Raising children to be mindful creatures who are responsible for the Earth and their environment is easier said than done. Our current culture would have us giving our kids everything that their hearts desire, buying all the latest and greatest gadgets and new toys that come out seemingly daily. The trouble with the “give them everything” model is that we aren’t teaching our families to reuse, recycle, reduce and, most importantly, appreciate what we have. If we start them early, I’m sure that we can create a culture of care, concern and thoughtfulness of what we’re using and how we’re using it. Here’s how you can get started.
Healthy Habits Start at Home
Our kids pick up some of their best and worst habits at home. We can ensure that they’re learning the basics by teaching them even when they’re very young. Make separating recyclables a part of their chore chart and consider it a family activity. Always bring reusable shopping totes to the supermarket with you. Make sure everyone knows it’s wasteful to leave the faucet running when brushing your teeth. Buy every family member their own reusable water bottle to save on disposable plastics.
It’s not enough to just do these things, though. Be sure to explain to your kids why all these things are important. Teaching these little lessons about being thoughtful will help mold your kids daily with little effort.
Being a thrifter is a great way to save money, but it’s also a fantastic way to help our environment. Buying clothes, toys and home decor at secondhand stores, consignment shops, flea markets and even online thrift stores is one of the best ways to show your kids the beauty of reusing items.
Make your kids an active part of secondhand shopping, either visit a store or do it online. Whether you’re pregnant and looking for maternity clothes or your child simply needs a new winter coat, you can explain to your kids why you’re not buying items from a traditional store-you’ll only need those elastic-waist pants for a few months, or your child will quickly grow out of a brand-new coat. This is a tangible way to explain to them that buying secondhand helps save money, give items new life and keep them from ending up in a landfill.
If you shop this way from the get-go, you can create a very positive attitude towards buying used items. On the flip side of this, when the kids have outgrown clothes and toys, donate what you don’t need to local thrift stores or sell them to consignment shops. Create a habit by making this a regular part of your spring cleaning or holiday gifting routine.
Find Ways to Make the Old New Again
Rather than contributing to a society that throws far too much away, look for ways to make a positive impact at home. Try composting, reusing your takeout containers for storing leftovers and mending holes and rips in your clothing instead of putting them in the trash. Having fun is a part of this equation, too. You could just recycle your egg cartons, but consider starting your spring seedlings in them instead. The possibilities are endless when it comes to creatively reusing almost anything. If you’re putting thought into how you might be able to reuse something, rather than just throwing it away automatically, you’re being mindful-which is what we want to instil in our families.
Make New Purchases a Special Experience
It’s inevitable that you’ll have to buy some things brand new. Rather than just making the purchase without saying anything to your kids, try to put an emphasis on why you’re fortunate to be able to buy that brand-new bike or a sassy pair of shoes. Regardless of how big or little the purchase may be, taking the time to explain to your kids the importance of appreciating what we have will go a long way. If there’s a new toy that your child absolutely must have, let them earn it by doing chores, getting good grades or waiting for a special occasion like a birthday or gift-giving holiday.
By creating positive habits as early as possible, you can teach your children a great sense of responsibility to make environmentally conscious decisions both in the home and out in the world. Before you know it, your family will be a thoughtful group of good humans, making a positive impact in their little worlds. And as parents, that’s something that we can be proud of.
Amanda Light has a passion for finding new ways to be mindful about our planet and to instil positive values and lessons in our kids. She writes for the thredUP.com, an online thrift store, about being a sustainable fashionista. Though shopping for new clothes is fun, Amanda believes that buying used or updating old kids and maternity clothes can be just as great-and way better for the environment.