6 easy eco tips for kids by the Singapore woman behind Earth Hour

6 easy eco tips for kids by the Singapore woman behind Earth Hour
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Singapore PR Bonnie Chia leads the global brand strategy and planning for WWF (World Wide Fund For Nature). She is also the woman behind Earth Hour – one of the largest grassroots movements for the environment in the World. For one hour on March 26 every year, people all over the world shut off their lights, to show their commitment to looking after the planet.  

Bonnie’s also a working mother to two kids, Maya, aged seven, and Aiden, aged four. Here she shares easy ways to be more eco-friendly at home, including six easy ways to kickstart your eco-parenting journey;

“As parents, we want to protect our children and ensure they are happy. But rising sea levels, natural disasters, and a changing climate are worrying. I don’t want my children to inherit a sick planet.  And I’m sure most parents feel the same way.

“My job at WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) educates me about what we can do as individuals to make a difference to the environment. But, I still find it challenging at times to lead a completely sustainable lifestyle, especially as a working mother of two children”. 

“One of WWF’s most iconic events is the annual Earth Hour. Millions of people from across the globe switch off their lights for one hour to raise awareness of the importance of nature. In Earth Hour 2022, a record-breaking 1000 establishments in Singapore participated in the switch-off. 

My work and passion for the environment have inspired me to pass on my eco-tips to my kids Maya and Aiden. As well as the common advice of “reduce, reuse, recycle”, here are six tried-and-true personal tips on eco-parenting that can turn your little ones into eco-champions, and help protect the future of the planet”:

1. Wait before you click ‘Buy’ - and look at second-hand options too

As parents, we want to provide our kids with the best – but this means we may feel pressured into buying lots of things we may not need. Says Bonnie, “From my experience, my kids are just as happy with hand-me-downs or second-hand toys as they are with new items.

One favourite “shopping consciously” tip I use is to simply add items into my online cart – and then wait for a few days before checking out. I find I buy much less on impulse.

“Another great option is secondhand marketplaces like Carousell for deals or Olio for free giveaways. Don’t forget to check out eco-friendly brands if you do need to buy necessities, as they are now more competitively priced than you might think”. 

For example, Unilever recently announced a three-year partnership with Lazada. Eco-friendly products will be marked with the Easy Green label, which identifies products that are at least 90 per cent biodegradable, with a minimum of 50 per cent renewable carbon sources and packaging made from paper or recycled plastic. You can find out more about the products and plans here.

2. Cook more plant-based meals - and get the kids involved

Bonnie explains, “A ‘planet-based diet’ is high in health benefits for people and low in environmental impacts. It is about choosing sustainable foods, more plant-based food and less meat, more whole foods and minimising processed foods.

''For our home-cooked meals, we try to replace meat with high-protein, plant-based foods like beans, tofu, and tempeh, and buy local produce at the wet market when available. Bonus: there’s less plastic wrapping”. 

3. Let kids shop for vegetables, or grow their own

“We involve our children in grocery shopping. They enjoy choosing the vegetables they’ll be eating, ” explains Bonnie. “They also love growing and harvesting simple edible plants like mushrooms, green onions or mung bean sprouts.

“We have noticed our kids are more interested to try eating different vegetables if they’ve been involved in shopping for them or growing them! We also take the opportunity to talk with them about where the food comes from, and to let them know from a young age how our actions have an impact on nature”.

If you don’t have a balcony garden or a community garden, kids can get hands-on at urban farms run by Edible Garden City or  at gardening workshops at Hort Park.

4. Enrol kids in activities outdoors, so they learn about nature

says Bonnie, “I take every opportunity to expose my kids to the outside world. From enrolling them in forest schools such as Wildlings Forest Schools to getting them to participate in Earth Hour events and even playing in the park with them.

“I confess I was not an outdoorsy person before I had kids, because mosquitoes love me! But when my children play outside, I saw how they learned about the cycle of life and how all living things are connected. So now I try to get out into the wild with my children more often”. 

5. Get involved in your community and school eco projects

Bonnie admits working parents can find it tough to find enough time for school activities. But she says it’s worth it.  “When my daughter started primary school this year, I joined the Parent Support Group. It was exciting to host my first Earth Hour local programme for the school!

With the help of the school committee, parents and students, we produced an Earth Art digital exhibition and created an Eco-Action film to showcase students of all ages and their daily eco-habits.

“On the night of Earth Hour, we even had a fun Earth doodling session with Singaporean illustrator @doodlesinabox and an eco-Kahoot competition with over 70 families in attendance. It was definitely a memorable experience that I will never forget”.

6. Empower kids and youth to create positive change

As parents, we play an important part in encouraging our kids to try new things. Bonnie’s advice is simple:

“To get my kids started on eco-living, I tasked my young children with taking charge of household chores like recycling. Now, they are recycling experts and even take the initiative to check if my husband and I are properly sorting our recyclables!

“For older kids, there are many competitions and volunteer programmes on environmental issues they can be involved in, such as WWF-Singapore’s #WeGotThis, a youth-led community movement for sustainability that comes with masterclasses, bootcamps and mentorships to enrich young minds on everything from conscious living to digital advocacy”.

This article was first published in The Singapore Women's Weekly.

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