One of the most important things a parent can do is instill in their children a sense of responsibility. A child with a firm grasp of this trait is more likely to grow up with a strong conception of her obligations to others and to herself. As a parent, I strive every day to help my kids understand this important value.
Sustainability is an increasingly crucial subset of responsibility. Being sustainable means understanding and demonstrating your commitment to the environment and to the world around you. It means reducing your carbon footprint, abstaining from conspicuous consumption, and working to promote cultural awareness.
So I want my children to be both responsible and sustainable. Specifically, here’s how I plan to teach them that second value:
At a young age:
Instill a love for nature. Take your kids to the park, to the forest preserve, and for walks in the woods whenever you get the chance. Encourage them to get pets or to play with the guinea pigs at school. In short, give them every opportunity to gain a love for nature.
Read them green-friendly children’s books. There are a wide variety of kids’ books, both old and new, that teach strong lessons regarding environmentalism and sustainability. These books make for excellent bedtime stories.
As they grow older:
Have them recycle. While making your home a greener place is probably primarily the responsibility of you and your spouse, children are very capable of spearheading an effort to “Recycle, Reduce and Reuse.” Let your kids be in charge of sorting and determining the recyclables. Hopefully, it will quickly become second nature to them.
Compost in the yard. Buying a compost kit and teaching your children to dispose of produce in an organic manner is a great way to help them interact with nature in a sustainable way. It can also be a fun project for a child to pursue.
As young adults:
Make their credit card green. Many parents are understandably worried when they open a bank account for their child, considering the debit card fees their child may assume or the credit they may amass, even on no annual fee credit cards. But you may find that a credit card makes your child more responsible, especially if credit card cash rewards are involved. On that note, enrolling your son or daughter in a rewards program that donates to green causes may help make them more sustainable as well.
Encourage alternative transit options. When teenagers turn 16 and get their driver’s license, all they want to do is get behind the wheel and drive everywhere that they go. At this age it is important to encourage them to use public transit, bike or walk whenever it is feasible. Getting a driver’s license is a privilege, and it comes with the responsibility of environmental sustainability.
It is my wish that someday, when my children are grown and off on their own and no longer dependent upon me, that they will always conduct themselves in an exceedingly responsible manner. And if they demonstrate a strong commitment to sustainability at the same, that would make for a welcome bonus. Their generation is going to need such a commitment.
Thank you to Becky W. for today's guest post. Becky is a freelance writer that has a passion for family, education and technology. In her spare time she loves to cook, read and travel.