As the next stewards of planet Earth, it is only fitting that parents teach their kids how to take better care of it at a young age. Children are most susceptible to influence when young, so it is better to start early and impart good practices, including ways to protect the environment and how to mitigate climate change.
Here are some things you need to teach children about their role in this climate emergency.
1. Climate change is a real threat
Climate change is not just a fancy buzzword, but an actual threat to planet Earth. NASA Climate Kids explains it this way, ''Climate change describes a change in the average conditions — such as temperature and rainfall — in a region over a long period. NASA scientists have observed that the Earth's surface is warming, and most of the warmest years on record have happened in the past 20 years.''
Explain to your kids how specific human activities are causing changes in the atmosphere to trap heat, thereby warming the planet, and how they should avoid these activities. Start with a simple explanation and as they grow older, discuss deeper and more serious topics on climate change and how they can mitigate it. Encourage questions and push them to learn more on their own.
2. Plant more trees and protect natural forests
Trees are integral to the fight against climate change as it helps reduce carbon dioxide in the air by absorbing it, all while releasing oxygen to the atmosphere. Data from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) shows that ''30% of emissions from industry and fossil fuels are soaked up by forests and woodlands.'' Despite this, the world continues to lose hectares upon hectares of forest every year.
Show your children how important trees are in their lives and for the whole planet, so they will be more appreciative of these natural treasures and be proactive in protecting them.
3. Pick reusables instead of disposables
According to the UNEP, even with plastics having valuable uses, humans have become so accustomed to single-use or disposable plastic that it has severe environmental consequences. For all the tons of plastic produced around the world, only 9% gets recycled and 79% goes to landfills or the oceans, contributing to even more waste pollution.
With these figures, be a good example to your kids and try to avoid single-use plastics when you can. Always bring reusable water bottles, food containers, and utensils when going out, and avoid having disposables inside the house.
4. Recycle what you can
An important trait to also teach your kids is to recycle. This can cover a wide variety of things – from recycling old toys and clothes to recycling used books and notebooks instead of using new paper. Teach them the value of reusing instead of constantly purchasing items they may already have or may not even need. Not only will this teach them to become economical, but it will also lessen the demand for unnecessary things that can lead to more pollution for the environment.
Allow them to take part in segregating your household's recyclables—sorting plastic, glass, paper, and cans—so they grow up with this practice.
5. Eat more fruits and vegetables
Do you have a hard time getting your kids to eat more fruits and vegetables? Then you may want to educate them on how much a plant-based diet can help save the planet.
An article from the University of California, Los Angeles notes a study that says eating a plant-based diet can significantly reduce carbon emissions and waste byproducts while also saving habitats for endangered species. By simply adding more vegetables to your plate, and consuming less meat and dairy, you are already helping decrease carbon emissions that get released into the atmosphere.
6. Start an edible garden in your home
An easy and low-carbon way to get access to fresh greens is to plant them directly in your home. This is also a great activity to do with your kids as an article from the Michigan State University Extension mentions that young children will benefit from gardening as they can practice their ''locomotor skills, body management skills, and object control skills in the garden.''
While gardening, you can slowly explain to your children how important this activity is, and how growing your own food will be beneficial to them and the planet.
If you have limited space, you can try making a mini herb garden or planting microgreens on the balcony instead.
7. Try alternative modes of transportation
All around the world, the transportation industry contributes to about 15%-20% of carbon emissions every year. A good chunk of this comes from motor vehicles, but airplanes also contribute to huge amounts of carbon emissions.
This is why walking or using low-carbon transportation such as bikes should be encouraged. When the health crisis has passed, train your kids to use public transportation or do carpool. Instruct them to walk when they can and use the stairs instead of elevators. Not only is walking and biking good for their health, but it is also beneficial to the environment.
8. Address food waste
It is disheartening to know that even when many suffer from hunger and malnutrition, 17% of all food produced only gets thrown in the trash. Food waste remains a major problem in most countries as it contributes to global warming when dumped in landfills.
Discover better ways to dispose of food waste with your children while teaching them to finish their plate or get only the food they can eat to avoid wasting it. Try composting or making animal feed with the excess food that you have. Better yet, avoid having food waste altogether by only cooking or buying what your family needs.
9. Conserve energy
Involve your kids in saving electricity costs by teaching them to switch off lights during the day and when no one is in the room. Get them to appreciate natural light instead of relying on artificial ones all the time. Remind them to always switch off the television or computers when not in use and to close the refrigerator doors properly.
Assign them tasks like reminding adults in the house to unplug all unnecessary appliances before going to bed, so they know how important it is to conserve electricity.
10. Choose clean sources of energy
Apart from being mindful of their energy use, you can also introduce clean and renewable sources of energy and their benefits to your children.
In the Philippines, power statistics from the Department of Energy in 2019 reveal that coal remains the top energy source in the country with a total power generation of 57,890 GWh (gigawatt hours), that means most of the electricity comes from burning coal. However, out of all fossil fuels, coal releases the most carbon dioxide to the environment, not to mention other emissions like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.
This poses a big problem for the climate, so you should teach kids to consider clean and renewable energy sources early on.
There are several alternatives available, one of which is natural gas. Unlike coal, natural gas is considered to be the cleanest-burning of all fossil fuels, emitting up to 60% less carbon dioxide than coal. It also does not leave behind by-products such as ash or sludge that are harmful to people's health and the environment.
There is also renewable energy: geothermal power plants that provide uninterrupted power using natural heat and steam from the Earth's surface; hydro power plants that harness energy from flowing water; solar panels, which is the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source, that gets power from the sun; and wind turbines that capture kinetic energy from wind to generate electricity while having the lowest environmental impact and zero emissions.
All these clean and renewable sources of energy are made available to Filipinos by the power generation company, First Gen Corporation.
First Gen is one of the leading providers of clean and renewable power in the Philippines. It has pioneered the local natural gas industry and prides itself on its portfolio of purely clean and renewable energy sources. It supplied 19% of the country's power supply in 2020, using natural gas, geothermal, hydroelectric, solar, and wind energy.
As renewable energy sources are not as widely available and affordable at the moment, First Gen advocates generating energy from both renewable sources and natural gas to supply consistent power to meet growing demand. The company recognizes that natural gas is a clean and viable temporary energy source that can generate enough electricity to consistently power homes until the time comes when renewable energy can be 100% reliable and affordable on its own.
Knowing the urgent solutions needed for climate change, First Gen hopes to lead the transition to a renewed and decarbonized Philippines by educating Filipinos on the use and benefits of clean energy. With its portfolio, one can see that even without the use of coal, people can have a steady and reliable supply of electricity.
First Gen has 30 clean and renewable energy projects all over the country.
These are just some of the ways you can raise your children to be better stewards of planet Earth. Time is running out and these simple acts can go a long way to help stop global warming.
To make sure that there is still a healthy world left behind for them and their own children, drastic actions need to be taken today against climate change, and involving the next generation is the best way to start a positive change in the way humans treat the environment.
To know more about First Gen and its green initiatives, visit its website.
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