These creative ideas will help children learn the importance of protecting the planet

The new year is officially underway—and if you've been wanting to become more eco-conscious as a household, this is the perfect time to make the commitment. Of course, switching to a sustainable lifestyle doesn't just happen overnight, so this is why setting 'green goals’ as a family is an excellent way to start. Plus, if you involve children in making eco-friendly choices at a young age and help them understand how their actions affect the environment, they are more likely to care throughout their lives.

Read on to find out how you can be more sustainable as a family this year…

1. Reduce single-use plastic

plasticPexelsCutting down on single-use plastic in your household is a fantastic goal to set because we know that once it ends up in the landfill, plastic takes hundreds of years to break down and causes numerous harmful effects to the environment.

To make this goal more fun for the kids, try turning it into a game. Have them do a scavenger hunt of all of the plastic items they can find in the house that can be switched to reusable ones instead. This will help eliminate items such as plastic bags, water bottles, straws, containers and more. When you go shopping together, have them see what things on your list can be found in bulk instead of individually packaged, such as nuts and cereal.

2. Support local farmers' markets

farmers marketPexelsIs there a farmers' market in your neighbourhood? Support local growers while enjoying a family outing. This is an awesome way for the kiddos to learn about the importance of fresh, seasonal ingredients, as well as what farm-to-table means.

3. Donate old clothing

donate clothingPexelsKids frequently grow out of their clothing, so make it a habit to donate items—whether that's to a local thrift store, a shelter, a Buy Nothing Facebook group, or even by organizing a clothing swap with your neighbours and family. If you have an extra laundry basket, they can use it to collect things such as T-shirts and sweaters they don't wear anymore and set the goal of giving something away every six months, or whatever timeline suits your family.

4. Try Meatless Monday

meatless MondayPexelsChoose one day per week when you only eat plant-based foods. Meatless Monday is a global movement that was started in 2003 by Sid Lerner (founder of The Monday Campaigns) along with the John Hopkins Centre for a Livable Future. The idea is to encourage people to reduce meat in their diet for their own health, and the health of the planet. Doing this can help limit the production of greenhouse gases, as well as preserve more land and water resources that are used in agricultural processes.

My suggestion is to pick out a vegetarian or vegan recipe together and have the kids help out in the kitchen so that they feel involved and invested in the process. Cooking as a family is a great bonding experience and will help teach kids this very important life skill at a young age.

5. Compost together

compostPexelsComposting is a fabulous way to teach kids appreciation for the planet and to show them how to convert waste into nutrient-rich soil. It's a hands-on activity that they will love and is easy to fit into your daily routine. Start by asking them to identify compostable materials, such a fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds and more. Make it simple for them by creating an indoor compost bin, or show them how to directly compost outside in your flower bed or garden area.

6. Spend more time outside

outdoorsPexelsHere is a simple green goal that we often forget about, especially because our days end up getting so jam-packed with work, school, errands and more. Put down all those devices and make it a mission to step outside together. Now, this could look different for each family, but try to set a realistic goal—whether it's going for a neighbourhood stroll each evening or spending weekend mornings at a local park. This is another great way to show kids how to appreciate nature and all of its surroundings, as well as get lots of fresh air. Plus, parents will have time to disconnect as well, which is so important.

7. Conserve electricity and water

conserve electricity and waterPexelsMany kids don’t realize the harmful effects of leaving the tap running when brushing their teeth, or how the lights don't need to stay on in every single room when no one is in them. Turn this goal into a fun challenge and keep a track of every time they reduce their electricity usage or shorten their bath time. You could even plan an evening where you don't use any electricity and do story time cozied up together by some candles. Brainstorm ideas together about how to reduce water waste around the house and help kids understand how precious these resources are.

8. Recycle and reuse paper

recycle and reusePexelsThe simplest way to make this into a daily habit for kids is to create two designated bins for them, one of recycling and the other for reusing. They will learn how to set aside sheets of paper from school that can be used again for a fun colouring activity, and how to properly get rid of paper tags that came inside a recent purchase. It will also teach them organizational skills and they will automatically realize how much waste can actually be diverted from the trash.