Back-to-School special: It’s time to teach kids to go green

The amount of mess my boys make at home makes me think about all the mess we all collectively make that goes into our landfills and oceans. With the increase in purchasing power, most households like to buy things that are not always important or even necessary. Stores are also luring customers with added benefits in the form of huge discounts or points or even free gifts just for buying the products that don’t benefit us in any way. Think about a bubble wand that is free if your purchases are $75 or more. Now if your bill is $70, the cashier will lure you to buy something more to increase the bill to $75 to get the bubble wand free. Your child standing next to you will beg you for that free bubble wand and you, under pressure, will spend your hard earned money to make your bill reach $75. “Here is your free bubble wand.” You smile because your child is happy and you both come home with that cheap plastic that will soon make an entry into your trash can.

The child opens the bubble wand, blows few bubbles, drops rest of the soapy liquid on the floor and then cries for another one. The bottle gets thrown in the trash. That’s the life-cycle of almost all bubble wands in summer. This is exactly what my kids do too. Initially I would buy lots of bubble wands but now I just make that soapy water at home. It isn’t that difficult. Just google. Why spend on something that doesn’t help the environment and only hurts our mother nature?

When it comes to kids, we forget everything else and just get anything they demand. When my son wouldn’t drink milk from a cup, I got colourful plastic straws for him only to realize that they are such a mess. I thought he would pick the color he likes and drink from the cup but instead he would pick 3 straws at a time and trash all three of them in a matter of 2 minutes. That was too much waste generated by a 2 year old. So I got stainless steel straws- reusable and durable. No more mess and eco-friendly too. Now think of all the kiddy stuff that you can replace with eco-friendly items to benefit the environment at large. Start with crayons and pencils, binders and notebooks. Many stores carry eco-friendly pencils and erasers along with recycled pens and markers. You might also consider refillable pencil to add lead as and when required and avoid multiple purchases.

Buy recycled paper and notebooks. If your work requires printer, look for recycled printer sheets. Always reuse paper and notebooks left from the previous year. When buying binders, look for the cardboard cover instead of the plastic one; if it has a recycled cover, it would be clearly marked. As kids, we used to make pencil cases with old denims. If you have leftover fabric, utilize it to make pencil cases or lunch bag or even shopping bag. My mother used my old uniforms to make shopping bags. Back then, it looked so odd but now it makes so much sense. If you go to trade fairs or local night markets, you will see people selling such homemade bags, pencil cases and what not. Consider buying from them because that will not only encourage them to produce more of such stuff but also help the community to grow.

Reusable bottles and lunch boxes must be encouraged at all schools. Parents must refrain from buying all trending stuff available in the market for kids, especially the cartoon character based school supplies. The more you buy, the more demand you create and more would be the supply. I like the way second hand markets are emerging these days. It is not uncommon to buy second hand clothes or other products from people who do not need them. Instead of throwing them away, they sell it online/offline to others. Sometimes, the products are almost new and available at really cheap prices. Why not take the opportunity to get easy on our pockets and environment. I have myself bought toys second hand and when my kids were done with a particular toy, I sold it again at almost the same price.

Consider donating too. Teach your kids about how they can help other kids by donating their clothing, shoes, books and toys. Teach them to take care of their belongings so that they can be passed on to others, even their own siblings. I remember wearing my brother’s old blazer in school. I was the youngest, so I would always get stuff passed on from my brothers and cousin sisters, especially the school books. They were strictly told to keep the books clean for me. I also teach my older son to keep his clothes clean and maintain his belongings so that his younger brother can utilize them. That doesn’t mean I don’t get anything new for the younger one. We can’t expect the kids to behave just the way we want. But we can try to make them understand why it is important to not waste food, resources, energy and water. I tell my kids the importance of segregating the trash too. I teach them to throw recyclable materials in the blue bin and the organic in the green one, everything else goes in the black one. We must let them watch ads on the same sponsored by the government. The learning should begin early so that it becomes part of life. There are many more ways of going green in the kids department, many more things that can either be replaced or avoided to help the environment grow. Can you come up with more ideas or tell us what you do in your daily life to eliminate waste, recycle more and live sustainably?

By Manali Arora


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