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Grandma Doreen.

My grandmother Doreen was a seamstress, she kept every scrap of fabric just in case it could be useful later.

This is a shortened version of an article first published in Tots to Teens magazine, April/May issue

Sustainability may be the catchphrase of the 21st century, but it’s actually old school. It was only two generations ago that clothes were worn until they were worn out; mended, patched, darned, passed down then finally torn up and used as cleaning rags. “Waste not, want not” was my Grandmother’s mantra. It was the way they lived.

These days in our commercially-driven society, we are constantly bombarded with messages to buy! Buy! Buy! You need the latest phone, the latest toy, the latest fashions. We are using and throwing away more stuff than ever before.

But the earth is a finite place. And everything we do is connected. Every living thing on this planet relies on the same basic things as we do; clean water, clean air, food and a safe home.

Many people around the world have realised that these basic needs are in jeopardy because of the way we live. Because we are simply using too much stuff.

Sustainability is about changing the way we think and behave. It’s about making good choices. To be aware of how we might impact the environment, our community, and the world.

The sheer enormity of saving the world might seem too big a task for the average person. But if person starts with one small change, it can happen. And that’s exactly what the Earth Day campaign to collect ‘A Billion Acts of Green’ is all about. You can pledge your act online at www.earthday.org/2012.

Children too can be empowered early on to take part. The future world after all, is for them. Here are some pledge suggestions for different ages and stages:

Under five

  • Paint or draw on both sides of the paper. Use your paintings as wrapping paper for truly unique gifts.
  • Set up a box to collect bits and pieces for creating art – like bottle tops, boxes and ribbons.
  • Keep taps off while brushing teeth.
  • Look for the numbers on the bottom of plastic containers so you can help sort the recycling.
  • Find someone to hand your clothes onto when you out grow them.
  • Make your fifth birthday a green party – make invitations and decorations out of recycled stuff, serve fresh food on large plates instead of small disposable ones. Tell your guests to bring gifts they have made themselves or recycled from their own stash. (See seven steps to throwing an Earth Day party!)
Josie picking tomatoes.

Helping in the vegetable garden is a great way to learn about food and where it comes from!

5 – 8 years

  • Make green choices with your school supplies – buy recycled books and corn-starch biodegradable pens.
  • Turn off the light when you leave a room. Unplug your stereo or other electronics when you are not using them.
  • Start a swap club – get together with friends to swap books, CDs or games that you are bored with.
  • Collect paper that’s only been printed on one side (ask your parents first) Cut it up and staple them together to make a message pad for by the phone.
  • Ask your parents and friend’s parents to start a walking bus to get to school – or car-pool on wet days!

9 – 12 years

  • Ask for a solar charger for a present and use re-chargeable batteries in all your battery-powered toys.
  • Go green surfing: make a list of websites with ideas on how to be eco-friendly. Share the list with your friends and school teachers.
  • Write a letter to your favourite celebrity and ask them to support a local environmental trust. E.g. http://www.projectlitefoot.org/ top sportspeople are inspiring kiwis to become environmental champions.
  • Ask for a piece of the garden to grow your own vegetables and fruits. Look at a globe to see how far food has travelled to get to your cupboard!
  • Write a letter to your local council to make the streets safer for cyclists and to invest more in public transport.

But above all else – provide experiences! Love the Earth by getting to know its special qualities….

Josie and William at Peters Pool.

Peters Pool, Franz Josef

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