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The Sustainable Generation: Teaching our Kids to be Mindful of the Environment

3 min read

Climate change is a major point of contention in politics right now. But more than that—no matter what your beliefs on the matter—it’s something our children will have to face as they grow up. The world is changing and there’s a lot of work to be done to ensure the planet we enjoy today is still here tomorrow, for our kids to enjoy (and their kids after them).

According to a recent Gallup poll, younger generations are increasingly concerned about climate change. 70% of people aged 18-34 cite climate change as a major concern and something worth worrying about. The study indicates that this number will only rise with each new generation, as the effects of climate change become more and more irreversible.

What can single parents do?

As a dad with a young daughter who’s getting old enough to care about things like this, I’m starting to be very mindful of what it means to really be an advocate for the environment. For example, we’ve always been a household that recycles. But now, I’ve actually started using glassware instead of recyclable plastic. I know it’s a small thing, but it’s an easy way to teach my daughter about how to make good environmental choices.

As a parent, I think it’s really important to show my daughter that I’m paying attention. She’s never said to me “dad, I’m worried about the environment,” but I think there’s a good chance this will become something she cares about. When she does start thinking about it, I want her to see that I’ve already tried to set a good example. My switch to glass bottles instead of recycled plastic might not benefit the environment all that much, but it might help my daughter take the next step and do something really meaningful.

Broaching the concept of global change

Climate change is both an easy thing and a hard thing to talk to kids about—or so I’ve found from my limited interaction with my daughter. It’s hard to explain the nuances of rising temperatures and how that effects global ecosystems. Instead, I’ve found a simple way to get the core point across. I’m teaching my daughter to respect the environment, in the hopes it’ll help her develop good habits that eventually make her feel like she’s doing her part to combat climate change.

Recycling is a good example here, too. I don’t just make her separate her garbage and recycling—I explain why we do it. “So the plastic doesn’t go back into the environment and hurt animals.” Is it an oversimplification? Sure, but it works. My daughter loves animals and she knows what littering is. All I’m doing is teaching her how to properly dispose of her garbage so it doesn’t become harmful to the environment.

But I also take the time to explain to her that climate change is a global concept. It’s bigger than anything else she knows. “Every person in the whole world throws away garbage. We need to make sure we’re doing it the right way, so it doesn’t end up in someone else’s backyard.” Again, simple and to-the-point.

She’s going to learn about climate change and environmental sustainability at school, watching TV and from her friends. And to be fair, these sources are going to teach her far more than I can about this important topic. As a single dad, the best thing I can do is teach her how to respect the environment, so she feels good about herself when acting against climate change becomes important to her.

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