It’s time all of us helped Mother Earth. Ciska Thurman has some tips on how you and your kids can go green
Today we know more than ever about the impact we’re having on our planet – the way we live has already caused damage beyond repair. Luckily, efforts to limit further loss are finally starting to become mainstream, regulated by law in many parts of the world, but also taught from an early age to most school-going children. So what steps are you taking at home to spread this eco-message? Mom and earth-friendly entrepreneur Andrea van Meygaarden outlines three practical paths you can take.
One of the most important things you can do as a parent is to foster environmental consciousness. ‘Get your kids outdoors!’ Andrea urges us all. ‘Respect and appreciation for nature are not built in; we need to actively cultivate these qualities in our kids. Get your baby, toddler or teenager into the garden or park as often as possible.
‘Even better,’ she says, ‘take them to the mountains, a river or forest –any wild space’. As the prominent environmental educator David Sobel eloquently said, ‘One transcendent experience in nature is worth a thousand nature facts.’
Research has shown that kids immersed in nature from an early age are likely to develop a deep love for the environment and, in turn, work to preserve our planet. They’re also likely to do better in school (nature is a classroom every second you’re in it) and to show better moral development and concern for community well-being. Keep it age-appropriate. Let your baby play with soil, sit bare-legged on the grass and listen for birdies. Do some digging or watering with your toddler. Encourage your preschooler to plant and care for their own pot plant – seeing it grow will open a whole new world to them. Offer to host your teenager and a few friends on a hike, camping trip or even just a night of phone-free stargazing in the back garden.
Being earth-friendly needs co-operation and involvement from everyone in the household. Start to nurture some good habits in your home from day one.
Use earth-friendly products Start with reusable cloth nappies and organic baby toiletries, and then proceed to green cleaning products.
Why? Disposable nappies contribute massively to landfills, as they do not decompose, and pollute groundwater with human waste. The chemicals in many cosmetic and pharmaceutical products have been linked to various health issues.
Have less stuff Approach all the things you have and hoard with care, rather than simply accumulating and tossing recklessly. Teach your children to value what they have and can create, versus what they can buy.
How? Try to reduce, reuse and recycle whenever possible.
Make the most of natural resources Teach your kids to save water, reduce electricity use and redirect waste.
How? Primary-school-goers can help sort recyclables or empty the kitchen compost bin; teens can do a light-bulb audit or replace regular batteries with rechargeable ones where possible.
‘Your child’s relationship with food will play a huge role in their perceptions of sustainability,’ says Andrea. Knowing and seeing where meals come from makes them appreciate the journey their food has taken to get to them. They will value each step – harvesting, storage, preparation – and value the end product.
If you can, establish a vegetable patch. Get your little ones involved in planting, picking and preparation. This tactile fun can often make even the fussiest food critic forget what they’re noshing on! And it’s a much healthier and cheaper alternative to the ready-made meals we have become accustomed to. But be prepared to put in the effort: this will require planning, time and patience.
The end goal
‘I want to leave a legacy for my children: a world they can actually live in happily,’ says Andrea. ‘Parenting is no longer just about instilling good values in our kids, or even ensuring a good education. Now more than ever, it is about creating a safe world for them to thrive in. And, to achieve that, we have to be that: we have to practise eco-conscious living with integrity, honesty and respect.’
Do it yourself
Get everyone involved by making your own household cleaner with vinegar and bicarbonate of soda. Not only is it biodegradable, eco-friendly and cheap, it really does clean surfaces properly. For a fresh scent, squeeze a lemon or other citrus fruit into the mixture.
Trash into cash
Don’t discard old newspapers and magazines: use the pages to wrap gifts in a unique way.
Worn-out old clothes can be upcycled into shopping bags, place mats or cleaning rags.
Instead of buying plastic bags at the supermarket, buy (or make) reusable shopping bags.
Keep a bucket in the shower to collect water and don’t pull the plug after your bath – this H20 can be used in the garden.
Instead of letting recycling pile up, go through everything and see what can be re-used (such as glass jars, plastic containers and bottles).
Start a compost heap. Food waste such as eggshells, and fruit and veggie peels can be collected in an old storage bin (drill some holes for aeration). The compost produced can be used in your veggie garden.