Encourage your mini eco warrior

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When it comes to special projects at home that include the whole family, children are usually the most enthusiastic participants. Caring for the world by looking after your immediate environment – even by simply feeding the birds or planting flowers that attract bees – is one project where children can get involved enthusiastically, be creative, learn, achieve, and feel deeply involved and fulfilled all at the same time, which means that mini eco warrior could be the perfect job title for your little one. Here are some ideas for parents to begin getting their children started on making a big difference.

Start at home

Start recycling at home to educate children on where their waste goes and to save money on your bin charges. Children can organise recycling crates for glass, tins, foil, card, plastic containers and plastic wrapping/bags. You can assign a child to each area to be the ‘monitor’ and make it more fun for them. As an educational twist, ask your little one to look for the recycling symbol which appears on the back of packaging. Now they can see for themselves what can be recycled and what needs to be binned. Children can also take responsibility for finding a new home for old toys, so that they don’t end up being thrown out in the bin.

Change your shopping habits

Many families who recycle find that unfortunately lots of packaging and wrapping is not recyclable and has to go into the main waste bin, leading them to cut down on the amount of packaging that they bring into the house. The best way to do this is to shop differently. This may mean buying fruit and veg from a local supplier or market shop rather than the supermarket. But even this can be turned into a fun task for the youngest children – they can bring reusable bags and count out the amounts of different fruit to buy and learn how to weigh veggies in the shop.

Get the school involved

Talk to the local primary school about raising awareness in all things ‘eco’ at school. One mum, Rosie, has revealed how her eight-year-old daughter has become an ‘eco-councillor’ at school, due to her interest in protecting the planet. The child monitors classrooms once a week at lunchtime for recycling/lights on and so on. You could speak with your child’s teacher about ideas to be shared with the whole school for re-using yogurt pots from school lunches and how to wrap sandwiches, rather than in tin foil.

Be aware everywhere

“We live 200 metres from the beach and every time we go, we do a three minute beach clean,” says mum, Kate. “I call it a beach tax. The kids hate seeing litter anywhere and pick it up all the time.” Making sure you’ve got litter pickers in the shed means you can pop out and keep the area around your own house and street tidy. 

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Go public

Get the word out there in your community that you’re trying to make a difference and get other people on board – even local supermarkets with their non-recyclable packaging. One UK based mum, Anna Turns, reveals how together with her six-year-old daughter Ella, they are campaigning to make their coastal town of Salcombe in the UK more plastic clever. Simple but effective ideas involve speaking with shop owners to ask them to consider avoiding plastic in their packaging and having more water refill points in shopping centres so people don’t have to rely on buying bottled water all the time – thus avoiding more surplus plastic waste. The mother and daughter duo campaign together and share their progress on their Facebook page, salcombeplasticclever. It all started when little Ella saw people throwing water balloons into Salcombe harbour and was fired up to inspire others to stop marine litter. “She is amazing and picks up on so much,” says Anna, of her mini eco warrior, Ella.

Opt for pre-loved

Passing on clothes and shopping for ‘pre-loved’ makes a difference to your pocket and the planet. Kids grow so fast and very quickly outgrow their garments so it makes sense to pass them on. One mum, Rosie, says she buys Christmas presents from charity shops. “Too much plastic otherwise,” she says. Hunting for gifts in charity shops is a great challenge for children too as there’s usually so much to chose from, even items they can bring home and decorate and put their own little touches to.

Live seasonally

While recycling and creating a clean environment is important, caring for the planet also involves being more mindful about what mother nature is up to, and children can happily get involved by feeding the birds and watching their behaviour or making seasonal wreaths for the door. One mum who lives to celebrate the seasons is Hannah Bullivant, an interiors stylist. She believes in the necessity for celebrating (and not just Christmas and birthdays) in order “for us to be more aligned with what’s happening in nature, to eat seasonally, to be sympathetic to our natural environment, to look after the birds.”

According to Hannah on her website Seeds and Stitches: “Crafting, preparing and enjoying these seasonal celebrations is often precious family time and helps children to learn about Mother Nature and appreciating and looking after the planet. Celebrating Mayday or mid-summer or Autumn, helps us to notice and appreciate the quiet little things that are all around us all the time. It helps us to be present, mindful and thankful. It also brings a bit of magic to our kids’ childhood, and to be honest, to our adulthoods too.”

Catherine Devane