You can help your family become eco-warriors by making environmentally-friendly choices in your home and becoming aware of how your lifestyle impacts the environment, your community, and the world.
Sustainability may be the catchphrase of the 21st century, but it’s actually old school. It was only two generations ago that clothes were worn until they were worn out; mended, patched, darned, passed down then finally torn up and used as cleaning rags. “Waste not, want not” was my Grandmother’s mantra. It was the way they lived.
These days, in our commercially-driven society, we are constantly bombarded with messages to buy! Buy! Buy! You need the latest phone, the latest toy, the latest fashions. We are using and throwing away more stuff than ever before. But the earth is a finite place. And everything we do is connected. Every living thing on this planet relies on the same basic things as we do: clean water, clean air, food and a safe home.
Many people around the world have realised that these basic needs are in jeopardy because of the way we live. We are simply using too much stuff. Sustainability is about changing the way we think and behave. The sheer enormity of saving the world might seem too big a task for the average person. But even if every family started with one small change, it can happen. Children can be empowered early on to take part in sustainability. The future world, after all, is for them.
The best place to start living sustainably is at home, and a good time to start is Earth Day.Earth day on 22 April 2012 is about taking action for the environment. People all over the world have joined in the Earth Day campaign to collect ‘A Billion Acts of Green’. You can pledge your act online at www.earthday.org/2012.
So, make an Earth’s Day resolution! Here are some ideas.
reduce! (the forgotten r)
Before you buy something think, do I really need it? Wait a few days before committing to avoid impulse buying something you might only wear once.
Replace disposable items – razors, ink cartridges, take-away coffee cups – with re-usable ones.
Borrow things you only need occasionally from friends or neighbours – perhaps get a group together to share a lawnmower.
Buy a timer for your bathroom to help cut shower times down. Have a competition in your family to see who can get clean the quickest.
Keep a bucket in the bathroom to catch water while the shower is warming up. Use it to water your plants.
Replace your toilet with a low-volume version, or flush less often (remember the saying: if its yellow, let it mellow).
Food production and distribution makes up about 10% of global energy consumption.
Buy local and what’s in season – support Farmers’ Markets in your neighbourhood. Local egg suppliers often welcome your old egg cartons back to re-use.
Purchase re-usable shopping bags to cut down on plastic bags.
Choose products that use minimal or recyclable packaging. Write to your favourite product suppliers to encourage them to use less shrink-wrap and plastics.
Choose products and services from companies that are reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There’s a list at www.carbonzero.co.nz.
in your garden
Choose native plants that grow naturally where you live. They are best suited to your local climate and soil conditions, which means they’ll need watering less often.
Install a barrel outside to collect rainwater. Use this to water your garden or wash your car.
Avoid watering your garden in the heat of the day (where the water could scorch the plants and will evaporate more quickly) – save it for cooler evenings or mornings.
Replace incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient ones.
Cut your hot-water heating power bill by two-thirds using energy-efficient systems like solar panels or wetbacks. Insulating your home efficiently can cut your heating bills nearly in half.
other useful websites:
www.environmentnetwork.org.nz – environmental tips for the home
www.environmentalchoice.org.nz – find out which household products have the official ECNZ Ecolabel
ages and stages
- Paint or draw on both sides of the paper. Use your paintings as wrapping paper for truly unique gifts.
- Set up a box to collect bits and pieces for creating art – like bottle tops, boxes and ribbons – rather than throwing them away.
- Keep taps off while brushing teeth.
- Look for the numbers on the bottom of plastic containers so you can help
sort the recycling.
5- to 8-years
- Make green choices with your school supplies – buy recycled books and corn-starch biodegradable pens.
- Turn off the light when you leave a room. Unplug your stereo or other electronics when you are not using them.
- Find someone to hand your clothes onto when you out grow them, or have a car boot sale at your school.
- Start a swap club – get together with friends to swap books, CDs or computer games that you are bored with.
- Ask your parents and friend’s parents to start a walking bus to get to school – or carpool on wet days.
9- to 12-years
- Ask for a solar charger for a present and use re-chargeable batteries in all your battery-powered toys.
- Go green surfing: make a list of websites that have ideas on how to be eco-friendly. Share the list with your friends and school teachers.
- Write a letter to your favourite celebrity and ask them to support a local environmental trust. For example, visit www.projectlitefoot.org where top sportspeople are inspiring kiwis to become environmental champions.
- Ask for a piece of the garden to grow your own vegetables and fruits. Look at a globe to see how far some food has travelled to get to your cupboard.
- Write a letter to your local council asking them to make the streets safer for cyclists and to invest more in public transport.
grow your own eco warrior
Whitney was right. Children are indeed our future, especially when it comes to looking after the planet. To keep our environment clean and safe we all need to get into good habits. So get your kids into recycling by making it fun and inspiring.
- Tell them some cool numbers about recycling
- 25 tonnes recycled by EcoCentral every hour
- 30,000 milk cartons recycled every day
- 115,000 newspapers recycled every day
- 450 customers visit the EcoShop every day
- Make a recycling game
- Draw and cut out pictures of 3 coloured bins (red, yellow and green).
- Draw and cut out different types of waste (e.g., apples, carrots, drinks cans,shampoo bottles, weeds, meat trays, etc.)
- Write on the back of each waste item the correct colour of bin that it should go intoand a number between 1 and 5.
- Each player then tries to put the waste items into the correct bin.
- They get the points on the back of the item added to their score if they get it right,but subtracted from their score if they put it in the wrong bin!
- Get them to look for recycled products and find out what they were made from.
Sarah Mankelow is a conservation awareness officer for the Department of Conservation in Christchurch, and mother of two nature-loving children.