Activities for Kids Who Want to Save the Planet
Last year, kids around the world took time off from school to become eco-warriors. In over 130 countries, dense masses of youthmarched through streets, gave speeches, and rallied as a part of Fridays for Future international climate strikes, inspired by Greta Thunberg’s brave actions. These youth inspired leaders around the world to develop concrete plans for addressing environmental concerns.
Outside of climate strikes, how can kids do little things every day to promote a sustainable future?
Here are some quick and easy tips to help the whole family live more sustainably!
Eco-friendly practices at home give children the opportunity to do something every day to support the environment. When kids feel like they are making a difference at home, they will take their sustainable practices with them to school and beyond.
Practice Waste Diversion
Many of the food scraps that we discard end up in landfills where they decompose and release greenhouse gases!
Waste diversion is any action that reduces the amount of trash that enters landfills, and many waste diversion strategies are easy for kids to implement!
Two common strategies are:
1) Composting - putting leftover food scraps into bins for collection by the city or a home system where the food is broken down by small organisms into fertilizer, and 2) Recycling - using previously-used materials to create new things. Contact your local government to learn about the recycling and composting options in your area!
Get Creative with Trash!
In addition to composting and joining your neighbouhood’s recycling program, your child can recycle used goods by turning them into neat crafts and art pieces! Try creating vases out of old magazines or crafts out of junk mail. The possibilities are endless!
Make Your Own Eco-Friendly Products
Many household products contain chemicals that can compromise environmental and personal health. Luckily, it’s very easy to create your own deodorants, soaps, and laundry detergents using environmentally-friendly ingredients. You can even share their sustainable products with family members and friends!
Swap in Sustainable Products
Encourage your kids to find reusable alternatives to common objects such as lunch pouches, water bottles, straws and utensils. Try shopping for bulk foods using reusable containers to cut down on plastic waste. Opt for cotton beeswax covers to keep food fresh instead of plastic wraps. Kids can reduce their paper consumption by completing assignments electronically and receiving report cards online. With more learning happening remotely, now is a great time to explore paperless alternatives.
Make Energy-Conservation Fun
Make every effort to conserve energy. In addition to positively impacting the planet, energy-conservation habits can save you money on your water and electricity bills! While turning off unused lights, appliances and faucets are great practices. The most pervasive sources of energy waste are energy vampires: devices that use energy even when they are turned off. Examples of these devices include: video game consoles, cable and satellite boxes, and DVD Players / VCR’s.
You can eliminate energy vampires by:
· unplugging devices when they are not being used
· turning off energy strips
· replacing older appliances with energy-efficient alternatives
To reduce your household’s energy use, try turning energy-conservation into a fun game. Ask your kids to see how many devices they can find that don't need to be plugged in all the time. Plan weekly conservation challenges to see who can save the most energy! Can kids remember to close the fridge after grabbing a snack, turn off the lights when they leave a room? Who can take the shortest showers? Making energy-conservation fun will be a victory for your kids and for the planet.
Talk about Nature
When kids are excited about something, they love to talk about it! Stoke your child’s passion for the environment by taking time to talk about nature. During family meals, discuss recent environmental news stories. How do your kids think that environmental issues can be solved? Share high-quality, age-appropriate media resources with your children so that they can stay informed. Explore these resources together, encouraging kids to think critically about environmental issues.
The production of food also impacts the earth’s health. It takes more energy to harvest, produce, and transport certain foods while others can be easily sourced. Being mindful about the environmental impact of our foods helps us to make changes that support the planet.
Shop Local & In Season
If you can make the trip, take your child to a farmers’ market so that they can meet real farmers, discover tasty local produce, and learn about how their favourite foods were grown and harvested.
Eating locally-produced, plant-based foods is a great way to protect the environment. Locally-produced foods are grown and harvested in your community, and do not need to travel far before reaching consumers. They are usually fresher and riper than other foods that travel far on carbon-emitting vehicles.
Farmers’ markets help your child to learn about the important work of local farmers. Many farmers are happy to tell curious consumers about how they grew favourite vegetables or made favourite treats. Getting to know the farmers who made your food is an important and fun way to learn about how the environment impacts our health.
Bring Some Green to your Grocery Routine!
Get kids involved in grocery shopping! They look forward to choosing their favourite foods, finding items on the grocery list, and packing out groceries. You can turn this enjoyable outing into an eco-learning experience by getting creative.
One of the easiest ways to make your grocery routine more eco-friendly is to bring reusable bags to the store! Assign your child to the role of a “bag hero” who is responsible for remembering to pack the reusable bags. Reusable bags aren't just for checkout either, bring washable cloth bags to pack in loose foods like veggies and fruits to reduce plastic and paper waste.
Gamify shopping for groceries by asking your kids to help find items on the grocery list. Talk about the importance of eating a variety of different veggies and challenge them to find at least two different coloured veggies to add to that evening's meal. Get them involved in meal planning and open up discussions about how different foods impact our health and the health of the planet. Think about packaging, recycling and waste and you peruse the aisle of your grocery store.
Try Yummy Plant-Based Meals
Increased concerns about public health and environmental sustainability have made plant-based meals more popular. Eating a few plant-based meals a week can help lower your environmental footprint and improve overall health. Trying out plant-based meals as a family can teach your child about the environmental impact of food. Encourage your kids to find yummy recipes. Then, prepare a grocery list, purchase the ingredients, and prepare a meal together. This will introduce kids to nutritious meals, sharpen their cooking skills, and get the family bonding!
In the Community
Take Public Transit & Ride Bicycles
In the USA, the typical passenger vehicle releases about 4.6 - 6 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year! You can reduce your carbon footprint by taking public transit, like busses and trains, instead of travelling by car or riding a bike to closer destinations. Many children enjoy the novelty of sitting amongst neighbours and strangers, memorizing stops, and using tickets. Make it a fun adventure, and kids will remember how great it felt to change the way that they travel!
Volunteer with a Nature Organization
Volunteering is a great way for kids to make an impact. As a bonus, volunteering enables middle and high school students to collect volunteer hours for award, scholarship, or graduation requirements. Countless great opportunities can be found by consulting kids’ guidance counselors, newspapers, local bulletin boards, and websites. Some great opportunities for kids and teens include:
· Joining local tree-planting or reforestation efforts
· Contributing to community gardens
· Volunteering at farmers’ markets
· Volunteering at wildlife shelters
· Participating at a local cleanup day
Some great, youth-focused nature organizations include:
· Earth Rangers
· Friends of the Earth
· David Suzuki Foundation
Small Actions Make a BIG Difference
While annual, earth-themed events like Earth Day and climate strikes are important, planet-saving efforts are most effective when they become daily practices. The small, daily actions that we take to protect the planet add up, helping our families to keep the planet in good health.
No matter how young, kids everywhere can do little things to save the planet. What are some environmentally-friendly habits that your family would like to adopt? Share in the comments!