“I will not litter, because it could blow into the ocean or Lake and hurt the Sea creatures. Do not drive places that you can walk too. To help keep the air clean. Do not waste water. Sort out the garbage into recycle bins. We have only one Earth, so we have to take care of it.” – Noah Ristine, 7 years-old

My nephew did this. His name is Noah, and he’ll be 7-years old later this month. What a powerful message, especially from a child. It’s amazing how much more aware youth are than most adults nowadays. Perhaps they should be the ones teaching us.

Children have an incredible sense of empathy. They also pay attention to things most of us ‘grown-ups’ overlook due to our busy lives. The hustle and bustle of daily life, especially in the Western World, is hectic, to say the least. Many of us are so focused on getting to the next place, starting the next project, or searching for our next purchase that we fail to fully experience the present. This frantic way of living goes hand in hand with our reliance on convenience. Our inability to slow down has forced us into a throwaway culture. It’s actually quite ridiculous when you think about the dynamic of Western society today:

Earth from the eyes of a child - Noah - Lessons from our youth.

Noah’s words to Uncle Mike.

We study hard, many going into debt in the process, in order to become qualified. We use that qualification to land a job, where we work hard to pay off our debt. We enjoy having money coming in and feel like we’ve made it, until the desire for more sets in. That’s when we convince ourselves that we need to ‘upgrade’ our lifestyle with clothing to wear to our job, a nice home in the vicinity of our job, a decent vehicle to get to and from our job, electronics to help us perform certain job-related tasks outside of the workplace and work hours, and so on. This gets very expensive, very quickly. So, we work longer hours to sustain this lifestyle. Longer hours means less time to prepare food, to grow vegetables, and connect with our natural world. Suddenly, because we’re working so much to be able to afford the things we ‘need’ because of our job, we end up turning to quick and easy methods of feeding ourselves, cleaning ourselves, cleaning our home, etc. These quick and easy methods usually come with a package, or at the very least, an environmental cost. However, it’s difficult to see this when we’re so busy. The busier we get, the more convenience we require. It’s a vicious circle. Our society encourages people to be busy, so they can purchase things that are made for people who are busy. Meanwhile, our Planet suffers, and ultimately, us along with it.

At a very young age, children start being asked “what would you like to be when you grow up?” In my opinion, that’s the worst question in the world to ask a child. Why encourage a 10-year old to start planning for the future? Let them be kids! Many of these children will have several answers over the years: a firefighter, a police officer, a teacher, a doctor, a movie star, a professional athlete, and so on. One answer we’ll never hear from them though is: “Busy! When I grow up, I want to be busy. In fact, I want to be so busy, that I’ll sustain myself out of single-use packaging and destroy the planet I call home.” It would be a bit crazy if we heard a child say that, wouldn’t it? Well, we were all children at one point in our lives, and now we’re all busy.

It’s time for us all to take a good solid look at the lifestyle we lead and decide whether or not this is truly what we want. It’s time we see our kids as mentors, instead of the other way around. We can learn a lot from youth. We enter this life with a clean slate. Throughout childhood, we find contentment in simplicity, and adventure around every corner. Curiosity and fun are something we treasure. As we get older, we lose this wonderful mindset, as it becomes tainted with becoming busy and wanting more. Is this really what we want for our children?

Plastic Free July 2020 is upon us, and this is our opportunity to start again with a clean slate. Let’s use this next month to implement changes in our lives that benefit us and the planet. Let’s start with eliminating one single-use item from our daily lives, and work from there. Use July as a first step in becoming less busy, and in supporting products designed for people who are busy. Let’s learn from Noah and every other child who hasn’t yet entered this vicious circle. Maybe by us breaking free from this cycle, our children won’t have to experience it when they grow up. Wouldn’t it feel great to be part of such positive change?