How I’m raising my little ones to be mini waste-free warriors

Toddler gardening

When it comes to helping the environment I’m a tad obsessed, so it’s no surprise my kids are on their way to being waste-free warriors already. In time for World Environment Day, here are some super easy ways to get your children involved in the war on waste.

Start early

You might think small children are too young to grasp the concept of recycling and other ‘green’ actions, but it’s never too early to create good habits they’ll have for life. Children are the future and it’s our responsibility as parents to make sure they’re aware of the planet and how to look after it. By encouraging their eco-side you’ll also help them to become more empathetic, thoughtful and resourceful individuals. And the good news is, it’s way easier than you think!

Lead by example with the four ‘Rs’

As they say, ‘monkey see, monkey do’ and this definitely applies when it comes to all things environmental. You might think children aren’t watching but they always are. So making sure you’re doing all YOU can on the waste front is the first and most important step for getting your children to do the right thing as well. The simple guide is to REFUSE, REDUCE, REUSE and lastly, RECYCLE. And they don’t even have to be big items or actions, because every little thing counts.

Nope no plastic bags here!

Your practice in action

Let your children see you refuse plastic bags at the supermarket, or free flyers you don’t need from the street marketer. Let them see you order the smaller tub of hot chips because it’s more than enough to go around, or turn off the dripping tap so you don’t waste water. Get them to help you refill those coffee machine pods so they can be reused, or take the kids with you to the charity shop to donate stuff you don’t need anymore. And make recycling an instinctual part of home life with everything you possibly can, whether it’s upcycling an item into something new or having a system for organising rubbish properly so that other organisations can take it away and recycle for you.

Explain and educate

If children see you doing something they’re most likely going to ask questions, okay a LOT of questions. But even if they don’t, this is your chance to explain what you’re doing and why. If children have a greater understanding of an action they’re more likely to resonate with it and feel a stronger desire to continue doing it themselves. For example: explaining that some people don’t have enough food to eat and that a lot of money, energy and time went into that apple they’re eating; they may not feel as inclined to only eat half of it before throwing it away.

Little hands love to get busy in the garden

Tips for preschoolers

There are heaps of super easy ways to get little ones involved early on. Here are just a few ideas of what you can encourage them to do (with your supervision of course):

  • Recycle – help fill up the home recycling bins (no large glass bottles!), or put your collection of soft plastics in the Coles recycle bin for you when you go
  • Compost – put their fruit peels, veggie scraps and snotty tissues in the compost bin/bucket instead of the rubbish bin
  • Rubbish – never drop any of their own rubbish plus pick up any litter they see around the streets or beach to then give to you or put in the bin (used condoms, needles and half eaten messy kebabs are off-limits!)
  • Worms – feed the worm farm with fruit and veg scraps (so they can see waste turning to black gold for themselves)
  • Water – turn off taps when brushing teeth or playing with the hose, and fill up the watering can from the rainwater tank instead of the main tap
  • Walk – don’t drive, walk to preschool, the shops, a friend’s house (wherever possible)
  • Borrow – instead of buying new books and DVDs, borrow them from the library or a friend
  • Get crafty – make fantastic creations from old containers, ribbons, etc. and use scrap paper for drawings
  • Care – look after their possessions e.g. bring in toys from outside so they don’t get ruined
  • Carry – help carry groceries home from the shops instead of using a bag (only a few light items of course)
  • Share and save – if they can’t finish a snack ask anyone else if they’d like it, or save it for later

Extra ideas for bigger kids

The older children get, the more you’ll be able to leave them to their own devices when it comes to being green but unless they’re about eight they’ll still need (and want!) your input. Here are a few extra things that bigger kids can do to help reduce waste:

  • Switch off – lights, fans, heaters, TVs, etc. when they leave a room, or electronic toys and devices if they’re not using them anymore
  • Use less – take shorter showers, don’t overfill the bath, don’t wear a thousand outfits in one day
  • Learn to demand less (this one can be a bit tricky!) – don’t expect a trillion presents at gift times (or any old time), all of the latest fads or more snacks than they need
  • Grow – save seeds from fruit and veggie scraps and replant in the garden to create delicious homegrown food
  • Fix – help repair broken toys, shoes, books, etc.
  • Be a helper – help younger siblings with their eco habits, such as picking up rubbish

Are you raising a mini waste-free warrior? What things do you do at home?

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