By Gary Thomas
Though many people have a desire to recycle and practise sustainable
living, many find it hard to make a change to the habits of a lifetime,
believing that the change will be difficult and time-consuming. A major
reason for this is that the majority of people have not been brought up
thinking about sustainable practises and so the change in lifestyle
seems arduous. However, if a child is taught about recycling,
sustainable food, and green transportation at an early age, then all
these practises will be second nature to them as an adult, with
sustainability seeming less of a chore.
Considering that the global population of the planet is set to rise
to around 9.1 billion by the year 2050, a child today will have to have
sustainable practises ingrained from an early age for the planet to be
able to cope. Sustainable practises are simple to understand,
infinitely interesting and, when approached correctly, a lot of fun. It
is never too soon to start understanding the world and our place within
It’s easy for kids to get into recycling, a
skill that will stay with them for life. Image Credit: http://frederickcountymd.gov/index.aspx?NID=4797
The golden rule when trying to engage a child in any activity is
make it fun.
Kids love nothing more than getting creative (and messy) and
producing great works of art for their rooms or the fridge. Instead of
using brand new art supplies, recycled printer paper or old cereal
boxes will work just as well for their latest masterpiece. In fact,
even empty toilet rolls or washing up liquid bottles can provide hours
of artistic entertainment and save waste and money. Great ideas can be
found at http://kinderart.com/recycle/,
where contributors show how easy it is to make anything from drums to
penholders from junk that would usually go straight to a landfill.
It may come as a surprise to jaded modern parents, but children
today can still be prized away from screens and consoles given the
right incentive. Having a day free of electronic gadgets once a week
will save energy, money and may lead to a kid developing a passion for
something they had never considered before. Even a heated game of Snap
or Monopoly can be just as much fun as completing a video game for the 6th
Another sure-fire way of getting a child’s attention is letting them
be the grown-up in a situation. When preparing waste for recycling, let
your child make a valid contribution by stomping on cardboard boxes,
milk cartons and drinks cans to flatten them for recycling. Not only
are they playing their part in the recycling process, but it allows
them to smash something without being shouted at!
Another novel way to get kids thinking about energy efficiency is to
make them the referee of the light switch. Any time you leave a room
without switching the light off, it is the little ref’s job to remind
you to do a double-take. They can even issue cards to repeat offenders!
Not only does this teach the child the importance of saving energy, it
will also keep your eco-credentials in check.
Many good children’s books have been published over the years with
sustainable morals, and just a few pages at bedtime will help the green
message sink in. Top of the bedtime book list is The Lorax by
Dr Seuss, the story of a creature (The Lorax) that speaks for the trees
against the ‘Once-lers’, who are destroying the planets forests. First
published in 1972, The Lorax has now been made into a blockbuster film,
so if you can’t convince your youngster to read the book, the movie
will do just as well.
Furthermore, some of the books are packed with fun activities and
games to help fill those long summer holidays. Examples are listed
- 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Recycle. Earthworks Press
- The Great Trash Bash. Loreen Leedy
- Bob The Builder: Bob's Recycling Day. Annie Auerbach
- Ecology Crafts for Kids: 50 Great Ways to Make Friends with
Planet Earth (Science crafts for kids). Bobbe Needham
There are countless sites available online that have games, videos
and tutorials specifically designed to help kids learn about recycling
Here are a few of the best to get started:
Geographic Kids' Recycle Roundup: In this endearing game from
National Geographic, kids get to play as Gus, the superhero Gorilla on
a mission to save the world from poorly sorted waste. Though it has a
fun exterior, this game has a serious message and will help children
distinguish which waste is recyclable, non-recyclable and compostable.
Another great game in the same vein is Creek
Cleanup, which has been extensively tested by the AZoCleantech
editorial team! The National Geographic site also has plenty of serious
recycling information and tips aimed at children and adults alike.
- Recycle City:
The Environmental Protection Agency has created a large-scale cartoon
town which kids are free to explore. Possibly containing a little too
much information for younger children, the site nevertheless gives a
great insight into how communities can work together to protect the
environment. Once kids have finished exploring the town, they can play
game, in which the child becomes the New City Manager of Dumptown.
- Kids Be Green: On this
fun and informative site, youngsters can learn about the 3 R’s of
sustainability- Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Another great game is
available, as are informative and interesting factsheets as well as a
plethora of other resources to keep kids happy.