Sustainable Living Traits To Pass On To Your Children

Our children learn by example.  We as parents are usually the first and primary source of their learned behavior, even as they grow into their teenage years.  Even as teens and older children try out different mannerisms and characteristics borrowed from other adults, such as teachers, sports figures, and celebrities, and even more so from their peers and older siblings, most would agree that parents still play the most important role in influencing a child’s behavior and belief system.

That is why it is of upmost importance that we provide positive examples for our children, as they are likely to inherit much of our lifestyle choices, both the good and the bad.  This extends to how we observe and react to the world around us.  With so much turmoil and unease in the world today – political, social/economical, technological, environmental, etc. – it’s now important to keep a positive outlook more than ever.  Not only for our own well-being, but for our children and the generations that follow.

If you are a regular reader of this site, then you already believe a sustainable lifestyle is a key component to that equation.  So how to do we pass along our ideals and actions to our children without forcing it on them?  And in a way that even our youngest children can understand them?  I’ve recently given this some seriously thought and came up with a few basic examples we can impart these values upon our children in ways they understand and can easily implement into their day-to-day lives.

Healthy Personal Lifestyle Choices

Physical and mental health obviously play an important role in our overall well-being and outlook on life.  Maintaining a healthy diet and an active lifestyle are integral to keeping our bodies and minds fit.  Here are just a few things you can do to ensure a healthy and sustainable lifestyle:

    • Take your kids shopping with you and teach them the value of buying organic and locally-grown produce and other items (Take them to your local farmer’s markets and community co-op markets)
    • Avoid driving to places in your neighborhood when you can walk or ride a bike instead
    • Teach them to avoid unhealthy foods, including fast food and highly-refined processed food and explain to them why they are undesirable (and reward them when they make healthy choices!)
    • Go hiking and camping and show them the beauty of the outdoors (and teach them to leave trails and campsites better than when you arrived)
    • Plant a garden with your children to give them a tangible example of how much fun growing your own food and eating healthy can be!


Understanding Sustainable Energy & Conserving Natural Resources 

In addition to our children’s own health, we want our children to maintain a healthy relationship with the world around them – within their communities, and within their relationship with their physical environment as a whole.  The ideas and actions of a sustainable lifestyle is integral to these relationships.  It’s important for even the youngest children to have an understanding of sustainable energy sources and the knowledge to conserve our limited natural resources.  While your conversations and examples could encompass a wide spectrum of topics, there are many simple ideas that children can easily grasp and put into action. 

    • Recycling is a simple and obvious practice that children can easily understand.  Teach them how to recycle household items like plastic bottles, aluminum cans, paper, etc.  You can even let them manage the responsibility in your household and reward with them with the earnings from recycling cans and bottles at local recycle centers.
    • Participate in local food drives and donations and involve your kids in your actions.  You can make it fun for you kids by running a household scavenger hunt in which you reward you children for finding household items to donate, such as clothes, toys, books, old appliances, and canned goods.
    • Make it be known that that that there is nothing wrong in purchasing second-hand items from thrift stores, yard sales, or via classified ads or even online via places like eBay or Craigslist.  You will want to oversee their purchases, especially when it comes buy items online, but let them actively find ways to stretch their allowance or part-time wages by purchasing things used, such as clothes, books, furniture, and even bikes and cars.
    • Teach your children the importance of water and energy conservation and reward them for turning off lights and fans when they leave the room, or by limiting their personal water usage by taking condensed showers, turning facets off in the midst of washing hands or brushing teeth, and only washing dishes or doing laundry with a full load.
    • Encourage your teens and older children to walk or ride bikes to school or friends homes and other places they hang out, instead of driving or requesting a ride.  You can even reward them with extra allowance with the money saved on gasoline and car upkeep.  Public transportation can also be a great alternative depending on the area and your comfort level.


Personal Finances – A Thrifty Lifestyle Is A Sustainable Lifestyle 

Our economic stability is also a key aspect in maintaining a healthy outlook and plays an integral part in a sustainable lifestyle.  (And vice versa!)  Teaching your children to be thrifty with their earnings, whether via allowance or wages from a part-time job, works in tandem with teaching them to live a sustainable lifestyle.  Stress the importance of saving and staying away from debt.  I recently read an article in the Huffington Post which gave some great examples to impart on your kids how to live a thrifty lifestyle and make smart personal finance choices that I would like to share here:

    • Spend less than you make and invest the difference
    • Don’t acquire material things to impress your friends
    • Live simply and surround yourself with positive people (not stuff!)
    • Be prepared for emergencies — financially and physically
    • Get to know the whisper of your spirit, and pay it more attention than the trumpeting of your ego


The last example is also my favorite.  In a lot of ways, this statement is linked completely to defining healthy and sustainable lifestyle choices and reiterates everything I’ve said above.  Personal accountability and responsibility is the name of the game.  Ego-driven choices are responsible for much of the negativity, fear, and unease in the world today.  Instead, lead a life driven by love, positivity, and hope and impart those ideals on your children today.  The world you leave behind for the next generations will benefit because of it.

So, have you given any thought to how to teach your children about sustainable living? What kinds of things have you tried?


Sustainable Living Traits To Pass On To Your Children — 30 Comments

  1. Many of the key areas in ecosystems that foster sustainability are surprising, such as tiny organisms living in the soil and predators that help their prey survive.

  2. I haven’t got any children, but I agree with your post. I was raised in a house where we recycled even before household programs were implemented – it’s always been important to me!

  3. Using this as a check list I found that my failings as a mother (well amongst others outside the remit ot this article) are mainly under ‘healthy personal lifestyle choices’ – farmers markets are great but camping and gardening are simply things that I cannot crack. And it is probably time to think of a substitude…

  4. THis is a GREAT post! My wife and I work hard to keep our children in on the decisions and things that happen with our family. When we go shopping, we are sure teo tell them what we need and how much we have — so they start to understand about money and counting, and how it all works (and so they know why we say “no” sometimes). And for environmental things, we usually talk about that stuff alot. And about recycling and why we turn things off. And when I go garbage picking to make money, I also talk with my daughtesr when they come about how this is reusing things too.

  5. I fully believe that regularly taking my kids into the countryside is one of the best things I can do to help them develop into respectful, responsible young adults.

    There is something about nature that makes you develop a healthy respect for life. Some might say that children don’t think on this level but I disagree. Children soak up their surroundings like a sponge.

    I feel that peaceful happy surroundings will go someway to giving my child a peaceful happy life.

    Great Post

    • I would agree too. My parents did that with us growing up and it had a huge effect on me. I am know a very eco conscious and life conscious adult which is a good way to be. Kids pick up on a lot more than people think they do which is why we need to start setting those good examples when they are very young.

  6. I don’t have children, but I can see the many ways my parents didn’t live up to these ideals. In particular, I don’t think they’ve bought a used item since we were born. I literally had never been in a thrift shop until I was in college and it took a long time for me to overcome the ooky feelings I had toward used items. I still haven’t overcome them completely.

    • Parents are a big factor that is for sure. Like you, my parents didn’t do as much of these things and they still don’t. However as an adult I have learned I can change for the better and I have been working hard to do so. We aren’t cursed for life. We just need time to adjust.

  7. Lovely! I just came back from a permaculture convergence, so I’m feeling the sustainability vibe pretty strongly.
    I really like how you included aspects of the economy in your writing, I find a lot of folks fundamentally do not understand that relationship and believe it is all broken and for naught.

  8. Based on your list of suggestions and recommendations, I would like to think that I am doing a good hob in teaching my kids sustainability and conservation of natural resources. Recycling and planting vegetables in our mini-garden are one of our family bonding activities. We also buy books and toys in yard sales. Likewise, they wear hand-me-down clothes and shoes from older cousins. Their school is barely a 15-minute walk from our house. And they enjoy the walk every day!

  9. My mother was raised very organically. It wasn’t en vogue then, that was just how they survived. They made, grew, or raised about everything they had. They had to reuse and recycle because buying new things didn’t happen.I think because of that she was more into convenience things to a degree. I’m somewhere in the middle. We recycle as much as possible, buy local when available, but we do go to McDonalds from time to time. We camp and hike and love the outdoors, but we have to drive to most places. It’s difficult to find the balance. I guess you do the best you can.

  10. These are some very good tips 🙂 It can be tough to make the right choice sometimes but it’s very true that kids and even teens! are quite impressionable. You may not see a direct impact at first, but those lessons you instill will be with them when they become adults IMO.

  11. By doing the things that you outline in this post, one would pass a rich heritage to their children that goes beyond dollars and cents. I agree with the earlier comments that sustainable living does get easier with time, so the implications of starting when one is still a child can be huge!

  12. I agree with Harry @ PF Pro above – don’t give up on your teens – they silently notice what you do and it pays off later. Although we were always eco-friendly, I didn’t get very frugal until my kid was 16. There was still enough time for it to sink in before leaving home at age 18!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I appreciate your readership and really enjoy hearing your thoughts on different topics. Thank you for contributing to the discussion.