Lead the way to a greener planet

Lead the way to a greener planet

Wondering when to start giving your child lessons on living an eco-friendly life? Start today, suggests Sudha Subramanian.

When I was younger, I used to go shopping with my mother like many girls did. And my mother always carried a cloth bag for groceries and a wire bag for vegetables. It was an old habit. Somewhere between my childhood and adulthood, something changed and this tradition was abandoned. In the meantime, our planet started facing problems. Our changing lifestyle added further to our owes and now we are left with no choice but to teach our kids tricks so that they will have the pride to gift a cleaner planet to their kids.

Why is it important to teach our kids to be environment friendly?

One of the best ways to correct our mistakes is to acknowledge it. There is no denying the fact that we went terribly wrong in our ways of handling the environment, for which we are now paying. Now that we understand this part, we can’t help but do something to right the wrong.

In the days gone by, recycling most products came naturally to us. We gave away our milk covers and bottles to the dabbawala. We also gave our old newspapers and any paper to the paperwala. Also, our lifestyle had environment-friendly ways. We used traditional coconut bark to wash vessels, we didn’t throw away plastic cans but we used them for something else. We used less water and there was far less wastage.

Soon we changed our lifestyle. We no longer carried bags for shopping because, they handed over our shopping in plastic bags. Plastic replaced most of our wooden products — right from toys to household supplies. We lived in a plastic age and we still do. Just that we have suddenly realised the fallouts of plastic.

This is where our children come into focus. If we don’t teach a way or two of our good old days, we will soon have a planet in peril. The good news is that we already know the ways of recycling, just that our recycling skills are in hibernation.

What is the right age?

It is never too early to teach our kids the fundamentals of planet-friendly ways. What’s more, our kids watch us all the time. By simply adopting an eco-friendly lifestyle, we set an example to be responsible inhabitants of the earth. Going green is not just a science project you do for school once a year. Show how it can be a way of life by setting an example. As kids learn from watching, they don’t have to change their ways to go green as they lead a life of a responsible citizen. Picking up one’s trash and avoiding wastage of food and water can be some virtues that can be imbibed by children as early as three. This can only mean that, as parents and as guardians of future planet dwellers, it is time we indulge in this most important task of our lives.

What can be some of the principles we can adopt and also impart to our children?
Adopt the ‘three Rs’ in daily life – Reuse, reduce and recycle. Simple actions can have a lasting effect — teaching children to use cloth napkins instead of tissue paper, not wasting food, separating waste – kitchen waste from other waste — these simple choices are not life altering. However, they do help.

Buy local food. Living in India, most of us unconsciously tend to buy local food. However, when we shift our shopping habits to that of visiting a supermarket,  make a conscious effort to buy food that is made locally. Remember, the food that is produced somewhere, has to be transported and it also costs extra. Buying locally will mean lesser food gets transported and in the long run, you offer a helping hand in going green. Take your child shopping and embark on this adventure that will enrich both of you. Shopping could be quite an eye opener too. Insist on buying refill packs wherever possible  —  be it your detergent or hand wash. They not only save you some money, they also go a long way in planting a smile on future generations.

Eat less meat and teach children to eat healthy. We have been told in more ways than one that eating less meat is good for health. However, did you know that by eating less meat, you can actually help in saving the planet? Raising animals for food means more greenhouse gas emissions. It also means more animals need to be nurtured which in turn means we need more land and grains for them. By choosing the right food habits, we not just save the planet but also lead a healthy lifestyle. Encourage children to eat earth-friendly food like fruits and vegetables.

Walk the mile, ride a bike or take public transport. Children can walk. They are power-houses of energy. Every time, they ride the bike, walk or even take a bus, they help in a greener city and a healthier self. Set an example. Resist the temptation to ride the bike/car. Walk the length instead. Let your kids take the school transport and not offer them a ride to the school.

Most importantly, teach kids the difference between needs and wants. India is no longer the country where people used to be thrifty. Today, most people spend on things that they probably don’t need. This eventually generates a lot more trash than one can imagine. Teach your child the difference between necessity and desire. There is room for indulgence but if indulgence becomes a habit more than an occasional splurge, it could be a cause for worry. This is a lifeskill the child would surely benefit from.

Yes, we may not save the rain forest or the endangered species that is on the brink of extinction. But by setting an example and by teaching future generations a way of life, we offer a gift that we can be proud of. So get set now. There is never a good time to make that start. Start leading a green way of life and teach your little ones to go green.

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