Are your kids eco-warriors? Instilling knowledge of climate change and sustainable living early on goes a long way. Here are some tips to teach your kids to lower their carbon footprint.
With climate change causing visible havoc, we’re all striving to make more conscious decisions be it shopping at zero-waste stores, wearing durable sustainable wear or hosting eco-friendly parties. The aim is to preserve and improve the environment for future generations. And speaking of the next generation, it’s important to teach kids early on how to lower their carbon footprint. It could be small actions like switching off the light when you leave a room, to slowly building a habit to go for the greener choice. And kids learn best through action so Papas and Mamas, get in on the act, we’re teaching kids how to lower their carbon footprint!
First, Explain The Technical Terms
No one likes a lecture, so we know that being sat down for a chat about climate change and sustainability probably won’t work. It’s important for kids to take small, easy to understand steps in understanding the whole picture. Depending on the grade your child is in, some schools may have already introduced technical terms in everyday activities but here’s a tip on how to start and progress:
- Start by introducing simple terms like habitat (and the different kinds like rainforest, polar and the ocean), weather and ecosystem.
- Next, explain what are greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane and other gases) and why they’re harmful to us (air pollution) and how they affect the atmosphere and cause global warming. You can also give examples on actions that release greenhouse gases. Examples include the burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity.
- Then comes the key part; explain climate change, carbon footprints and what living a sustainable lifestyle means (you can also give examples of actions).
Sassy Mama Tip: To explain the terms, you can prepare flashcards, draw a map connecting the dots or even go old-school with a powerpoint to keep things interactive!
When we explain technical terms starting from the basics, it’ll be easier for children to grasp and understand how they’re connected and you don’t have to teach them all in one seating. Remember, we don’t want it to sound like it’s all doom and gloom – keep positive energy (even if we’re pretty worried about Mother Nature)!
Calculate Your Carbon Footprint Together And Explain How It’s Related To Climate Change
Time for a family brainstorming sesh! List out your daily activities – how long are the lights on, what mode of transport do you use, what type of food do you consume and so on. You can do an online carbon footprint calculator together, this gives you a rough estimate of how eco-friendly your current lifestyle is. This also helps kids understand that our own actions – big and small – directly affect nature.
Start Implementing Daily Activities That Lower Your Carbon Footprint And The Kids’
There are a number of changes you can make to your daily lives to lower your family’s carbon footprint, from using tap water wisely to limiting your usage of single-use plastic and shifting to more conscious clothing and toys. Here are a few to get you on the go:
Reduce Energy Waste
This goes without saying, but sometimes we’re just as guilty of having Netflix or Disney+ run as background noise! But whenever you notice an unattended TV or an empty room with the lights on, remind the children to switch it off. And encourage kids to use energy-saving appliances like a fan instead of an air-conditioner (especially when Hong Kong’s heat hasn’t reached its scorching stage yet).
Replace Single-Use Plastic With Reusable
When your kids go out to play, have them carry a reusable water bottle instead of using disposable ones. The same goes for birthday parties, go for eco-friendly alternatives than plastic decorations and utensils. Buy your groceries in bulk and pack snacks in a box rather than buying individually wrapped snacks, and, if you do go grocery shopping, remember to bring along your own bag! And all the while, let kids know how devastating plastic pollution is and how long plastic takes to decompose. This lets them know why we’re saying no to single-use plastic.
Take More Public Transport
A ferry ride, tram hopping, a quick MTR getaway…Hong Kong has an efficient transport system to get just about anywhere in the city! Plus, a lot of us are natural walkers who don’t mind going the distance on foot, and it’s good exercise for kids too (well, until they run off to catch a butterfly).
DIY Home Supplies
Have the kids make their own lip balms, body creams, dishwashing detergent and more. Most ingredients are natural and safe to use amongst children (but do double-check and keep an eye on the kids), just prepare some gloves or give a hand in squeezing lemons or crushing coffee grounds. DIY home supplies are also safer for your skin and the planet!
Grow Your Own Veggies
This will sound like a luxury to most living in tiny apartments in Hong Kong, you don’t necessarily have to grow ALL your organic food, it can be something small like kale, cherry tomatoes or chilli or herbs like mint, basil, or rosemary. Simply head to a plant nursery and find a pot that fits. The idea is to have your own mini-farm – as tiny as it may be, it does heaps when it comes to reducing waste from plastic packaging. And it’s a great way to have kids learn about responsibility (okay, we’re just bad with watering plants and we’ll hope our kids are better!).
Switch Over To A Plant-Based Diet Whenever Possible
Unless of course, you’re a vegetarian or vegan already! Food production accounts for a third of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, and meat accounts for nearly 60% of all greenhouse gases from food production. On top of that, over-fishing causes destruction to marine life. This is an important fact to keep in mind and what we can aim to do is try having one meal a day that’s plant-based (either dinner or lunch) to cut down the demand for meat. This also gives us room to experiment with vegetarian recipes (there are loads of ideas, we promise!).
Be Mindful About The Clothes And Toys You Buy
Did you know that one pair of jeans take 7,500 litres of water to make? Let’s not get started on the rest. Opting for sustainable clothes or second-hand wear is a much greener alternative. We also love circular fashion brands that give old clothes new life, extending their usage and durability. Same goes for toys – we can often find secondhand options. And remember to consume what you need, not what you want. Kids easily outgrow their clothes and may get bored of their toys, this is where a circular system can make a huge difference.
Go For Beach And Hike Clean-Ups
Get hands-on and sign up for beach clean-ups with the kids. You’ll be surprised to find just how much rubbish ends up in the local environment. From bits from nets to styrofoam and lots of plastic bottles, the waste products break down into smaller bits and get consumed by birds and sea animals which is life-threatening for them. Grab the hat, sunglasses and sunscreen, get cleaning and then go for a dip!
Sassy Mama Tip: You can introduce a new eco-friendly activity every now and then – habits take time to form and we don’t want to force our kids or overwhelm them. You can also try a “Low Carbon Day” on certain days of the week and make it a little family challenge to see who’s the winner!
Add In Fun Additional Material Like Documentaries And Books
Adding visuals always helps when learning new information, plus these documentaries and books ensure adorable clips and photos of animals! Here are some of our recommendations to add to your list:
Documentaries To Teach Kids To Lower Their Carbon Footprint:
- A Plastic Ocean – About the dire consequences of plastic pollution, watch trailer here.
- David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet – Explores different ecosystems and how we can protect them, watch trailer here (airs on Netflix).
- Puff: Wonders of the Reef – Highlights how to protect coral reefs, watch trailer here (airs on Netflix).
Books To Teach Kids To Lower Their Carbon Footprint:
- Not Your Typical Book about the Environment – A light-hearted book to ease eco-anxiety.
- The Problem of the Hot World – Takes perspective from forest animals to show the effects of climate change.
- It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going! – Tackles some of the biggest challenges facing our world today and shows charts and illustrations for better understanding.
Give Yourself And Your Child A Pat On The Back!
Even though we may be seeing the term “sustainable” now more than ever, it’s no easy feat switching to an eco-friendly lifestyle, especially if you’ve spent a long time in a city like Hong Kong where food takeaways, fast fashion and laser light shows are still prevalent. But we’re getting there, one plastic straw and reusable cup at a time! And it’s oh so rewarding to instil a positive attitude in our kids and to let them know about climate change and lowering their carbon footprint.