How on earth? 3 simple ways to grow a greener family

Kinderling News & Features

Josie Jones and Miriam Raphael are founders of Kin & Kind, workshops and events that inspire authentic conversations and connections between parents.

Reducing our impact on the environment can feel like a challenge, especially when kids, work and life gets in the way. But we can’t stand by and raise a generation of children leaving a heavy carbon footprint on the world. We have tremendous power to influence our children’s respect and care for their environment, but how do we do it in a way that sticks?

So glad you asked! We recently brought together three amazing women to share their insights on Growing a Green(er) Family; Midwife and mother Laura Cunningham, founder of Cornersmith cafes Alex Elliot-Howery and City of Sydney’s Deputy Lord Mayor Councillor Jess Miller. We’ve collected their ideas and pulled together three simple ways to get your family engaged with a greener future.

Get angry!

Think about your community – where you work and play - and consider the changes (small or big) you’d like to affect. Get your kids involved and have a chat about the impact they could have on their local area. Maybe it’s engaging with their school and starting a green group, organising a beach clean-up with friends, or opening a street library. With a bit of parental help, a six-year-old we know began her own campaign, bugging the local Council to improve the bike path near her house so she could scooter to school. Jess Miller has some words of advice, “Here’s a secret. Politicians are terrified of mothers! People forget how politically potent we are. Advocating for change with your local politician or business is a great way to start.”

Kids need to be reminded that even though they are small, they are mighty. The voice of children can make a difference, especially when they work together for a common goal. As a parent you can facilitate their interests, guide their actions and open doors to finding resources and relevant people to contact about their chosen issue.

Some other ideas for community engagement:

  • Less plastic at kids’ birthday parties
  • Encouraging group presents to avoid present fatigue and instead consider experiences, books or saving for bigger items, like a new bike
  • Advocate for better cycle-ways in your local but busier streets
  • A walking bus (with a couple parents walking with a bunch of kids) to school
  • More recycling bins in your local park
  • Ask your local café to be a Responsible Café and give discounts for bringing your own cup

So, start the conversation with your kids about what matters to them. They might surprise you with their candour and appetite for change. Of course, they may still just tell a fart joke.

Make it count!  

We teach our kids to brush their teeth and wash their hands. We encourage respect and healthy relationships. So, the green habits they start today, will be the planet-saving skills they enlist tomorrow. Where to start? Try a simple month-long challenge. A month gives you enough time to get started, get through any teething issues and start forming a habit. Follow it up with an appropriate reward for the whole family getting behind it (think zoo trip rather than the toy shop!)

Here’s a couple of month-long challenges you could try…

  • Go plastic free
  • Choose one week a month to ‘buy nothing’ and use up what you have in your fridge and cupboards
  • Shop local (that means no trips to the chain supermarkets or department stores)
  • Buying and eating seasonal fruits and vegetables only

Whatever your program of events, start small and get the kids involved. Do what you can manage. If you can’t let go of all plastics, give up Gladwrap for the month or challenge yourself or the kids to pack zero-waste lunches. According to Alex Elliot-Howery, cutting down kitchen waste is as easy as remembering to look in your fridge each morning and take stock of what’s in there. “It will save so much over-buying, which then ends up in the bin,” she promises.

Listen to Alex on Kinderling Conversation:

Make it fun!

As a parent on a greener family mission, you’ve got some stiff competition. When you’re up against a day out at a theme park or the delights of Hatchimals, you’ve got to go big on the fun aspect to engage the kids. You’ll get nothing more than an eye-roll if you try to make changes, or educate, in a virtuous and unapproachable way.

Take the family along for the ride… here’s a couple of ideas.

Grow something. Whether you have room for a little veggie garden, some balcony pots or even herbs or sprouts on a sunny window sill, it’s a great way for kids to learn about growing food and understanding in-season fruits and vegetables. Get your hands dirty at your local community garden – you don’t need a plot, just look out for their next working bee.

Experiment. Spark a child’s curiosity about the environment by answering questions with an experiment. Show them how food is digested, how rain is caused, and how paper is made. Want to understand waste? It’s gross (kids love gross, remember) but grab some gloves and go forensic on your bins to help them understand how much waste your family is creating, and where it's all coming from.

Green activities. Local councils run regular events (quite often free) with an environmental focus, that will interest both you and the kids. Whether it’s learning about bees (honey tasting!), bike-riding workshops, or a garage sale trail (new toys!), put a kid-friendly spin on it and make a fun day out.

Go bush (even in the city). Laura Cunningham reckons one of the best ways to help kids develop a connection to the environment is to expose them to all nature has to offer. She swears by urban bushwalking with her little one, with a kid-friendly bird spotting guide in hand. 

We’d love to hear what works for other families… give us some of your best ideas for rallying the troops and getting the kids involved in reducing our impact on the environment.