Raising a “Green Child"
Encourage young, impressionable minds to adopt a sustainable lifestyle early on so that it becomes a lifelong habit.
- 2015–2018 were the four warmest years on record as the long-term warming trend continues, according to the World Meteorological Organization.The report found that levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached another new record high! (WMO report on climate)
- A staggering 217 billion tons of meltwater flowed off of Greenland's ice sheet into the Atlantic Ocean this July, reports Livescience.(Livescience report on Greenland)
- From Cape Town to Chennai, cities are crumbling under water crisis.
(Cape Town crisis), (Chennai water crisis)
These glare at us like apocalyptic visions of sci-fi movies. They’re true, nonetheless. From wiping out forests to choking the planet with plastic, we have been quite reckless in treating the only home we know. And now, we are perhaps hurtling towards a reckoning. Slowly, though, consciousness is dawning. There is a nascent fear of a looming crisis, but so is the realization that the time for action is now.
It is time for all of us to become crusaders to save planet Earth, along with raising awareness about conservation and environmental protection. More importantly, the baton should be passed on to our children as the future, the very survival, of our world rests on them. Thinking green should be an intrinsic part of their upbringing – as intrinsic as the values, life skills, and social norms we teach them.
The task isn’t that daunting, really. No one expects us or our children to clean a polluted ocean or go on an afforestation drive right away. The aim is to build strong characters who will care for the planet, stop others from causing harm to the environment, and guide everyone on how to be eco-conscious.
Plant the thought
The first step towards raising eco-friendly children is to make being environmentally friendly the natural way of life. It has to start very early on through our conversations.
When a baby nibbles an apple, you could say, “So nice of the apple tree to make a delicious, healthy fruit which we can eat. If we take care of the tree, it can make more apples for everyone in the world.”
While taking a walk, mention how fortunate we are to have fresh air to breathe, while bathing be thankfulto the rivers for providing water to keep us clean and to drink. They should cherish nature for providing for them.
Much before they understand the rhetoric of global warming, pollution, extinction, they will understand the integral relationship we share with the planet and how we must be responsible for the planet’s welfare.
Our lifestyle speaks the most clearly to our children. When we make an effort to reduce, reuse, and recycle, they shall follow. Even if we falter, they shall respect that their family is striving to be eco-friendly.
Begin with small steps. It’s necessary for children to understand that it’s every individual attempt, however small, that makes a collective difference.
- Conserve water: Use only the absolutely necessary amount of water while brushing, bathing, or washing. We know its fun for kids to play with water during bath time. Tell them that during the weekend they may do so for a while if they conserve water for the rest of the week. Use the waste water from RO/UV purifiers for plants or cleaning.
- Save energy: Turn off lights, fans, and gadgets when not in use. Run the washing machine only when there is a full load. As far as possible, use public transport. Go to school in the school transport rather than one kid in one car. Same goes for all office-goers.
- Buy less, waste less: Whether it is food, or toys, or clothes, buy less. We have cultivated a habit of acquiring things far more than what we need. Ifwe curb our instinct to consume, there will be less pressure on resources. Also, at the end of the week, we shall throw away less rotting vegetable (happens to me too!), we shall not have a pile of t-shirts waiting to be worn but probably never will be, we shall have spared a few trees as we won’t have five notebooks, each with a few pages scribbled on.
- Say no to plastic: Carry your bags on shopping trips and even if the vegetable vendor insists on giving you a plastic bag, refuse. Let your child see and hear this. Make it a habit. Carry your water. Plastic bottles are a bane.
- Recycle and reuse: From newspapers to bedsheets, utensils to toys, make it a practice to reuse and recycle. Take your children to donation centers which collect items for reuse and recycling. Do fun DIY projects with old clothes, boxes, and other available household items. Reuse wrapping paper (no shame in that) or decorate newspapers to wrap gifts in. There are innumerable ideas that can be implemented at home to ensure minimal wastage.
- Gardening: Raise a green-thumbed kid. The joy of planting a seed, nurturing the sapling, and watching a plant grow is immeasurable. Entrusted with the care and protection of another living being, whether a few potted plants or a lush garden, they will feel a growing entente with nature.
In each of these steps, involve your child. They will feel a pride in being responsible young citizens.
Watch, read, and learn
There are hosts of books and shows dealing with the theme of saving and reviving the environment that you can introduce your kids to.
The Michael Recycle series is an entertaining way of introducing children to environmental concerns. “The Magic Schoolbus and Climate Change”, “A Planet Full of Plastic”, “Our Little Inventor” are but a few among the treasure trove waiting for kids.
Documentaries like “More than Honey”, “A Beautiful Planet”, or National Geographic’s “A Way Forward: Facing Climate Change” and “Time to Choose” can nurture a more empathetic worldview. Also worth exploring are resources such as http://www.ecofriendlykids.co.uk.
Greta Thunberg warned the global leaders, -
“I don't want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house was on fire—because it is".
There is a climate emergency, a mammoth environmental peril facing us and future generations.
And the best gift we can give our children would be to acquaint them with green living and equip them to handle and avert crisis, with clarity as well as compassion.
- Shatarupa Chaudhuri
Shatarupa Chaudhuri is a book lover, an amateur artist who loves to dabble with paints, a lazy writer, rain lover, and a self confessed chocoholic. When she isn't working her day job as Senior Editor at DK, her world revolves around her son Tubby.