Earth Day 2017 is coming up on Saturday 22 April: an annual movement to highlight climate change and raise awareness on how we can all play our part in caring for the environment, and it’s one amazing opportunity to teach our kids here in Singapore about caring for the world around us. Last year, the goal was to plant 7.8billion trees, and it’s never too late to join in! Earth Day 2016 gave us extra reason to celebrate, as leaders from 160 countries around the world (including Singapore, hurrah!) signed the Paris Climate Agreement in a pledge to tackle climate change. But Earth Day is also a movement that goes well beyond this annual event: we all know that making a difference and caring for the environment should be part of daily life.
After experiencing devastating haze seasons in Singapore, families are more aware than ever that we must take responsibility for the future of our environment, especially if we don’t want our children to spend their lives wearing N95 masks. Children in Singapore have shown amazing insight into how our choices as a consumer alone can make an impact: a group of local kids has been raising awareness about the dangers of unsustainable palm oil production through the #kidscutpalmoil campaign; and eight-year old Maya Wishart famously wrote a letter to major companies in an appeal to cut down on the use of conflict palm oil. These bright sparks serve up an excellent reminder that we need to change our own habits if we want to make change in the world.
Looking for ideas on how to teach your kids about helping the environment and becoming a more eco-friendly family? “It doesn’t cost extra to have a more sustainable lifestyle,” says Wilson Ang, founder and president of ECO Singapore, which challenges youth to embrace environmental issues in a holistic manner. “It keeps your immediate environment a healthy one, but most of all, it grows a positive attitude of gratitude, which involves truly learning to appreciate what you have and not be wasteful.” Here, he shares 10 simple ways we can encourage kids to care for the environment, and to be more conscious of how their daily habits can make positive change. The future, after all, is in their hands.
1. Get off the phone and go for nature walks with your children. For example, MacRitchie, Bukit Timah and Coney Island are great places to show your children the beauty of nature, which may in turn inspire them to care about the environment.
2. Stress the importance of finishing meals to avoid food waste. You can even remind them of the superstition that if they don’t, their future husband or wife will have a lot of pimples!
3. Instil the habit of bringing a reusable water bottle when out and about, and drinking from it. Teach good water-saving habits by watching your water usage around the house.
4. Encourage your children to eat more fruits and vegetables than meat.
5. Try to avoid using the air conditioner in the house. Open the window for natural air. Or, if you have to, set it at 25ºC. Singapore is known as the ‘Air Con Nation’ and recent studies have shown that majority of the home power usage is attributed to the air conditioner.
6. For parents, lead by example and do your part for the environment too, to inspire your children to do the same.
7. Pass on old clothing, toys or household items to someone who needs it. See the HoneyKids guide to donating goods in Singapore to a find a charity that’s close to your heart.
8. Bike or walk to places (schools, malls, library, the neighbourhood playground). You can also encourage kids to join events that raise awareness about environmental sustainablility: look out for the fun activities during Car-free Sundays in Singapore!
9. Teach your kids how to reuse or recycle, and what the difference between them is.
10. Create a litter-free challenge at home (how to may be keep one week of trash to only one bin for the whole family. Or maybe involve children when packing lunch to find creative ways to pack healthy meals without leaving any trash.
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