what it means to be a climate activist, and why it’s important. Fostering the next generation of climate activists means that the important work we’re doing now to protect the planet won’t end with us.
There are many ways we can help our children rise to the occasion of advocating for the health of the environment. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Explore the outdoors with them. A crucial first step in raising a climate activist is helping them develop a love for nature. Taking them to local parks, exploring hiking trails, picnicking under a tree in the backyard, camping, and engaging in other outdoor activities will all serve to promote your child’s passion for nature, and commitment to protect it.
As you explore the outdoors with your child, point out various elements you appreciate, like a beautiful flower or fluffy cloud. Then, have them tell you things about nature they enjoy. This conversation can help them home in on why our planet is so special, and worth protecting.
Teach them how to reduce, reuse and recycle. Another step in raising a climate activist is instilling the simple, yet incredibly important, practice of reducing the number of items and food you purchase and throw out, reusing those items and their packaging as much as possible, and recycling or donating items, instead of throwing them in the trash. Teaching your child to live by these “three R’s” limits the amount of waste that ends up in landfills (and contributes to pollution), and slows the use of natural resources.
Start a compost. Take the three R’s a step further by starting a compost with your child. You can explain that the compost will help minimize the amount of food waste in landfills, and will eventually provide healthy soil for your yard. To begin, simply purchase a compost kit from a garden supply store. Learn more about what you can and can’t compost here [insert link to our compost article].
Plant a vegetable garden. Because you and your child will be making all that healthy soil with your compost, you need somewhere to put it. A vegetable garden is an excellent option. Planting this type of garden can help your children understand that produce doesn’t just magically appear at the grocery store, but is grown from the Earth. This knowledge helps children recognize that the Earth’s health is directly connected with our ability to feed ourselves.
Get your child excited about this project by letting them pick some of the vegetables you’ll grow, and having them participate in the installation of the garden. You can also have them help you water, prune, and harvest.
Show them how to be eco-conscious consumers. A huge part of advocating for the environment’s well-being is choosing products from brands that are eco-conscious. You can teach your child this skill by explaining why you buy certain products, and why you stay away from others. For example, when you’re buying diapers you can explain why you’re choosing a brand that makes biodegradable, bamboo diapers that are totally chlorine free, instead of a brand that makes no effort to limit the toxins in their product. If your child is continually exposed to this eco-conscious shopping logic they’ll likely naturally apply it when spending their own money.
Provide age-appropriate explanations of environmental issues. While you probably don’t want to tell a young child the more dire aspects of climate change, you can provide simple explanations of how pollution is impacting the planet. A great way to do this is with books about this subject, written for your child’s age group. Documentaries such as Planet Earth can also contribute to these conversations and deepen your child’s understanding and appreciation for the planet.
Volunteer for environmental causes with them. Getting into your community with your child in tow to participate in environmentally-centered volunteer activities will help you raise a climate activist, and bond with your child. Some common child-appropriate volunteer opportunities include trash pick-ups, trail maintenance, planting a neighborhood garden, removal of an invasive plant species, and tree planting. An online search will likely reveal eco-focused volunteer activities in your community.
While it’s easy to get discouraged by the current state of our climate, teaching your child the importance of getting involved in positive environmental actions can revive your hope for the future. With each environmentally-focused activity you engage in with your child you take another step towards being the change you wish to see, while fostering the growth of a person who just might help save the world.