Belatedly, the grown-ups of today realize that we’ve pushed our planet’s limits to the extreme. Excessive consumption can’t continue. Collectively, we all need to move urgently towards sustainable practices.
These might seem to be adult problems, but young environmental activists like Greta Thunberg are stepping up to answer the call. We can’t ignore the fact that even as we fight to save the planet, the next generation needs to be prepared for the same challenges.
If there’s a silver lining to this, it’s that practicing sustainability at home isn’t only going to protect the environment. It will also improve our children’s health as they grow up to be wiser and more responsible stewards of nature. Here’s how children’s health and sustainable behaviors can go hand in hand.
Sustainable sourcing, responsible manufacturing
We know that children routinely get into trouble. One moment they’re reading, the next thing you know, they are dashing around the house at full throttle. It seems as though everything in a child’s environment is a hazard.
Yet sometimes, even the most innocuous objects are a danger to our kids. A child’s toys might contain harmful substances such as lead or plasticizers. They might be comprised of small parts that could present a choking hazard. Magnets and electrical components can also be dangerous if not properly made.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission tightly regulates these hazards. But there are still times when products get recalled after hitting the market.
Purchasing sustainably sourced items helps mitigate this concern. Products made in the US or UK are subject to stricter standards than those made in China or other common manufacturing hubs where labor costs are low.
Organic components are also safe for children while resulting in lower environmental impact. So you can get bamboo children’s dinnerware for your kid’s party and not worry about adverse reactions. It also gives them a firsthand experience with an eco-friendly material that can turn into a teaching point later on.
Sustainability and a healthy diet
One of the most critical factors in a child’s early development is nutrition. From infancy and childhood and onto adolescence, a child’s mind and body are rapidly developing. Consequently, they are especially sensitive to any changes in nutrition levels.
Receiving adequate nutrition during this period will nourish their physical development and cognitive ability. On the other hand, any nutrient deficiencies will adversely affect growth rate, height, and weight. Under-nutrition has also been linked to poor academic performance and a lower interest in learning.
Healthy kids will grow up with a greater sense of confidence in both their physical and mental abilities. And since good nutrition begins at home, putting sustainably sourced food on the table is a great way to combine these two imperatives.
The EPA acknowledges that healthy eating and sustainable food sourcing are linked. It recommends that teachers introduce children to these subjects by researching locally grown foods and visiting community gardeners or talking to local farmers.
Parents can begin those lessons even earlier than that. From the outset, we can teach our kids about the food we prepare at home. Where does it come from? Why is it important to eat vegetables? We might have to look up the answers on the internet, but what matters is exposing kids to sustainable food and getting them to ask those questions.
Children and adults alike will appreciate the value of hands-on learning. It can be difficult to absorb knowledge about something when you’ve never experienced it or seen it up close.
Driving home the importance of sustainability is no different. It’s one thing to read stories about how human activity is harming the environment. Even seeing scenes in photos or watching the reports on TV is different from actually getting to experience nature and realize what we’re destroying.
Taking your kids to the zoo or a local garden, or going on an outdoor hike, isn’t just an opportunity for leisure time away from devices. It brings them up close to other living things. As they mature and learn more about our environmental challenges, those experiences make the lessons more real.
In the process, getting children to experience nature is beneficial to their health. In the age of screen time, research indicates that we need to get our kids closer to nature. It increases their physical activity and makes them more attentive and engaged while reducing anxiety and fatigue.
Even while kids are still too young to be taught about sustainability, just practicing it can already give them the necessary foundation for the right attitude to save the planet. And you’ll be improving their health in the process.