Sustainability is a process where you avoid depleting natural resources while creating something new. It’s based on three foundations: people, planet, and profit. The profit aspect may not be something your children will comprehend beyond the basics at this point, but they will be able to understand how sustainability is designed to help people and the planet.
The goal of sustainability is to stop depleting resources without thinking ahead. People needed lumber to build homes and other structures. They needed wood for heating. The increased demand for lumber stripped forests of trees, which ended up harming the planet by impacting oxygen levels and raising the risk of mudslides on the deforested land. It forced wild animals to find new homes or become extinct. When you think about sustainability, you’re planting a new tree for each tree that must be taken down.
Sustainability is something that parents should teach their children. Some children may have a few things they can teach their parents about reducing, repurposing, and recycling, so make it a habit to talk to them and listen to their ideas. If you’re looking to teach your children about sustainability, these DIY projects are perfect group activities.
Your kids may see bees as something to be scared of. If they sting, it does hurt. They need to learn that in a sustainable world, bees are one of the most important parts. Start this DIY product by showing your kids videos on how bees produce honey. You could even purchase different types of honey to do taste tests. Orange blossom, clover, and buckwheat honey are all found in grocery stores. That should capture their interest. Now, show them videos on how bees are vital to growing fruit and vegetables.
Once they get why bees are important, start talking about ways to help the bees. A bee garden is an easy way to help them. Dig an area to turn into a bee garden. Research the types of flowers that bees love and have your children pick their favorites. Flowering thyme, oregano flowers, lavender, and common sage are some that can be used in your kitchen too. Purchase seeds or get starter plants, though the seeds are ideal if you want a second sustainability project.
Leave plenty of room for these flowers to spread out. Cover small bowls or plates in rocks and keep those watered to give bees a water source, too. The rocks give the bees a safe perch for drinking without falling into the water. As the plants flower, they will draw a lot of bees. You can watch them from a safe distance and show your children how they collect pollen on their legs.
Egg Container Seedlings
One way to teach your children about sustainability is by teaching them how items that are produced from living things can become living things once more. Egg container seedlings are a perfect example of this. Ask local bakeries or restaurants if they have paper egg filler flats you can have for your projects. Cardboard egg cartons are also acceptable.
Start by soaking the egg filler flats or cardboard egg containers in water. Place them on a large baking sheet, and fill each cup with potting soil. Plant seeds that your children have picked out. Make sure each seed is covered with a small amount of potting soil and water everything.
Monitor the egg containers for the sprouts. Make sure the soil is moist but not soaking wet. As the sprouts get larger, set them outside on sunny days to expose them to sunlight. When they’re a few inches high, you can cut out each cup to have one plant. As the cardboard is compostable, you can plant it directly into the garden soil where it will give back to the soil as it breaks down.
Inexpensive Rain Barrels
In many areas of the world, water sources are drying up. Even in the U.S., you’ve probably seen or even live in an area where bans on watering lawns and washing cars are ordered during dry spells. Teach your children the value of reusing water.
Purchase a spigot kit and large plastic trash can at a home improvement, hardware, or garden store. Drill a hole and insert the spigot. Place that rain barrel under the downspouts of your gutters. When it rains, the rain will go from the downspout into the DIY rain barrel. Attach a hose to the spigot and show your children how you can use the rain collected in that barrel to water their gardens. They’re reusing water rather than drawing from public water systems or private wells.
Are you worried about your rain barrels becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes? Add some goldfish to your rain barrel/s to eat any mosquito larva that tries to develop. The fish have a steady supply of food, and you’re not going to have to worry about an increase in mosquitoes around your home. Plus, the fish manure is food that helps your plants thrive.
Composting is a good way to teach children some sustainable living practices. Boost your children’s interest in composting by having worms help out. Add worms to your composting process and it’s going to be more appealing to them. Worm farming is an effective way to compost food scraps while converting that food into nutrient-rich worm castings (manure) that can be used as fertilizer in their gardens.
A worm farm doesn’t have to be complex. Take an old cooler and drill a hole in the side at the bottom. Place a layer of crushed stone over the bottom so that it’s higher than the hole. Cover that with some type of screening. Pet-proof screening is a good option. Place some manure on top of that followed by soaked shredded paper or wood chips and more manure. Add worms you’ve collected on the road or purchased from a worm farmer. Once they’ve settled, add some coffee grounds and vegetable scraps.
The worms will eat the food scraps and create nutrient-rich manure. As they do, you can add more food scraps. A liquid known as “worm tea” will drain from the hole. This contains condensation and liquid from the worm manure.
Always keep the worm farm around room temperature if possible and moist. You don’t want the worms to overheat or dry out. Productive worm farms won’t smell, so you can keep them inside in a garage or basement in the winter or during a heatwave.
DIY sustainability projects are cost-effective if you can recycle items you no longer need. If you have an old cooler that grew mildew stains, it’s a good choice for a worm farm. The old plastic trash can you replaced with a wheeled bin is ideal for a rain barrel if it isn’t cracked. By finding new ways to use old items, you’re not only teaching about sustainability through the project but also by the principle of repurposing.
Do you have items that you need to recycle but don’t know where to go? Recycle Nation offers a comprehensive guide to recycling that allows you to search your ZIP code with the item. Enter that information and wait for the results that provide you with a list of recycling centers near you.