It Runs in the Family: How to Teach Our Children About Sustainability by Elise Morgan


Sustainability is heard quite a lot these days – sustainable lifestyles, sustainable workplace practices and so on. However, it’s much more than a buzz-word. Sustainability and the way we view our world and the resources that support our lives is rooted in environmental quality.

To carry on living healthy and happy lives, we need clean air, non-toxic water and a continuing supply of natural resources. Teaching our children how to conserve these resources will affect their lifestyle as adults and prepare them for a changing world.

Below we look at some strategies for teaching children about sustainability that you can do at home.

Why sustainability is important

At its heart, sustainability is about protecting our natural environment so we have a planet that supports our future and that of our children, grandchildren and so on. We may think of it as conserving energy, recycling waste products, consuming less, or protecting fragile environments – it is all of these things and more.

Sustainable practices support and encourage biodiversity, our ecological health and aim to drive technology forward so our quality of life improves too. Creating a sustainable lifestyle and future means learning to live within our means in terms of all the natural resources and processes that sustain life on this planet.

Why we need to teach our children about sustainability

Children learn from everyone around them. Teachers, friends, other families, and babysitters all provide lessons that children take in and process. Parents are usually the greatest influencers. Habits and behaviors displayed at home are most likely to be integrated and repeated in our children’s adult lives.

If we show a concern for our environment, practice green behaviors, and show responsibility for our actions, our children are more likely to do so too. Teaching them sustainability in a way that is simple and easy to understand gives them the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions, plan for their future and create a healthier world to live in.

How to teach our children about sustainability

Teaching children about sustainable practices should be done in an empowering and positive way. This means helping them to be part of the solution, promoting creative thinking and getting them involved in positive change.

Reducing waste is a simple activity to get children involved in. Composting food scraps to reduce food waste is a great way to demonstrate the cyclical nature of sustainable living practices.

Choosing to grow your own food, sorting household garbage so plastics, tin and other materials that can be reused are other activities that establish good behaviors and provide opportunities to talk about the importance of living sustainably.

When you shop, consider purchasing organic produce and items to minimize the chemical load needed to manufacture non-organic items. This could include organic cleaning supplies, PBDE-free furniture, and even all-natural soaps and lotions. Explaining the difference between organic and non-organic items is another great way to highlight what sustainability is for children, and why it is important for our world

Crafting with cereal boxes and household junk, making your own paper, and simply planting a tree are all activities that can raise the profile of sustainability in your child’s eyes. For older children conducting an air pollution experiment, making seed bombs to take on a nature walk or creating a mini greenhouse are positive and empowering ways to bring sustainable and environmental practices to life.


All of us are responsible for the ecosystem we live within.

Building an understanding of what sustainability is for our children and why it is important for all of us, is simply another way to protect our futures and create a healthier planet.

By Elise Morgan