Encouraging Environmental Stewardship Among Young People: 10 Ideas


No matter your age, you have significant power over your carbon footprint. Influencing youth is one of the most beneficial ways to solidify the planet’s health in the long term. 

Everyone is capable of varying degrees of environmental stewardship, and all are worth experimenting with. Setting up the next generation with the most productive and influential mindsets will be the reason for an increased sense of climate responsibility.

1. Improve Environmental Awareness With Dialogue

It doesn’t matter if you’re an educator, mentor or parent — you can engage in active dialogue-based learning with children. Developing an interest in the environment starts with awareness, which begins with trusting in science and positive interactivity with nature. 

Young minds can realize the cause-and-effect relationship of anthropogenic climate change. If they recognize this in a supportive educational scope early in life, they are more likely to participate in productive discourse in adulthood.

2. Create Over Consume

Hyperconsumerism is rampant, especially among young people. The impact of influencers and online advertising has them normalizing daily online purchases and celebrating the acquisition of material possessions. With nearly 300 million tons of plastic produced yearly, it’s clear that something has to change. 

The frequency at which individuals shop is unsustainable, so teaching youth to create instead of consume is one of the best ways to reduce waste and develop healthier relationships with their possessions. Here are a few suggestions for cultivating this practice:

  • Thrift and DIY decorations instead of buying new seasonal products yearly.
  • Make coffee and lunch at home instead of supporting massive corporations.
  • Instill a mending attitude, where people repair first instead of trash and buy new.
  • Encourage homemade or experiential gift-giving.
  • Grow countertop herbs instead of buying weekly in single-use plastic.

3. Promote Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)

Environmental advocacy and social justice are inherently linked. Integrating diversity, equity and inclusion into schools, homes and communities sets a foundation for long-lasting change. Rallying for the planet directly impacts equal rights, as seen in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. For example, increasing water access by doing cleanups and minimizing pollution eliminates poverty and reduces injustice. Here are other things DEI helps:

  • Zero hunger by boosting soil health and increasing crop yields
  • Good health and well-being by getting rid of contaminants and pollutants causing public health crises
  • Reduce inequalities by overcoming discrimination by prioritizing communities of all backgrounds

4. Push Critical Thinking

Being curious is the best way to be an environmental steward. Asking questions, debunking myths and pursuing continued education fosters the type of person dedicated to reversing the climate crisis. 

For example, young people should question what causes litter on the side of the road and wonder if animals in zoos receive the same kindness as their pets at home. These seemingly small yet accessible ways to tickle environmental curiosity craft a critical thinker.

5. Display Healthy Social Media Habits

People of all ages are on social media, but youth are on it more adamantly. They may receive exposure to conflicting content. One day, they will see ads for fast fashion and why they should film a haul video. 

The next day, they will see how single-use plastics create ocean islands. Teaching adolescents how to consume and question social media content responsibly leads to informed advocacy in the future.

6. Go Outside and Get Hands-On

Environmental awareness discourse often involves demonizing indoor hobbies — like watching Netflix or playing video games — while being outside is inherently better. Adults must dissolve this good versus evil mindset and instead present all activities with their positive influences at the forefront. 

This is what will get young people outside and off screens to interact with nature, despite the myriad benefits being in the sun and fresh air provides. Sometimes, science and evidence aren’t enough to change the minds of excited young people. Gentle encouragement to examine the flora and fauna with respectful use of their senses will make touching grass more organic and exhilarating.

7. Lead by Example With Sustainable Habits

What do you think will happen if young people witness the adults in their lives eating copious amounts of animal products, not recycling, leaving the water on while brushing their teeth and using single-use items? They see these habits as routine and replicate them. 

If adults practice using fewer resources in front of children and teenagers, they will naturally develop the same behaviors. 

8. Forge Initiative-Based Mindsets

The hardest part of any project is getting started, which goes for climate advocacy. What if you taught youth that instigating group change or starting a project was possible? Many might assume it takes years of exhausting planning or high upfront investments. Teach young people this isn’t always the case, mainly when you can cultivate robust online communities for free. 

Suppose they have a go-getter attitude and feel like leading a group or organizing an event is manageable. In that case, they are more likely to have fewer mental barriers to making an idea a reality. This could lead to more lifelong volunteers.

9. Assert the Importance of All Efforts

You don’t have to run for office or travel the world and stop mining from impacting the planet. You are responsible for informing young people that any attempt to treat the Earth more courteously is equally valuable and worth the commitment. 

Without this, it’s easy to develop a sense of futility about being eco-friendly. Just because some youth can’t vote yet or work for a nonprofit doesn’t mean their Meatless Mondays or composting isn’t having a tremendous impact on the world.

10. Inform Youth How to Keep Advocating in the Future

The only way to develop environmental stewardship in youth is to get them excited about what their impact could be in the future. What happens when they reach voting age? Answer how they can expertly navigate civic action for new eco-legislation by telling them how efforts have worked in the past. How could they shift their focus from using reusable bags to pursuing research or getting an environmental science degree? 

Showing people the paths they could take may unravel possibilities they never knew existed. Not every young person has to be the next Greta Thunberg, and it’s crucial to let kids know this, too. At the same time, there are a million ways budding environmental stewardship can look as more opportunities and agency open up with age. Unveiling these early will keep people engaged with eco-social justice issues amid climate anxiety and political opposition.

Creating the Environmental Defenders of the Future

Being the change you wish to see in the world is one step in healing the planet. The next step is to inspire young people with this same motivation. Adults must create generational environmental interest because reversing climate change is an endeavor that must span the rest of human history. 

Getting to net zero and embracing a circular economy isn’t the final objective in a race to eco-friendliness. Everyone is responsible for maintaining accountability in keeping their climate-friendly behaviors attuned, especially when interacting with corporations and policymakers. Young people are the foundation for upholding climate goals on a positive trajectory, and the sooner humanity realizes it, the better the world will feel.

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