It's not always easy to get everyone in your household to stick to your zero waste agenda. If your kids ignore your edicts, and produce a lot of waste, it is easy to become discouraged. But with a little effort, you can turn your kids attitudes around, and make sure everyone is on the same page. Here's how to get your kids to produce less waste:
Keep the Conversation Going
In any household, no matter what the ages of its inhabitants, talking is crucial. Good communication is key to household harmony, and to keeping zero waste living high on the agenda. Tell kids about the problems facing humanity – chat in relaxed, open ways about the problems with plastic, global warming, deforestation etc..
The more you talk about these issues, the less scary and insurmountable they will seem. And the less likely is is that these issues will be pushed aside as busy lives intervene. Make sure kids are informed, but not overwhelmed. It is a delicate balancing act to make them care without terrifying them. Facts and figures are often better than overly emotive statements.
Show, Don't Tell
Of course, though education is important, kids will often learn more from what you do than from what you say. Rather than saying 'we must refuse, reduce, reuse, repair and recycle', show them by doing these things yourself every day. Lead by example and you will make zero waste living the norm. Your kids will often take their cue from you, and follow suit.
Never just tell kids to do something without showing them that you do it yourself. Kids have a keen eye for unfairness. So make sure you take care of your sustainability blind spots, and don't ever ask them to reduce waste if you are not doing so yourself.
Work From Patterns To Details
Trying to force all the details and minutiae of zero waste living onto kids can be confusing and overwhelming. So it can be helpful, when trying to get kids to produce less waste, to start with the big picture. One kids understand the big picture, and the patterns of the whole, all the puzzle pieces can slowly begin to fall into place.
For example, rather than just saying 'no, you can't have that plastic toy' reframe the issue and talk about the broader problems of plastic waste. Get them to think about the patterns – where that toy was made – and where it might end up. If, for example, they are choosing sweets in plastic packaging, encourage them to think about the whole lifecycle of products before making their choices.
Give Kids The Tools They Need To Move to a Zero Waste Lifestyle
No matter what age your kids are, it is important to keep providing them with the tools they need for a zero waste lifestyle. When we talk about tools, we are taking about both tangible, practical items, and the knowledge and skills they need to transition to a more sustainable way of life. As a parent, you are well placed to provide a range of these things.
For example, you might buy them:
- Reusable water bottles, bags, straws etc..
- Plastic-free toothbrushes, hairbrushes, etc..
- Natural clothing, toys, bedding etc..
And you can also, whatever age they are, help teaching them, and showing them the simple skills they need to live sustainably. For example, you can teach them how to grow food, how to cook from scratch, how to upcycle, how to clean with natural cleaning materials... these are just a few examples of the things that you, as a parent, can provide to get your kids to produce less waste.
Keep Things Fun
Perhaps most importantly of all – moving to a zero waste lifestyle with your kids will be a lot easier if everyone has fun along the way. There are plenty of enjoyable family activities that can help keep things light and keep everyone on the same page. For example you could:
- Go for a beach clean, or litter-picking excursion.
- Have a picnic with home grown food and sustainable, reusable items.
- Get out in your garden and enjoy a range of fun home-growing activities.
- Reuse/ upcycle old items together.
- Make some quirky artworks together with food packaging or other waste from your home.
These are just a few examples. There are tons for cool ways to make zero waste living more fun. Make a game of recycling, or buy them fun presents that will help them reduce the waste they create. Let them choose their own reusable water bottle, for example. When you release the reins a little, and let them make some decisions, things are often far more likely to go the way you want them to go.