Several generations have now been enduring consequences brought by man’s disregard of the environment. Across borders, humans have experienced the devastation of climate change, famine, global warming, and other such issues related to the environmental crisis. It only seems that the severity of the problem has been increasing over time. Young generations of today seem to be troubled with a lot more environmental problems than ever before.
The call for environmental justice is an urgent matter. After all, we owe a habitable Earth to the present and living generations, but even more to the generations to come. Essentially, acts towards preserving the environment are acts of looking out for fellow human beings. Therefore, as citizens of the planet, each individual should uphold their responsibility in caring for the Earth.
While we are doing what we can to care for the environment, we should also remind young people —the future leaders and inhabitants of the planet— to tread similar paths. It’s highly important to educate young minds about the environmental challenges and ways to combat them. Here are a few things you could counsel children to care more for the environment:
Practice Proper Waste Management
According to the World Bank research on the trends in solid waste management, about 2.01 billion tonnes of waste is generated across the globe every year. What’s worse is that only 33% of this waste is managed environmentally. The effect of improper waste disposal ranges from loss of biodiversity to ocean acidification.
It may take time for households to learn how to minimize waste. But a good place to start is teaching and practicing the three R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle.
Teach children to reduce waste by lessening the consumption of materials that could produce too much waste. Here are some strategies to adopt:
- Avoid single-use containers and products
- Learn to compost
- Demonstrate how to conserve water and electricity
- Teach them to make deliberate and green-minded choices when purchasing
- Teach children to avoid food waste
- Consider walking or biking to school
- Please encourage them to bring their packaging when grocery shopping
Rather than purchasing new materials, consider reusing the materials already disposed of in your home. Donate toys, accessories, and other materials you no longer use. Reuse clothes, accessories, or other second-hand materials. Teach children to examine the quality of products when purchasing to use them repeatedly for years rather than buying a new product every time. Consider repairing an item before deciding to throw it out.
Before throwing out any material, examine if you can put them to new use. Recycling not only teaches children to be environmentally friendly but also encourages them to be creative and innovative. Here are a few ideas on recycling:
- Classify recyclables as well as biodegradables and non-biodegradables
- Be aware of recycling rules in your neighborhood or city
- Encourage children to reuse materials for arts and crafts
- Set up a recycling station at home
- Repurpose old clothing
Spend More Time Outside And Connect With Nature
Various studies have presented the benefits of spending time outdoors on physical and mental health and wellbeing. A study from Aarhus University in Denmark even shows that children who grew up surrounded by nature were less likely to develop mental health issues.
Encouraging children to do activities in the green outdoors could certainly benefit in a multitude of ways: by reducing stress, getting more physical activity, allowing inspiration by being part of a collective, among others. But outdoor activities also encourage children to hone their environmental awareness.
In being able to explore their natural surroundings, children can better create connections and care for nature. As they grow up, they may develop a sense of protection over different ecosystems, natural resources, and species. Here are some ideas:
- Go for a beach clean-up
- Do outdoor activities with children (e.g., hiking, swimming, trailing)
- Go for a picnic or a camping trip
- Suggest a school gardening or composting project
- Join a tree-planting initiative
Talk About Environmental Issues And Consider Counseling For Eco-Anxiety
More than allowing students to be in nature, it’s also important to engage them in discussions about environmental justice, issues, and practical ways of helping. Allow them space to process information and work together in finding sustainable ways to contribute to a better environment.
Here are a few tips on how to prepare to talk about environmental issues with children:
- Know the facts. Educate yourself on environmental concerns through various educational resources. There are a plethora of materials on the environment to read about. Remember to fact-check and update your sources.
- Entertain questions. Teach children where and how to access truthful information.
- Consult experts. Consider visiting an environmental organization, activist, or researcher to learn more. This way, you can encourage children to verify the information and learn first-hand from the experience of others.
- Spend more time outdoors. Consider volunteering.
- Be empathetic. Learning about environmental crises may induce stress and arouse feelings of frustration or helplessness. Younger generations are burdened with fear over an uncertain world plagued by environmental problems and disasters. More and more people have developed eco-anxiety with the growing awareness of the problems with the environment.
Therefore, it is important to approach the subject with empathy as it may be a difficult issue to deal with. If you notice it takes too much toll on a child’s physical and mental well-being, consider asking them to take counseling for eco-anxiety and other related concerns. Of course, this would not solve the environmental problems, but children need to express, process, and feel their thoughts and emotions.
Be A Role Model
Ultimately, the best way to teach children to care about the environment is to lead by example. Make your home environmentally friendly and sustainable. Encourage other parents and educators to make schools value nature and focus on environment preservation. Engage children in issues regarding environmental crises and environmental justice. Allow them to express what they feel and think. Then, please support them in their cause and continually empower them to care for Mother Nature.