Lou Harvey-Zahra offers ideas to create happy children, a happy home and a happy Earth
As parents, we need to ask what legacy we are leaving for our children.
What does it mean to say we are ‘green’? View it like the traffic light system: green means go for the planet. To teach our children to respect the Earth’s resources, we need to do so ourselves. We are their number one role model. This journey to greener lands can happen together, as a family. I am not talking about drastic changes. You do not have to spend a fortune on solar panels or protest along the streets with banners (but please do so if you are so inclined!).
Respect for the planet is a fundamental life skill. Respect for the Earth leads to respect for all the Earth’s inhabitants, humans included. As parents of young children, it is our responsibility to cultivate the soil (soul) – of our children’s beautiful hearts and minds – and plant the seeds (beautiful intentions) that lead to the next generation of Earth champions.
Parenting, raising the next generation with awareness, is the most important work in the world. We are helping life evolve. Former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke has said, “I think we have done the left side of the brain for a long time: we have developed the intellect, logic, technology. It is time now in this era to recognise the importance of the right side of the brain: the qualities of creativity, love and compassion.”
The Dalai Lama tweeted recently, “Modern education is premised strongly on materialistic values. It is vital that when educating our children’s brains we do not neglect to educate their hearts, a key element of which has to be the nurturing of our compassionate nature.”
Small changes can be significant. Have you heard the ‘hundredth monkey’ story? On an island, a monkey decided that in order to eat the potato she had found, she would take it to the sea’s edge and wash it. Soon the other monkeys on the island took up this idea – a new food source! When the hundredth monkey washed his potato, a monkey on a neighbouring island received this idea: “Why don’t I wash this dirty potato at the sea’s edge before eating it?” And so the idea went on its way, from island to island. Let us wash the dirt off our Earth gently and lovingly, and may our ideas for a simple, respectful home life spread across the globe.
The following ideas are simple but have a profound effect in the long run:
Tell children the story of how litter travels the long journey to the sea: down the drains! Teach children to put litter in bins, and to avoid packaged fast food, as this is what much litter is made up of. Take a rubbish bag on a local walk each week, especially along a beach or a river, and pick up the litter. You may well save a turtle’s life.
How can we celebrate and look after the Earth? Explain where packaging goes, deep into the Earth’s tummy. Recycle where possible. Get to know the number system for recycling plastic, check with your local council which numbers they accept, and teach children which bin to use. Recycle more: we can save over 1,000kg of carbon dioxide emissions per year by recycling just half of our household waste. Limit packaging by buying fresh foods. With every food item ask, “Is this packaging ethical?” and, “Is there a better option?” You can save over 500kg of carbon dioxide a year by cutting garbage down by 10%. Understand that packaging does not just disappear. It takes energy and toxins to make, and much of it ends up in landfill (or in our waterways).
Ideas for saving on packaging: try the ‘naked lunchbox’ idea – no wrappers at all. Buy unpackaged fresh fruit and vegetables. Avoid cling film: instead cover a bowl with a plate in the fridge. Take reusable bags to the shops; your child can take a little basket too. Have fun making your own greetings cards – homemade cards are wonderful. Wrap presents in reusable cloth. Recycle old envelopes and paper into little writing pads – lovely for a child’s pretend café and lists. Use packaging to create a play shop, or make box creations.
Buy cleaning and self-care products that are kind to waterways once they flush down the plug hole, and seek out recycled paper products. Support ethical companies that are making a difference to the Earth.
Have fun in nature together. Share the wonders of the Earth with children. Plant some trees together as a family – fruit trees are always fun. A single tree can absorb a tonne or more of carbon dioxide over its lifetime. If you are renting your home, try growing miniature fruit trees in pots. Plant a vegetable garden. This can be a small patch, or even pots on a veranda or balcony. Plant each seedling, water it, and cover it with pea straw – in children’s language, “Give them a drink and tuck them into bed!” Let children help with a small wheelbarrow and spade. Wait and watch for the wonders of growing food.
Have some home days each week. Leave the car on the drive, and connect and slow down at home. Home is where the heart is. Take car-free walks together in your local area. Car-share whenever possible. Children love public transport as a fun outing. Locate your nearest farmers’ market. Try to follow the 100km food rule: how far has your food travelled?
Create your own family ideas to help look after and celebrate the Earth.
Recently I have tried to become more and more conscious of sustainable living practices. What I did not realise as I set out on this endeavour was how much pleasure and joy it would bring to my family life. Being sustainable is fundamentally a caring attitude. The attitude of caring comes from the heart and therefore brings joy. My own experiences and attitude definitely affect my children, as I model care for the Earth. Not to forget leaving a ‘green’ footprint: it will be their Earth next.
“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
– John Muir
Lou Harvey-Zahra is the author of the bestselling books Happy Child, Happy Home and Creative Discipline, Connected Family. Use code HC1217 to receive a discount on her books at www.florisbooks.co.uk. Lou lives with her family, surrounded by gum trees, in Melbourne, Australia. She will be on a speaking tour of the UK in June this year; to find out dates visit www.happychildhappyhome.com.
This article was originally published in JUNO Spring 2019. For more information on this issue follow the link: https://shop.junopublishing.co.uk/product/single-issues/issue-60-spring-2019/