How To Teach Your Kiddos Important Sustainability Lessons

Co-founder and Chairwoman of Handel Group By Lauren Handel Zander
Co-founder and Chairwoman of Handel Group
Lauren Handel Zander is the co-founder and chairwoman of Handel Group, an international corporate consulting and life coaching company. She authored Maybe It’s You: Cut the Crap, Face Your Fears, Love Your Life, and has spent over 20 years coaching thousands of private and corporate clients, including executives at Vogue, BASF, and AOL.

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The U.N. warned us: We have 12 years before the damage we've done to the Earth becomes irreversible. Instead of letting reports like this paralyze us, let's use them to empower us. The experts are saying it's going to take a mix of large-scale change AND individual action to save our planet—and we want to help you do what you can. Consider our This One Thing series your no-excuses guide to cleaning up your act, one step at a time. Today, we're sharing how parents can raise the next generation of conscious consumers.

I wish I could tell you that the soul (purposeful typo) reason my three children (ages 10, 15, and 16) are environmentally conscious is because of me. 

But it would be a lie. 

It's not that I'm being modest. Far from it. If you knew me, you'd know that I'd readily, happily take credit for many of my kids' other qualities—both good and bad, emotional and physical. But their water conservation? Can't do it. You see, it's not my bodega

My bo-what-a?

Sure, if you're from the East Coast, you more than likely know that bodegas are small stores that sell everything. But, even so, what do I mean here in this digression? Early on in my marriage, I lived in Harlem, where there was a bodega on every block. So, as I was figuring out my own marriage, the word "bodega" became a stand-in for each person's accountability in the relationship. A relationship isn't so different from running a mom-and-pop shop in that when it comes to the important stuff, it's all about divvying up the workload.

The problem: Raising eco-conscious children takes work, and it's not always easy in this day and age.

As a longtime life coach and corporate consultant, the problem I've seen in many relationships is that although partnerships can break down into different departments—from finances to fun to romance to sex to adventure to kids to holidays—hardly anyone is designing it or dividing it up that way. And how successful could a company ever be if no one steps up as CEO, sets a mission, divides, and conquers the actual work?

Curious about how the division gets split up? Well, it's rarely split fairly. The person who is better at the department gets it. And, if you both suck at it, then the person who complains about it the most gets it.

In my marriage, my husband David got a good portion of the bodegas: the children (school, activities, clothes), the house, the food, and the finances. After all, the poor thing was "cursed" with being great at almost anything he decided to do. I, on the other hand, genuinely complained about little. I worked my (wagging) tail off, created a method, built a company, coached, commuted, and came home all genuinely googly-eyed and ready to lovingly champion him. I kept David true to his heart, head, and dreams. I was in charge of love, vacations, community, making money, and saving the planet.

Specifically…saving the inhabitants of the planet more so than the planet itself. Don't get me wrong. I care. (I was even an environmental studies major back in college!) I just brilliantly cared enough to marry someone who actively cared more. And subsequently, someone who instills his own ethics and environmental principles into the (many!) departments he runs in our marriage.

What's that look like? We live in a 1790 farmhouse. We have a wood-burning stove. We have chickens. We have foxes, raccoons, and hawks that eat said chickens. David builds, landscapes, and plows. He's taught the kids how to butcher meat, tend to bees, and shower sacredly.

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The One Small Thing solution: Start with one habit change, like a "sacred shower."

Shower how? One of the most beautiful things David has done to help foster our children's environmental responsibility is to make them conscious of every drop of water they use.

And I mean every. From the get-go. Teens included. How, pray-tell?

Ever since our kids learned how to take a shower, David taught them to turn off the water in between soaping themselves. To this day, they don't even really think it's done differently or, perhaps better yet, they really don't care how others do it. In their world (a green one) this is how it's done. Funny thing is, we even have a well. So, truth is, we have so much water it's silly. Regardless, the value of water has been instilled.

It's a small win that'll hopefully go a long way in lessening their footprint. At the very least, it's a testament to the fact that once you make conservation part of kids' daily life from a young age, that consciousness tends to stick.

Lauren Handel Zander
Lauren Handel Zander
Lauren Handel Zander is the co-founder and chairwoman of Handel Group, an international corporate...
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Lauren Handel Zander
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