Good resolution: raising environmental awareness in kids

There are three main winners of more eco-friendly consumption: your wallet, the environment and your health. Even though we all know the benefits, changing our habits, and those of our children, isn’t easy… at school or at home. But kids are open to all sorts of new experiences. They can even be the agents of change.

Eco-friendly actions all year round

As parents, you know that you have a rather important role to play in raising environmental awareness in young people. To start off: lead by example. Your children imitate the way you consume and behave. Want to start making changes?

School purchases: 9 year-round actions for eco-friendly parents

What can you do throughout the school year to be exemplary parents (or at least come close)? Some suggestions:

  1. Select supplies without chemical substances: check for varnishes, solvents, heavy metals. They contain endocrine disruptors, allergens or toxic products. Use water-based pens and avoid markers, or use wood instead of plastic…
  2. Look for school products with eco-labels: recycled, recyclable, non-toxic, eco-friendly products with labels that indicate their commitment.
  3. Choose Made in Belgium or Made in Europe: you can buy products, knowing that they weren’t manufactured by children.
  4. Favour materials that are recyclable or have a long lifespan: metal or wooden items are both more durable and stronger than plastic.
  5. Buy in bulk: fewer raw materials and less packaging waste, often at a better price.
  6. Reuse anything that isn’t damaged: pens or pencils can be used from year to year. Commercials and ads for kids should be blocked out. Reusing instead of buying is the ultimate step towards sustainability.
  7. Buy second-hand: Les Petits Riens, second-hand stores, markets and other Internet sales groups are full of school items for sale. A good plan both economically and environmentally.
  8. Purchase refillable versions of school products rather than disposable ones: an ink pen instead of ballpoint, a refillable mechanical pencil or pencil instead of disposable ones.
  9. Teaching children to be eco-friendly: Do they want to draw a picture? Have them get a small piece of paper. They can use the back of printed sheets or work with what they find around the house.

 

Drinks and snacks: feeding our kids using an eco-friendly mindset

 

More environmental awareness in the cafeteria and at recess means fighting food waste, overpackaging and waste management. You can use:

  • Reusable sandwich containers (stainless steel is better than plastic) replace aluminum foil or plastic wrap;
  • Reusable bottles are better than juice boxes or disposable plastic bottles;
  • Seasonal fruits and vegetables are served for meals and snacks;
  • Home-made meals: Make cereal bars, cookies, brownies or cakes yourself in large quantities over the weekend. An hour-long family activity each weekend;
  • Listen to your child’s hunger cues: asking them how hungry they are that day means fewer snacks end up in the trash.
  • Selective sorting: usually introduced at school. If not, teach your child to bring their recyclable packaging, juice boxes and plastic bottles back home with them.

Eco-friendly actions for the home that speak to children

At home, your role as parent includes explaining to your kids, with appropriate wording, how they can work with you on behalf of the planet.  And show off your initiatives:

  • Recycling: selective sorting at the least and maybe even family compost.
  • Zero waste: not producing waste at all is better than recycling. There are plenty of tips for getting there as a family: in the media, the Internet, and even your eco-friendly friends can share their advice.
  • Homemade cleaning products: you can make your own eco-friendly products with your kids.
  • Sustainable holidays: combining pleasure and environmental awareness is possible with the choice of destination or means of transportation or by respecting the environment during your visit.
  • Food purchases: you can have a positive impact on the environment by buying seasonal, local and pesticide-free. You can also reduce the use of packaging and avoid unsustainable ingredients like palm oil. And, for guaranteed fun with your children, try starting a small garden.
  • General purchases: when buying clothing and items, make your kids aware of the health and ecological cost of transportation and obsolescence. Advocate for waste-free and recycled resources.
  • Saving energy and water: explain that the lights should be turned off when leaving a room or, even better, not to turn on lights if it’s not needed. And that water should be used sparingly.

Eco-friendly actions are based on small, daily changes that are good for your wallet and health and the environment. Need some ideas? Check out écoconso.be, our favorite source of information on ecology in the broadest sense.

Do eco-friendly examples always come from above?

Teaching your children about ecology is basically explaining the principles of the circular economy to them. The famous 4 Rs of the reuse economy: reuse, recycle, resist buying, reduce waste. These 4 R’s are made for school and home: we borrow, rent, make ourselves, we learn to lend, give or sell instead of throwing away.

Without going into extremes that will make your kids run away, know that your values are being passed on, even if they don’t agree with some of your “no” votes. Ecology affects our young people. This is made clear by Greta Thunberg, a leading figure in the climate march movement. She’s only 16. Even our high school students played hooky across several Thursdays in early 2019 to demand a more environmentally friendly policy.

Once you have made your sons and daughters environmentally aware, don’t be surprised if they remind you. “Dad, you should recycle that box” or “mom, don’t buy this chocolate, it has palm oil. That kills orangutans”… does that mean something to you?

 

 Usitoo, an eco-aware company, favours use value over purchase value. In its catalogue, you’ll find hundreds of items ready for their second life: your kids’ birthday parties, school events and sports.

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