When it comes to the world we live in, there’s nothing more important than sustaining it for ourselves and the generations that follow. From the conservation of the land to the preservation of aquatic species, there’s so much in our world that’s affected by how we all treat our environment. One way to help ensure the health of our planet is to live sustainably. This is an ongoing issue, so it’s particularly important for kids to help out. Let’s take a look at some ways you can easily get involved right now in nature conservation and the sustainability of the planet!
What is Sustainability?
According to the dictionary, there are several meanings to the word sustainability, including to maintain, support, withstand, or endure. In the 1980s, it became more common for the word to mean caring for and maintaining the world we live in. The meaning behind this is simple - as consumers, we must act in a responsible way about the products we purchase and the way we live, so that the planet we call home will continue to support the billions of people living here. We can and must go forward without destroying the environment and the many other species that live on the Earth alongside us.
Sustainability Problems around the World
With the human population growing at such a quick rate and consumerism at an all time high, sustainability has remained a big problem that we haven’t fixed. Here are some things we need to work on moving forward into the future:
Energy Use - Our electricity still relies heavily on the use of oil, which is a fossil fuel. Fossil fuels are created over millions of years from the deterioration of plant and animal remains. Not only is there a limited amount of fossil fuel available, but it also harms the environment when used for energy by spewing pollution into the air, water, and soil.
Plastics - Plastics are also made of oil. While some plastics are recyclable, many are not, and it’s difficult to recycle efficiently on a large scale. Plastic is bad for the environment when it's created as well as when it's thrown away. Every time we use plastic to preserve our food or build our toys and electronics, we're polluting our Earth and wrecking its ecosystems.
General Waste - How much stuff gets thrown away in your home every day? How much gets recycled? Landfills create greenhouse gas emissions that harm the quality of the air we breathe while also taking up a lot of space that used to be natural land. Changing how we make and use packaging and plastics is just one way we can help lessen what goes into the landfills.
Biodiversity - Biodiversity is how we measure the different species within an ecosystem. A healthy ecosystem is full of a wide variety of different plants, animals, insects, birds, fish, fungi, and microscopic critters. All forms of life fit together into a food web that has developed over time and relies on each species in one way or another. A great example of why this is a sustainability problem is the dying bee population. Bees are required to pollenate flowers, crops, and other plants. Due to the use of pesticides, they have been dying out, hurting many ecosystems, including our crops. We need to learn to coexist with all of the plants and creatures around us if we want to continue harvesting our food and enjoying the natural world around us. You can learn more about biodiversity here.
How Kids can Help with Sustainability
There are many ways you can include sustainability in daily life, right in your own home:
Recycle - Grab a couple of empty bins and label them with the different types of items you're going to recycle, like ‘cardboard’ and ‘plastic.’ Have your parents help you figure out what types of materials are picked up for recycling at the curb or find a nearby recycling center where you can regularly drop off the items.
Cut Back on Plastic - Not all plastics are able to be recycled, such as most plastic drinking straws. Urge your family to start using reusable cloth shopping bags when grocery shopping and go strawless or start carrying around metal straws to use in place of the ones you would normally use at restaurants.
Walk or Bike – Choose to walk or bike to school or other activities if you live nearby. This is great exercise, gives you more quality time to spend with your friends and family, and also helps reduce gas emissions from the car.
Home-Made Products - It can be fun to make cleaning products and other stuff yourself! This often results in a solution that contains fewer chemicals that are harmful to the environment. Laundry detergent, soap, and other cleaning solutions are easy to make with more natural substances like vinegar and baking powder. You can also make toys yourself to cut back on the plastic you buy. Make your own play-doh or learn how to make stuffed animals with leftover scraps of cloth. Fill your arts and crafts corner with leftover materials from around the house, such as old papers and cork.
Conserve Energy - Learn to conserve water and energy whenever possible. Take a short shower instead of a bath, don’t leave the water running, and turn off any lights around the house when you’re no longer using them. Have a basket for storing chargers and unplug them when you’re not using them (chargers drain a bit of energy from the socket even when their electronics are not attached).
Outdoor Conservation and Sustainability
There are also several ways you can help with conservation and sustainability when you’re outside:
Compost - As you recycle, you can also learn about composting. Start a compost bin in your yard by putting all the trash that comes from fruits and vegetables in it (skins, leaves, etc). You can also add coffee grounds, eggshells, tea leaves, and many other types of food waste. There are also some types of cardboard and paper that will biodegrade nicely in your compost pile. This helps create natural soil full of healthy nutrients for your plants while lessening the amount of trash you send to the landfill.
Plant a Garden - Now that you have a good compost pile going, it’s time to use it on a garden! This will help you shop for less produce, which helps the environment by reducing the amount of harmful emissions put out by the machines and vehicles that plant and harvest crops and transport them to the store and your home. A good garden also helps the ecosystem in your own backyard. Growing certain plants supports local critters like butterflies, bees, and birds. Research the best flowers and other plants to grow in your area, because not all plants are good for all places.
Build an Animal Habitat - Planting a small butterfly garden or wildflowers for the bees is just the start of how you can help the creatures in your area. You can build a worm habitat in your compost pile. Build and put up some birdhouses, bird feeders, and bat houses. Again, it’s a good idea to research the types of animals that are most in need in your area and the best ways to help them. Also check in with local conservation groups to see what else you can do.
By working together to improve our own sustainability and conservation efforts at home and in our own backyards, we can spread the movement to save our Earth from unnecessary harm. People are more likely to take these steps when they see others doing them first. If your friends and family see you composting, recycling, and buying used or making your own stuff, they're more likely to join in. Turn these into everyday habits, and feel good about how you’re living your life more sustainably!