Earth Day is not new. In fact, we’ve been marking the day for more than 50 years with various campaigns and celebrations across the world. However, the holiday that was created to bring attention to the dangers of smog in cities has evolved into a much larger movement bringing forth the most pressing climate challenges that our societies and our planet face.
Most of us are familiar with the term climate change and many of us are intimately familiar with its effects. From forest fires and droughts, to rising sea levels and catastrophic weather events, seemingly no one’s life has been unaffected by these changes. Solutions are varied and there is colorful discourse on what to do and not do to address these changes, but we can all agree that it’s imperative for people to work together, cross-generationally, to mitigate the damage and protect the earth.
Despite this need, there is a misconception that environmental activism is a cause for young people or that older don’t believe climate change is real. These notions could not be further from the truth. In fact, older people are some of the most vulnerable when it comes to the effects of climate change including adverse health effects and exposure to extreme weather events. Moreover, there are several climate action groups for grandparents and for older people too.
For grandchildren or young loved ones, you may share this misconception or be nervous about discussing this topic with your older loved ones. Conversely, older adults may not know how to learn more about the topic or how to discuss it with their younger family members. This Earth Day, take the opportunity to have intergenerational conversations about way to support our climate in our daily lives.
Talking with a Senior About Climate Change
If your grandparent or older family member isn’t already involved in supporting an environmental cause or isn’t aware of the impending climate crisis, you might not be sure how to start that conversation. An easy way to broach the climate awareness topic is to tackle specific tasks together in honor of Earth Day. We have some suggestions you might find helpful:
- Start a compost pile or barrel: One endeavor you can do together is setting up a compost bin. By reducing food waste, you can help keep trash out of landfills. How to Compost at Home has helpful tips on how to start your own. This can be an ongoing effort you do together.
- Switch to reusable bags: Another way to help a senior become more climate conscious is by encouraging them to invest in reusable bags. Also, remind your senior loved one to keep these reusable bags in the car so they won’t forget to take them into stores when they shop.
- Reduce plastics: Whether it’s water bottles or disposable silverware and straws from a fast-food restaurant, many people aren’t aware of how many unnecessary plastics they use in a week. You can help a senior switch to more environmentally friendly products as well. If you would like to make a bigger impact, think about planning a climate awareness event. Here are a few suggestions to consider:
- Organize a community clean up: This can be as simple or as elaborate as you choose. Start by inviting friends and family to help clean up a local park. Call the park service for approval first and then go from there.
- Plan a seed swap: Organizing a seed swap is another way the two of you can shine the spotlight on climate awareness. Sharing seeds promotes gardening. It also encourages the growth of plants that are natural to the local area, which protects heirloom species of fruits, vegetables, and flowers.
Talking with Grandchildren About Climate Change
In some cases, the older adult might be more tapped into the climate change discussion or even want start conversations with their grandchildren early. You might wonder how to engage younger generations in climate action early. Here are a few tips we recommend:
- Read a book together: There are several books that directly and indirectly touch on the topic of climate change and the environment. For one that your grandkid might like, check out your local bookstore or reference a reading list like this one for suggestions.
- Watch a video: Many organizations are creating content about climate change geared toward younger audience. Whether it’s a video from Kid President, Bill Nye The Science Guy or TEDx Talk from 8-year old Bandi, there are many engaging options your grandkids will love.
- Speak their language: Explaining large, complicated concepts like climate change can be daunting so remember to speak in terms your younger audience can understand. Use real world example or show tangible examples to further illustrate your point. There are lots of online resources like this one too.
Together, we can work across generations to support our planet and each other!
Happy Earth, from the team at Sunrise!