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Sustainability for Kids: A Guide to Learning About Sustainability

16th March 2023

Sustainability for Kids: A Guide to Learning About Sustainability

From the food we eat to the houses we live in, sustainability has become an increasingly important consideration in our everyday lives.

With governments, corporations and individuals increasingly focussed on creating a more sustainable future, it’s important for our children to understand what sustainability is and why it matters.

Sustainability for kids might sound complicated, however, there are many ways we can explain and demonstrate sustainability to our children.

As the custodians of the next generation, they can play an important role in designing and delivering a more sustainable future for themselves and their children.

Here, we look at what sustainability can mean to kids and how we can help them take steps to lead more sustainable lives.

Why Is It Important to Learn About Sustainability?

Today the importance of giving children a well-rounded education goes beyond reading and writing and into concepts like mental health, body safety and money management.

So, why is it important to learn about sustainability?

Sustainability has become an important global concept and an increasingly significant focus from governments to corporations and individuals, making it a worthy concept for children’s curriculum.

Developing an appreciation for the environment and communities, and an understanding of how actions today can impact future generations is important.

It can help to inspire the creativity and critical thinking necessary to help tackle these issues and improve quality of life today and for the future[1].

It also helps to empower children to make decisions about how they want to live and what they want their future to look like.

The United Nations’ children’s body UNICEF says an important part of sustainable development is children standing up for their rights to “good health, quality education, a clean plant and more[2].

Sustainability for Kids: Providing an Understanding & Engaging Definition

One of the first steps in teaching children about sustainability is talking about the concept in a way that resonates with kids of all ages.

One sustainability definition for kids introduces the concept that the natural resources we rely on to sustain our life on earth can run out - just like money in a moneybox[1].

While it may take many hundreds or thousands of years for these resources to run out, we must protect them today to ensure future generations can enjoy them.

Some of the most common sustainability challenges include energy, plastics and biodiversity.

While fossil fuels like coal and oil have been burned to create electricity and petrol for vehicles, these resources will not last forever. That’s why sustainable energy is focussed on alternatives such as renewables.

Many people and organisations are also taking steps to reduce the use of plastics like shopping bags and packaging because they don’t break down once they are thrown away.

Biodiversity - or protecting the world’s many different species of animals and plants - is also a major focus of sustainability initiatives to ensure the natural environment continues to support life[2].

Sustainability also goes beyond the environment to ensure that the way we live - our homes, jobs, communities and governments - does not disadvantage future generations.

At the North Queensland Export Terminal (NQXT), our sustainability initiatives are defined and aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to deliver a deeper focus on sustainability that addresses the environmental, social and governance obligations.

Activities for Kids to Learn About Sustainability

There are many different ways sustainability can be integrated into our children’s daily lives from at home to kindergartens and schools.
At home, children can be encouraged to recycle or collect cans and bottles to turn into coins with Containers for Change.

Parents and carers can also encourage sustainability through taking cloth bags to the shops and reducing plastic use, along with taking steps to repair rather than replace items around the home[1].

Creating a home vegetable garden or installing a compost bin are also activities that children can be involved in and older children can be encouraged to take steps towards energy conservation with simple steps like turning off the lights.

Many schools in Queensland have also taken steps to become more energy efficient, installing solar panels[2], while other successful sustainability initiatives have included Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden.

The kitchen garden program involves the creation of a garden, kitchen and dining space to encourage a sustainable and positive approach to food habits for life.

Many schools also support active travel days where students and their families are encouraged to leave their cars behind and actively travel to school.

Other initiatives for schools and kindergartens include creating bird or frog boxes to support biodiversity, building a worm farm, planting shady trees, excursions to national parks and taking part in events like Clean Up Australia Day[3].

Many schools also promote more environmentally friendly lunchboxes or “nude food” to reduce plastic waste.

Sustainability can also be introduced through science lessons, art lessons (waste as art) and through promoting outdoor learning[4].


Sustainability for kids might at first appear like a complicated concept, but there are many ways to make this important area of learning relatable.

Engaging children with examples and activities that are relevant and interesting can help to explain sustainability and embed positive habits for life.

Through these activities, whether they are at home or at school, we can create a powerful illustration for kids that every contribution counts.

This concept is important to the world’s overall sustainability journey. It helps to drive the North Queensland Export Terminal’s own sustainability efforts - whether it is through community support, jobs creation, environmental management or safety. Every contribution towards sustainability counts.