Build a better world, starting with the little ones. With those who will inhabit this world tomorrow and will have the responsibility to preserve and protect it to pass it down to the next generations. This is one of the possible interpretations of Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter Praised Be: protect our “common house”, so we can continue to live here. Hence, we need to educate children from an early age to respect the environment.
“It is not difficult for them to learn – Luigi, former Civil Service volunteer who was involved in ecological projects in schools says -, just allow them to experience the whole thing as if it were a game. We taught them to separate waste and, while enjoying themselves, they understood the importance of what they were doing and later brought their experience home.” Their parents, obviously, are called upon to satisfy their children’s requests, starting to implement these good practices to protect the environment too.
In fact, nobody said only adults can set a good example for children. Some of the studies that back this statement have been conducted by the Universities of Oregon and Stanford. According to them, some girls who have learned to put into practice small everyday devices that allow to save energy at home, managed to spread these good habits to the whole family.
The researchers involved 30 women’s groups of Scouts from Northern California, for a total of more than 300 girls. The girls partook in targeted educational programs, learning healthy and “green” habits for saving energy: they switched off all electrical appliances and did the laundry at lower temperatures. The groups were randomly assigned different activities, which also concerned the choice of food and means of transport with a low environmental impact.
The program that has obtained the best results concerned energy saving. As the girls reported, virtuous behavior has continued also at home, for at least 7 months, after the training finished. And their actions have also involved their parents, changing their behavior for at least 8 months. In addition to changing tomorrow’s adults, researcher Hilary Boudet points out, training children has a contagion effect also on the community and on people they come in contact.
“It would be useful if, after having been involved – Luigi continued -, parents helped children to further explore these issues.” Some daily practices would suffice: to teach that food and water are valuable assets and that we must not waste it (eg. not keeping the tap running when brushing your teeth); make it clear that organic waste can be reused as fertilizer to grow plants in pots or gardens; make them understand how much healthier and sustainable a bike ride is instead than using the car and so on. Let us remember that our educational mission should not be limited to teaching children good manners. It will only end when we will have formed generations able to live in a better world than the one we have found.