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Summer is fast approaching, bringing with it clear skies, warm days and long, lazy evenings. For many people, it’s the quintessential season to spend with children, family and friends, owing to the extended break from school and the wealth of outdoor activities available.
The humble ‘staycation’, more popular in recent years thanks to COVID-19 restrictions, is not only a fantastic way of saving money, but it’s also much more eco-friendly than racking up international air miles. To make your summer even more sustainable, however, there are many ‘green’ activities to be enjoyed to help keep little ones entertained until the school gates reopen. Here are five sustainable activities to try with your children this summer.
1. Organise a beach clean
Bywaters recently celebrated World Oceans Day, where we demonstrated how plastic pollution is poisoning our seas. ‘Plasticus’, our 10-metre long whale, represents the plastic that enters our oceans every second — a massive 250kg. This has a catastrophic effect on our planet’s marine wildlife, with an estimated 100,000 sea mammals killed by marine plastic pollution annually.
In 2021, The Marine Conservation Society found that a third of plastic waste on UK beaches came from public litter and incorrect disposal. A beach clean is a fantastic way to educate young people about the dangers of plastic and how we, as humans, are wholly responsible for it. Not only can it be a humbling and eye-opening experience, making a genuine difference to our planet, but it can also have an improved effect on health and wellbeing. A study by 2minutebeachclean found that 80% of participants experienced feelings of positivity post plastic-pick. So, rather than going on a bear hunt this summer, why not search for plastic instead?
2. Bake some plant-based treats
Baking is one of the ultimate pastimes to enjoy as a family. It’s fun, interactive and suitable for all ages, from toddlers (even if their primary role is licking the mixing bowl afterwards) to treat-seeking teenagers.
To give baking a sustainable twist though, choose plant-based desserts and make use of seasonal or local ingredients where possible. But why are vegan bakes more eco-friendly? Although delicious, the production of butter, milk and other dairy products generates methane — the ozone-depleting greenhouse gas which is disastrous for the environment. Non-dairy ingredients have lower carbon emissions and require much less land and water.
From picnic-perfect chocolate pots to succulent sundaes, a huge variety of delicious vegan dessert recipes are available, most of which call for simple switches to plant-based ingredients. For example, opt for coconut milk instead of cow’s milk, ground flaxseed in place of egg, and maple syrup rather than honey. Even if you are new to plant-based puddings, there is a good chance you already have some staples at home, such as aquafaba, the liquid in a can of chickpeas — this can be whipped to make a perfect replacement for egg whites in desserts like Eton mess.
3. Build a worm farm
Children can be fascinated by worms — rightly so, for the wiggly worm is critical to our ecosystems. By tunnelling and burrowing, worms aerate the soil, allowing air, nutrients and water to flow deeper into the ground. They are also natural recyclers — converting our food scraps into rich composting soil that would otherwise be destined for landfills.
Building a worm farm is an excellent opportunity to speak to children about the impact of food waste and how to take care of the environment. “But what exactly is a worm farm?”, I hear you ask. Well, it’s a bit like a compost bin — typically a large container filled with sand, dry leaves, moist garden soil and vegetable scraps. Worms thrive in dark, damp places so a transparent container (with air holes) kept in a cool, sheltered area is ideal.
This is a fantastic activity for sensory exploration and to encourage children to engage with the natural world. Watch as children of all ages enjoy a sense of responsibility and are transfixed by the curious behaviour of the worms. So, what better project to undertake this summer than building a worm farm?
4. Create a vegetable patch
Children benefit from gardening for a variety of reasons. Activation of the senses and motor abilities, spreading knowledge of the necessity of environmental conservation, and cultivating good eating habits are just a few.
As such, creating a vegetable garden this summer can teach children about soil, nutrition and living things, plus with no pesticides, air miles or plastic packing in sight, it’s a wholesome, eco-friendly activity. You don’t need a large garden either — a raised bed or plant pots on a balcony will work for quick-growing radishes, spring onions and tomatoes that children can nurture and watch bloom before their eyes.
Naturally, some kids will be more enthusiastic about gardening than others, but there are ways to keep it interesting and inspire younger children too. For example, a Peter Rabbit fan will love creating a ‘Mr McGregor’s Garden’ and relish pulling carrots from the ground. Moreover, the beloved book Oliver’s Vegetables is an excellent text focusing on the joy of home-grown produce. Furthermore, older children who thrive under competition may relish a sunflower or beanstalk growing challenge.
5. Make a bird feeder
Making a bird feeder with your children is an excellent way to educate them on ecological sustainability and how to care for wild creatures. Plus, birds fed in your garden are likely to eat insects and provide excellent organic pest control — without you having to use damaging pesticides or other chemicals.
A homemade bird feeder can be made of various materials, from pine cones to apples, toilet paper rolls to plastic bottles. This is a simple enough activity for toddlers to complete and also enjoyable for older children. Rather than shopping for ingredients, try to use what you have at home: orange peels, for example, can make superb bowl-like feeders, which can be filled with seeds, nuts or peanut butter.
With your children, keep an eye on your feeder and attempt to identify all the different bird species that come to visit. You can encourage your little ones to note the feathery friends they see or photograph and recognise the difference between the bird’s colours, songs and behaviour.
We hope that this article has given you some ideas on how to have a superb sustainable summer. If you have a query about working with Bywaters or are simply looking for more information, please contact us.