How Teaching Global Stewardship to Kids Can Change the World
By Jon Bailey - April 10, 2020
In times like this where we question everything, we parents start looking at our kids differently. Triton and I definitely see Sophia and Ava as part of the solution to some of the issues in this world that our generation has created. That's why we believe teaching global stewardship to kids is not something to be taken lightly.
Our kids are the future. As parents, we feel a responsibility to teach kids how to take care of the world around them. And why it is important that they do so.
“Only when I saw the Earth from space, in all its ineffable beauty and fragility, did I realize that humankind's most urgent task is to cherish and preserve it for future generations.” -Sigmund Jahn, German cosmonaut and pilot
Environmental stewardship refers to the act of protecting and being responsible for the natural environment around us. This is done through sustainable practices and conservation efforts. It is achieved when people focus on their relationship to the Earth and all the living people and things that inhabit it. There are many ways kids can help the Earth too.
Teaching Global Stewardship
What is a global steward? Someone who is considered to be a global steward is one who is conscious of their sustainable lifestyle choices. They understand their connection with all living beings. Global stewards understand each of their actions can have massive results, either positively or negatively. These results affect the Earth, and people and animals both near and far.
Global environmental stewards are responsible for performing activities with the understanding that they will affect the natural environment. They seek to promote conservation and seek out ways to preserve natural resources for future generations. Global stewards think beyond themselves, recognizing the interconnectedness of all living beings. They show wisdom in the use of all resources provided by the Earth. Before we can focus on teaching global stewardship though, we have to know how we can be a better stewards ourselves.
10 Tips For Teaching Kids to be Global Stewards
By setting an example through our own actions, we are showing our kids how it can be done. Follow these tips for teaching global stewardship by first following them yourself.
Buy produce locally whenever possible.
When you buy produce from local farms, you cut down on the transportation costs of delivering food across the country and the world. This cuts down on agricultural emissions into the air. Buying locally also helps you know where your fruits and vegetables are coming from. This knowledge can give you more confidence in the food you feed your family.
Don’t have any local produce stands or farmers markets near you? Why not start your own personal or community garden? In addition to reaping the produce benefits, gardening can also help alleviate depression and loneliness. Plus some time outdoors will give you a quick shot of Vitamin D. Environmental stewardship for kids can be as easy growing your own backyard vegetable garden!
Minimize the Carbon Footprint of your food.
It’s not just trendy to think about your carbon footprint. While often we think about our own forms of transportation, it is just as important to think about the transportation of our food. You can lower your carbon footprint by being aware of the cost on the environment of what you are buying and eating. Food can produce up to twice as much pollution, according to EcoWatch.com. Especially when you factor in waste, pesticides, poor land use, and food processing. Be mindful of your consumption, buying from responsible growers.
When paying attention to humane livestock practices and the use of natural resources, we can choose to buy with awareness. By doing so, you can have significant influence on lowering your carbon footprint. At the same time, you will be supporting farmers and growers that feel the same as you do about the environment.
Attend public events with an environmental message.
Spend time seeking out and participating in events locally that focus on the environment. Look for rallies, celebrations, marches and educational events that all help raise awareness and engage community members. Almost every city has an Earth Day celebration of one form or another. In fact, Earth Day 2020 is April 22! Or consider a local Arbor Day Celebration – it's April 24, 2020! These events can be useful places to showcase other kids helping the Earth.
Connecting with other global environmental stewards is a great way to build community and multiply your efforts. It is also a fantastic way to get your kids involved and show them how they can give back. Any time of year, you can look for a clean-up day. In San Diego, our family volunteers for beach clean-ups on a regular basis. Other ideas include helping out at a community farm or garden, or seeking out opportunities with a variety of non-profit environmental organizations. Points of Light is a useful national organization for dozens of family volunteer opportunities. For families with animal lovers, check out some ideas for animal advocacy or your local Humane Society.
Rethink your fashion choices.
Yes, even the clothes and accessories you choose can affect the environment. Avoid “fast fashion” which includes clothing that is made quickly and cheaply. We've been trying to teach our girls that places like Forever 21 are not helping the environment by selling dirt cheap clothing. Often retailer and manufacturers operate without regard to the environment or the people who make those items. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that these items are being thrown away all most as fast as they are bought. About 80 pounds of clothing per person per year are filling our landfills. When buying clothes and shoes for your family, there are practical considerations. Visit consignment stores, swap with friends, or focus on buying quality items from companies with environmentally-sound practices.
Compost your waste.
Composting your natural waste isn’t as hard (or as stinky) as you might think. Composting helps spare the environment the waste you and your family create. Instead of sending all those items into landfills, you would be putting it to good use. Check to see if your city offers composting services. (Most do and they are often very inexpensive and require little to no work for you.) Or, having a compost container at your home can give you the best fertilizer and soil for your own garden. Everyone wins!
Change your transportation.
Cars add so much pollution into the air we breathe. Though they are necessary for most families, look for options to limit the use of gas-powered vehicles. If possible, think about buying an electric or hybrid car. They are more accessible and affordable than ever before. Also consider walking the kids to school, carpooling, biking to work, or using rideshare or public transportation to get to events. Perhaps start small. Look for one way to change your mode of transportation once per month. Even small changes can add up to a big impact. We can help cut down on fossil fuel consumption and the pollution it creates.
Avoid using single-use plastic items.
While individual soda bottles, plastic bags, and straws are useful and convenient for families, they are also filling up landfills . Commit to reducing your consumption of them. Use reusable water bottles, metal straws and BPA-free containers to store and carry snacks. This is one thing our kids have been teaching us, and they are militant about it! Reducing your use of glitter and exfoliators also will reduce the amount of microplastics in the world too. Explain to your kids why you are making the changes and encourage them to get onboard with helping.
From local elections to the presidency of the United States, politicians have the power to help or hurt our environment. Be a responsible citizen who votes for policies and people who consider the stewardship of the Earth. This is a very important way to make a meaningful impact. It can make a difference for yourself and your community.
Know the sources of the meat you eat.
In a 2017 study, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that livestock takes up 49 percent of all the emissions produced by agriculture on the Earth. You don’t have to go totally vegan to make an impact though. Commit to buying meat and poultry from reputable companies that are transparent about their processes. Support those that publicly state their commitment to humane growing practices and responsible use of resources. The Earth (and perhaps your body) will thank you.
Teaching Stewardship to Kids
Being able to raise empathetic, kind, caring, environmentally-engaged children should be a long term effort. You can start by just having conversations with your kids about how they can help the Earth. Look for age-appropriate books for them to read (or you to read to them) to further extend the message. While you are teaching global environmental stewardship, you are also instilling in them a sense of compassion for the Earth and the people who inhabit it. They will require this compassion to combat the hurtful choices past generations have made.
As we become more and more educated on climate change and other environmental issues, parents become a primary source of education for our kids, our friends and family and our community. By enlightening yourself, you can then enlighten your kids. Teaching kids about the importance of global stewardship of the environment starts within the family and the choices made in each home.
Bottom line: Global Stewardship can be learned
Being good global stewards can seem like an insurmountable task. However, with simple, small changes, we can all create a big impact. As parents, it is partly our unintended actions that have contributed to the effects of climate change. Since we have been part of the problem, it is now up to us to become a bigger part of the solution. And teaching environmental stewardship to kids is key to the solution. Helping the next generation protect the environment and practice compassion are excellent ways to help solve the issues that face the Earth.