“Green” parenting tips

UNICEF and the Austrian Development Agency have collected expert tips to help parents raise their children in an environmentally friendly way.

UNICEF Armenia
Mother helps children to plant a tree in their garden.
UNICEF Armenia/2020/Margaryan
26 July 2021

Climate is extremely important for the lives and wellbeing of people on the Earth. To prevent the negative consequences of climate change, we all need to rethink our lifestyle and everyday choices. It is more important than ever to educate a new generation that cares about the environment. Hence, UNICEF and the Austrian Development Agency have collected expert tips on eco-friendly parenting of children from infancy to adolescence.

For 0 to 3-year-old babies


1 Use reusable nappies

Parents use around 5-6 disposable diapers for their newborn per day, all of which ends up in the bin and decays for a hundred years. Using reusable nappies will not only save the nature but your financial resources too.

2 Breastfeed

UNICEF recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their life, and then continue to be breastfeed along with solid food until they reach 2 years of age. Breastfeeding is good for the mother and child and helps you save the energy and waste used in the production and packaging of formula.

3. Make your baby food at home

There’s a wealth of baby food in grocery shops and pharmacies. Sure, it’s a quick and easy way to feed your toddler, but making homemade food is cheaper and can be more nutritious! If you want to spend less time preparing them, there are plenty of practical tips online. Make sure to check out some of the recipes on Babycef parenting website.

4 Doing laundry the eco way

Having a baby at home requires a lot of laundry every week. While this cannot be avoided, you can still reduce the environmental impact. It is advised to fully load the washing machine instead of running several small loads a day. Using low-temperatures and an eco-friendly detergent will also significantly reduce the negative impact on the environment.

Brother and sister are watering the plants in their garden.
UNICEF Armenia/2021/Margaryan

For 4 to 6-year-old children


1 Switch off the lights

Teach your child how to save energy. In order for children to appreciate it, they need to understand where it comes from, so have a discussion with your child to explain where electricity comes from. Try to get them on board to switch off the lights as they leave a room.

2. Adopt a pet

Children love animals very much. Don't hesitate to get a pet. If you live in a small apartment, you can get a fish or a hamster. Together you can also take care of the animals in your neighborhood, set up a feeding space for birds or leave out some water and dry food for dogs or cats. This will support your child’s mental and physical development. It will teach empathy to your child, as well as help him or her to become organized and, most importantly, care for nature.

3 Adopt a houseplant

Taking care of plants is a small step for a child of this age to get closer to nature. Everyday routine activities like watering, cleaning, removing unnecessary leaves, learning the needs of each plant, and tracking their growth create a bond with your child and help him or her develop love for nature.

4 Reuse old clothes and toys

It is no secret that parents need to purchase a lot of things for a child. Most of these things are usually used for only a short time. If you borrow used items and clothing from your friends or relatives, you will save money and reduce waste. In case of books, check out your local library. In case of toys, here’s a small community of Armenian parents online that you can join to exchange toys. Make it a habit to sort clothing and toys once a year and, if necessary, give them to friends and other people who may need them more.

Girl is watering the trees.
UNICEF Armenia/2020/Margaryan

For 7 to 12-year-old children


1. Plant a garden

Having a small family garden is wonderful. Not only will you have your own green space to have fun in, but your child will learn the value of growing his or her own food and appreciate nature. In turn, you will not only save money but will reduce pollution from food packaging.

2. Explore the outdoors

Both greener views and surroundings, as well as time spent within green spaces, offer children numerous mental, physical and social developmental benefits and spur their growth into ecologically aware and responsible citizens. Take your child on a nature walk or go hiking. Let them get to know and understand how pleasurable outdoors can be. Camping or picnics are also a great way to spend time together.

3. Sort waste together

You will inspire your child a lot if you let him or her assist you in waste sorting. Introduce your child to all sorting rules and talk to him or her about the importance of waste sorting. You can investigate different types of waste according to their size, shape, and texture. Spend time cleaning and organizing recycled waste into respective bins.

4. Be creative and craft new items

Children of all ages love the process of creating something new. Making new things from old and useless things is a unique way to recycle. At this age, they can take this as a project, research and prepare for it. There is plenty of new stuff you can make from plastic, polyethene, and paper waste. You can find a lot of ideas on the internet. This will show your child that not everything needs to be thrown into the bin and that there are exciting and creative alternatives.

5. Minimize food waste

On average, 30-40 percentage of processed food does not reach our tables and is thrown away. Show them how to serve food without spilling, teach them the value of food and teach your children how to store leftover food items in the refrigerator.

Excessive food waste overloads landfills. You can do a great job to save the planet by planning your meals. Buy only what you need and, if food is left over, store it in the freezer.

6. Save water

Although 75% of the Earth's surface is covered with water, drinking water resources are increasingly limited. This leads to droughts and infectious diseases. Teach your child to use water wisely. When brushing their teeth, turn off the tap or take short showers. Encourage them to carry tap water in reusable water bottles instead of buying bottled water.

7. Turn off electrical appliances

Electric appliances consume energy, even when they are turned off. Teaching children to unplug their gaming systems, computers, chargers, or audio equipment will save a lot of energy. When this becomes a habit in your family, you will be surprised how your child will monitor and control all the plugs in the house.

8. Encourage STEM education

If your child displays a natural curiosity towards science, help them pursue their interests in STEM. Some teachers find it hard to define what age is appropriate to get started but, in reality, it’s never too start STEM education. One of the best ways to get started, is to get your child excited about something interesting – show them an enticing example of how things work in your own environment. Studying science will not only help your child to understand the world better but also be able to find a solution to climate change issues. You can also arrange trips to a local laboratory, observatory or science museums outside of school.

9 Organise nature cleaning activities with friends

Group activities are fun and rewarding. Choose a specific litter-filled area in your neighbourhood or the local park and invite your child's friends to clean the area together. Do that at the end of each school or family trip in the nature. Such events will teach your child to work in a team, be attentive to the needs of the environment and never tolerate pollution.

Two adolescents are drawing on the tire.
UNICEF Armenia/2021/Margaryan

For 13 to 16-year-old children


1․ Walk or ride a bike

Travelling by car is comfortable and fast, but harmful for the environment. The role of automobile transport in air pollution is enormous. If your teen’s school is not far, accompany him or her on foot. If he or she already goes to school on his or her own, offer to go by bicycle. Walking and cycling are not only good for the environment but also for the healthy development of your children.

2. Talk about climate issues and action with your adolescent

Encourage climate change questions, even if you can't always answer them. Adolescents are driven by scientific curiosity, awareness, and a sense of civic responsibility. When they're seeking answers to big questions, you can embark with them on the hunt. Start teaching children about where to find trusted resources for climate science information but also what disinformation is out there. But we careful not to dump too much information as it can become overwhelming and swamp us. It can lead to a sense of futility or unrealistic expectations. Here are two English-language resources for your children to visit: Become a Climate Changemaker! | The World's Largest Lesson (globalgoals.org) and A Climate Change Guide for Kids - The New York Times (nytimes.com)

3. Don’t be afraid to let your teen educate you on climate change

Your teen may well be more aware of the latest research on fossil fuels and lighting alternatives when it comes to climate change than you are! We can all learn from our children and should listen to them. We all need to have the humility to step back and look at parts of ourselves we don’t necessarily like to examine. For example, if your teen is inclined to become a vegetarian and confronts you for eating meat regularly, ask questions and reflect on their thoughts: How did you decide to become a vegetarian? How do you feel to live in a family with meat eaters? Can you think of some solutions or compromises?

4. Share news articles with your children about their peers making a difference

The Youth Climate Movement is flourishing. There are many inspiring examples you can share about young people standing up for their generation’s future. It’s empowering for teens to see that the government and people are taking them seriously. It shows them that their voices matter. It helps to encourage teens to channel climate outrage and worry into action and focus on the things they can control. That’s important for their mental health since obsessing over all the things we don’t know and can’t do anything about often contributes to stress and anxiety.

5. Most importantly, set an example

“Do not teach your children; they will still be like you. Nurture yourself.” Always remember this English saying during your parenting. Take care of nature, lead an ecologically clean lifestyle, and your children will learn to love the planet.