Feature

A – Z of eco kids

kids-alphabet

Credit: iStockphoto

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Hope

Today’s kids are worried about the environment – it’s one of their top worries along with their parents and friends dying or getting sick. With the catastrophic issue of climate change plastered all over the news, there’s a fine line between informing children about environmental issues and them becoming afraid of the future. The Australian Psychological Society says that visual images stay with children much longer than radio or print media, so it’s a good idea to switch off the TV news if young children are nearby, or to talk them through the things they see. Reassure children that there are millions of people working together to solve environmental problems. With more than half the human population now living in urban areas, children are less exposed to nature and are more likely to bond with ‘things’ rather than valuing the natural world that they live in. So a good way to nurture hope in kids is to get them outdoors and get dirty!

Impact

There’s no denying it – having kids will have a dramatic environmental impact no matter how many cans you
recycle in your lifetime. This is because for every child you have you’re responsible for half their impact, a quarter of your grandchildren’s impact and so on. Some call it a ‘carbon legacy’, but actual impact should cover waste, water, resource and infrastructure pressures as well. Those who are worried about overpopulation could consider adoption over bearing children of their own, but the main environmental impact depends on where and how kids are brought up. With Australians claiming the unfortunate title of the highest greenhouse gas emitters per capita, we produce 27 times the amount of greenhouse gases than that of a Namibian. Something to consider when you aim to lessen your family’s impact.

Jam jars

Turn your preserves into little pieces of posterity with these great kids DIY reuse crafts.
1. Make a time capsule by filling a clean jar with items they choose, then bury away in your house or a small section of the garden to dig up a few, or many, years down the track.
2. Create cute cake gifts for your kids to give their friends. Mix (or artfully layer) the dry measured ingredients for a simple recipe in a jar and make a decorated tag with instructions for the rest. Decorate the lid with a circle of fabric held on with an elastic band.
3. Start a terrarium in a jar with some rocks, charcoal and plants like succulents or mosses. They’ll be proud to show off the living display in their room. For some DIY help visit http://blog.craftzine.com.

Kids in the kitchen

Spending time cooking with children teaches them the creative skill of making wholesome delicious food from simple ingredients and produce. Help them whip up this bright and cheery breakfast from free-range eggs or those from your backyard if you have chooks.
Jozefa’s “Daisy” Eggs:
- 3 fresh eggs
- 1 tablespoon of dill, parsley and chives, finely chopped
- butter (or oil) for frying
Hard boil the eggs for five minutes, then run them under cold water for a moment so they are not too hot to handle. Using a sharp knife cut the eggs (still in their shells) lengthwise into two.
Scoop out the yolks and whites, keeping the shells intact. Chop the egg roughly and mix with whatever herbs you have to hand – dill, parsley, chives. Add salt and pepper to season and carefully replace the mixture in the egg shells without breaking them.
Fry face down in a little butter for a few minutes until lightly brown. Arrange like daisy petals on a plate and serve with fresh bread for breakfast, lunch, or a snack.
Recipe from ‘Rose Petal Jam: Recipes & Stories from a Summer in Poland’, by Beata Zatorska & Simon Target, $60, Tabula Books.

Learning

Sustainability has been identified as an important part of the Australian Curriculum since the Melbourne Declaration on Education Goals for Young Australians in 2008. It is one of the three cross-curriculum priorities (the other two priorities being Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, and Australia’s engagement with Asia). According to the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, including sustainability education in the school environment is important because it helps to develop the knowledge, skills and values that children need so their behaviours and actions contribute to more sustainable patterns of living. Also look into whether your child’s school runs additional sustainability programs such as a school vegie garden for the kids to get involved in, as many schools are increasingly doing so.

Meat vs mushrooms

Vegetarians yourselves and want to raise your kids the same way? It can be done. The Department of Health and Ageing and the National Health and Medical Research Council created the most up-to-date dietary guidelines for children and adolescents in 2003, with revised guidelines due later this year. The report recognises that many people choose to take vegetarian or vegan options for their families for various reasons, such as ethics, religion or dietary conditions such as allergies. Vegetarian kids will need to have their diet monitored carefully, because children have small stomachs yet they need a lot of nutrients to grow, so it’s important to make sure that they’re filling up on nutrient-rich foods. Vegan diets can be harder to monitor, with calcium and vitamin B12 being the hardest nutrient intakes to keep up.

Nappies

The disposable versus cloth nappies debate has been raging for a long time. Here’s a quick guide to wrapping your bub’s behind in the most sustainable way possible.
Ninety-five per cent of babies in Australia currently wear disposables. In a household with one baby in disposables, nappies make up 50 per cent of household waste, so it might seem that single-use nappies are a wicked habit to get into, but disposables have come a long way and many are now 100 per cent biodegradable.
However, Australian landfills are dry, dark and air-free, so chances of a nappy breaking down in landfill are low. It’s illegal to compost human poo in your own backyard, but some councils, such as in Tasmania, allow some brands of disposable nappies in their organic waste collection. If you decide to get disposables, remember that 60 per cent of disposables are wood pulp, so look for products sourced from certified sustainable forests. Even though there’s less raw materials needed to make cloth nappies, cloth also has a high environmental impact – mainly due to the water and energy involved in washing them after each use. Growing cotton nappies requires lots of water and sometimes pesticides, so it’s best to choose organic cotton, hemp or bamboo fabric. One factor in choosing the best nappy might be cost, and cloth definitely wins out as the cheaper option. Try to limit how many nappies you use and toilet train sooner rather than later. Use cloth nappies on a cold wash in a front-loader washing machine in phosphate-free detergent and line-dry in the sun to kill any bacteria. Otherwise, 100 per cent biodegradable disposables discarded in approved organic compost collection, or in a biodegradable bag in your general waste are an okay option too.
G Fact: The first disposable nappies made in the 1950s are still in landfill and have not yet decomposed.

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