Pollution doesn’t just hurt the environment – it’s impacting our children as well. The World Health Organization reported that polluted areas are associated with more than one in four deaths of children younger than 5 years old. These hazards may feel far away, but with disasters like the lead in Flint and numerous other cities in America it’s becoming clear that a focus on sustainability and avoiding pollution is essential to help keep our children and world healthy.
While it may not be the pollution itself causing distress, weaker immune systems, impaired brain development, and preventable diseases are more common when they are exposed to hazardous environments. In 2012, around one quarter of all children’s deaths could have been prevented if environmental risks had been reduced. Polluted environments are also dangerous during pregnancy, increasing the likelihood of premature deliveries and young children exposed to these concerns are at more risk for respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and stroke with exposure of polluted environments.
In Portland, and Oregon, much of our focus is on sustainability, but incorporating everyday practices into our family structures can help us make small changes that have a larger impact and help protect our children and communities from becoming more vulnerable to these environmental hazards and protect our world.
Educating our children about sustainability and taking care of the earth is an important part of parenting. Helping the environment and living a more sustainable lifestyle isn’t just something that helps their health – it also protects nature, from the waterfalls and rivers to wild animals. Ensuring you’re connecting these practices when you teach your children will help cement their importance.
Here are some ways you can educate your children about sustainability in your everyday life:
- Teach them about their carbon footprint when you’re buying food, driving a car, or partaking in another activity that requires a lot of energy mined from the earth. Set an example and bike or walk to the park regularly, make sure you’re using as many recycled materials as possible, and stress how renewable energy can be used to help make our lives easier without hurting the environment.
- Grow some of your own food. You don’t need to turn into a family farm, but growing some of the food you eat are a great way to show how you can nurture and produce your own food. Bonus: Start composting! Whether it’s just a pile or you want to delve into worm compost, either way you’ll be teaching important lessons.
- Spend time in nature. Instead of holing up inside with the TV or going to a movie, spend the day relaxing in nature. Whether it’s an adventure outside your city or your local park, sharing the beauty of the outdoors with your children helps them appreciate the world they live in.
- Buy less. How many plastic toys are you tripping over in your home? Reducing the number of imported items, plastic, and just general volume of toys is a great way to declutter your life and reduce your environmental impact. Focus on high quality, multi-purpose toys that satisfy your children’s interests month after month instead of a momentary fascination. Blocks, great board games, and imaginative play items are a great place to start.
- Volunteer with your kids. Whether it’s weeding at a local community garden, sorting recycling, or helping with a local neighborhood cleanup the lessons your children will learn by helping in their communities are longstanding. You’ll be leading by example and inspiring them to carry on the tradition and practice of giving back to their communities regularly.
While the statistics around the environment and health may be sobering, ensuring you are doing your part and passing on your learnings to the next generation is a great place to start. We hope these activities don’t just help the earth, but help your family get closer and inspire the next generation to take care of their community and planet.