Tips to be a greener family…
With Earth Day upon us, now is a great time to take a minute to reflect on what you and your family can do to encourage environmental protection right from your own home all year around. The themes for Earth Day 2017 are environmental and climate literacy.
I was lucky enough to speak all things green with the inspirational Lisa Bronner - environmental activist, green Mum and granddaughter to the founder of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Dr. Emanuel Bronner himself. If you don’t know of the company already, Dr Bronner’s makes organic fair trade soaps and personal care products and is a family business committed to making socially and environmentally responsible products of the highest quality and dedicating our profits to help make a better world. As I found out, they are the real deal and do really walk the walk.
I asked Lisa her three simple top tips to get our kids interested in the environment, and teaching them about the effects of climate change :
1. "Kids don't believe what we say as much as what they see, so get them outdoors and give them first hand experiences".
Take your kids to a space that has been, and may in the future be affected by aspects of climate change. London is one of the most vulnerable parts of the Uk to climate change because of issues like its population size and density, the Victorian infrastructure that we all depend on and London's geographical location in the South East. These have seen us experiencing hotter, drier Summers, warmer, wetter Winters and extreme weather patterns like heavy rainfall and heatwaves which the Mayor of London has said are due to human actions that emit greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide
Relate your discussion to a place or environment that your children know well. It can be as simple as taking your kids for a walk along the River Thames & discussing flood risks. 60% of the borough of Hammersmith & Fulham is deemed at risk but parts of other boroughs north of the Thames were also found to be in danger, including Newham, Tower Hamlets and Barking and Dagenham. As Lisa says, “your kids need to know that even at their young age, that they can do something about it”.
2. Educate your kids about organic methods of growing. We can introduce our kids to issues like ecosystems, biosynthesis and permaculture in easy ways in our own gardens and this doesn’t matter how old your kids are. Let your kids get their hands dirty and plant a garden using worms and compost instead of petrochemical fertilisers.They can use natural pest control like ladybugs to combat aphids rather than powders and toxic pesticides. Simple steps like this can really make a difference and teach your children about the cycle of life firsthand. Growing a natural garden, particularly if you’ve grown fruit or veggies is self rewarding - you will have beautiful tasty produce as well as having looked at your local ecosystem while introducing the concepts of sustainability and being self sufficient.
Try growing sunflowers, lettuce, snow peas, cherry tomatoes and strawberries which are relatively easy to grow, have short growing seasons and are fun to harvest.
3. Talk openly about the broader issues. The way in which you do this will be entirely dependent on the age of your children and their knowledge, but keep it relevant to them and their interests. Lisa says we need to “get your kids to look beyond their own little spheres and take in what’s going on around the world”.
If your kids are really interested in animals then you can look at the disappearance of the ice caps and the consequences on the polar bear habitats. Show your kids maps with the ever-expanding dead zones in our oceans where the water is so depleted of oxygen that fish and other sea life near the ocean floor can’t survive. Talk to them about human interventions like crop fertiliser and the high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous that have been washed out to the ocean, causing these dead zones. The solutions to these dead zones are finding better sewage systems, better practises of chemical disposal and using less fertiliser which may be beyond the remit of your family home, but education is the basis for change and progress so by informing and empowering your kids, you are already making a huge difference.
Dr Bronner’s Magic Soap is involved in an amazing initiative called the Project Green Challenge which is an opportunity for university and high school students around the globe (including the UK) to change the world in 30 days through environmentally themed challenges.