Sustainability for Kids: How to Raise Them with the Environment in Mind

sustainability for kids

If you’re reading this blog post, you probably think about the environment and sustainability fairly regularly.

But although you’re aware of the environment and your impact on it, how do you teach sustainability for kids? How do you get them to care about what’s going on around them, and to be a positive force for change in the world?

sustainability for kids

How do you explain sustainability to kids?

The first step is getting your kids to understand what sustainability means. And of course, how you explain it depends on how old your children are.

At a basic level, something is sustainable if you can use it and it’s easy to replace. Let’s say you pick a dandelion. Another one will grow back pretty quickly, so that’s sustainable. But if you cut a tree down, it grows back slowly, so it’s not quite as sustainable. And if you take this rock out of the ground and throw it away, you’re not going to get another rock in that place. So that’s not sustainable.

We want children to understand that we want to have enough of the things that we need, forever. That’s stuff like good food, clean water, green environments and clean air to breathe.

Sustainability for kids: The basics

There are lots of tips for teaching your kids how to care for the environment. Simple things can have a big impact.

Refuse. Reduce. Reuse. Repurpose. Recycle.

  • Start early by saying no to things like disposable straws, or single use water bottles.
  • Seek out good quality toys that have multiple ways to play with them, rather than poor quality plastic ones that soon lose their charm.
  • Give your kids gifts of experiences, instead of toys or stuff.
  • Don’t use plastic and disposables if you can help it. Start early by packing snacks and lunches at home, in reusable containers.
  • Get kids involved in separating out the garbage for recycling.
  • Use recycled objects to create fun games.
  • Repurpose stuff that’s no longer useful and turn it into something else. One of my kids’ favourites was using old clothes to make wheat bags for winter bed warmers!
  • Talk to kids about how things like balloons might be fun for a short time, but they’re really bad for the environment and animals for a long time.
  • Teach them to switch off the lights when they leave the room.
  • When they’re brushing their teeth, teach them to turn the water off when they’re not using it.
  • Walk, bike or take public transport whenever you can. It’s better for your health and the environment!
  • Pick up the rubbish you see when you’re out on your walks. You can make it a fun game when the kids are young, and by the time they’re older it’s a habit.

As always when it comes to raising children, and it’s no different when teaching kids about sustainability: they do what you do, not what you say. Model the behaviour you want them to adopt, and start as young as you can.

Open the discussion with your kids about sustainability

Talk to your kids about what they can do to help the environment. Encourage them to come up with ideas of their own. They’ll probably come up with some harebrained schemes (at least at first), but take them seriously and implement what you can.

You can read them books like Charlie and Lola: We Are Extremely Very Good Recyclers or I Want to Go Green! But What Does That Mean? to get them started.

Tell them about the consequences of pollution and runaway consumption. For example, if you live near the ocean and see a plastic bag by the side of the road, you can explain how that plastic bag might end up in the water and hurt wildlife.

Create an emotional connection with nature

When it comes to learning how to bring up your kids to care for the environment, the best thing you can do is teach them how to care about nature on an emotional level.

When children are raised seeing the beauty and wonder of nature they’re more likely to want to protect it. An afternoon spent catching and releasing tadpoles down at the creek is worth more than any number of lectures in some stuffy classroom somewhere.

The research backs up this approach, too. Take your kids out in nature whenever you can. Go camping with them. Even if you live in the city you can always find some nature. Take them to the park and point out how the trees are all different and how pretty the flowers are.

Create a garden

If you have the time and space, a garden is a great idea. You can build ‘frog houses’ together, and set up a section that will attract the natural wildlife in your area, such as butterflies. You can use your fruit and veggie food waste to create a compost heap.

If it’s the sort of thing you’d like to do, backyard chickens can show your kids how we’re interdependent with nature. They give us food and we take care of them. They’ll see how chickens have their own personalities, and don’t start out as pieces of meat, wrapped in plastic on a grocery shelf.

Teaching ideas about sustainability for kids doesn’t have to be difficult. But it does mean that have to model the behaviour you want to see, and start raising issues on the environment and sustainability with the kids when they’re young.

When it comes to sustainability for kids, what other ideas can you think of? Leave your comments below.

Main image credit: Deposit Photos

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52 Great Ideas for Green Living



The New Year is a time when many of us make resolutions. If one of your aims this year is to go green, think of us as your enabler! We’ve got lots of great ideas for small steps to help you on your journey to green living.

  • Go green when you’re out and about
  • Green living at home
  • Make your personal routine green
  • Green your cleaning
  • Green living with your car
  • There are even ways to green your pets!

Go Green When You’re Out & About

refuse-single-use-plastic-bags1. Say no to single use plastic straws. Invest in a glass, stainless steel or bamboo straw instead.

2. Buy a reusable coffee cup and take it with you so that you can give up takeaway coffee cups.

3. Buy a reusable drink bottle and take it with you everywhere. Invest in glass or stainless steel, rather than plastic.

4. Take your lunch to work! Not only will it save you money, but you’ll be able to cut down on plastic packaging by using a lunchbox.

5. Support green businesses! Hello Charlie is just one of many green businesses around Australia. Search them out and support them.

6. Refuse plastic bags – choose a reusable one like the Envirosax ones I’ve been using for years.

green-your-homeGreen Living at Home

7. Buy rechargeable batteries. Find out how to recycle batteries here through your local council.

8. Opt for paperless bills and pay your bills online. This saves on transport and on paper.

9. Recycle as much as you can. You can recycle things likes reading glasses, shoes and bras, and even pens, kids snack pouches and beauty products.

10. Use cloth napkins instead of paper napkins at dinner.

11. Buy a pile of handkerchiefs instead of using tissues. Use, then throw straight into the washing machine.

12. Introduce your family to meatless Mondays. The meat industry generates lots of man made greenhouse gas emissions, plus it’s good for your health to cut down on your meat intake.

13. Use a delivery service for your groceries. It’s like carpooling for shopping! We love Aussie Farmers Direct.

14. Get some plants into your house to clear the air instead of using air fresheners.

15. Open a window instead of using air fresheners.

16. Go with second hand books, library books, or ebooks instead of new books.

17. Grow your own herbs and salad leaves.

18. Get a Sodastream and cut down on bottles if you’re into fizzy drinks. Plus, you can make your own cordials, which is healthier than bought ones.

19. For parties, don’t use throwaway plastic or paper plates. Ask friends to bring their own plates, or use your old ones. Use plastic cups and write kids’ names on them so that they’re not using lots of throwaway cups.

20. Get to know your local council’s options for recycling and green waste.

21. Switch to biodegradable coffee pods for your Nespresso.

22. Switch to looseleaf tea instead of teabags. Surprisingly, most tea bags aren’t compostable because they contain plastics.

23. Cancel your paper news subscription and take up an online subscription instead.

24. Support sustainable power sources through by buying green power through someone like Powershop.

who-gives-a-crap-toilet-paperGreen Your Personal Routine

25. Switch to sustainable toilet paper. We love Who Gives A Crap, with bamboo and recycled paper options. And they donate 50% of their profits to building toilets for those in need. (They also do paper towels and tissues!)

26. Skip the antibacterial soaps and go with pure soaps instead.

27. Air dry your hair instead of using a blow dryer.

28. Wait an extra day before washing your hair. You’ll use less water, less product, and less energy (required to heat the water). You can use some dry shampoo to get you through an extra day. Just make sure it’s a natural one.

29. Go with biodegradable bandaids instead of plastic ones.

30. Skip the microbeads and use an exfoliating glove or natural exfoliants instead. Find Link.

31. Ditch skincare products made with petrochemicals. The production of petrochemicals is bad for the environment.

32. Switch to organic feminine products, rather than chlorine bleached ones.

green-your-cleaningGreen Your Cleaning

33. Buy a couple of clothes horses and find a spot in your house where you can dry laundry rather then using the tumble dryer.

34. Do a cold wash and save the energy bills required to heat the water. Today’s laundry detergents are designed to work well in hot or cold water.

35. Go completely natural with your laundry and switch to soapberries.

36. If you’re not keen on soapberries, at least switch to a green laundry powder without optical brighteners. You’ll be making a difference to the water quality in your local environment.

37. Make the change to green cleaners. They’re affordable, they work, and they’re readily available. Plus, the chemicals they use are much better for your family’s health.

38. Skip the antibacterial disposable wipes for the kitchen. You can avoid triclosan. You can also avoid single use products if you use a cloth and a spray gun.

39. Switch to cleaning cloths that cut down on chemicals. I’ve used Enjo for years, but there’s plenty of microfibre cloths available now.

40. Choose a green cleaning service! If you have a cleaner that comes to your house, ask them to use green cleaning products. I use Earth Friendly Cleaning in Melbourne, and there are similar services around Australia.

green-your-carGreen Living with Your Car

41. Empty the junk out of your car to increase fuel efficiency. If your car isn’t carrying so much weight, it doesn’t use as much fuel. Which means you save money, too!

42. Remove the roof racks from your car. The drag means that your car uses more fuel.

43. Take your car to a car wash that uses recycled water.

44. Keep your tyres properly inflated, and increase fuel economy.  It will also extend the life of your tyres.

45. Choose one journey a week that you’d normally drive, and walk or ride it instead. Even if it’s only a short journey, that’s 52 less car journeys a year!

green-your-petsGreen Living Ideas for Your Pets

46. Recycle pets! Adopt your pet from a shelter rather than a puppy farm or a kitten farm.

47. Be a responsible pet owner and get your pet neutered or spayed. Don’t be responsible for kittens or puppies in already overcrowded pet shelters.

48. Keep your cat inside as much as possible to protect local wildlife.

49. Pick up your dog’s poo with a biodegradable doggie bag. We like the ones from Wotnot. Then you can put it in the green bin.

50. Use recycled newspaper cat litter like the Breeder’s Choice one. It’s better for the environment and for your cat’s health. Plus, it’s awesome at blocking smells! It’s fully biodegradable, so you can dispose of it in your green bin.

51. Make your own pet toys and treats at home.

52. Donate your old towels, blankets and other manchester to pet shelters to help out animals in needs. Pet accessories like bowls, carriers and toys are useful, too.

Images: Depositphotos

What are your green resolutions for the New Year? Let us know below and we’ll add them to the list!