8 ways families can heal the planet

Published on Wednesday, 02 June 2021
Last updated on Wednesday, 02 June 2021

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Our children will inherit the Earth, and although many of us feel pessimistic about the kind of planet we’ll pass on to our kids (and their kids), it’s not too late to change things for the better.

On World Environment Day, the United Nations (UN) is officially launching the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, and this means that, from 5 June 2021, we have 10 years to prevent, stop and reverse ecosystem loss and secure a sustainable future for all.

To help us band together to heal our precious planet, the UN has released an Ecosystem Restoration Playbook. This practical guide explains how we can take action, make smart choices and raise our voices for restoration.

To get started, here are 8 ways your family can join the UN’s global movement to make the world a green, clean place for generations to come.

  1. Take action to clean up your local environment

Ecosystems around the world are being degraded by rubbish and pollution, and you can make a positive difference in your neck of the woods by:

  • Creating a restoration effort, like a Keep New Zealand Beautiful clean up event,
  • Volunteering for a restoration project, like Clean Up Week on 13 to 19 September 2021, or
  • Setting out to clean up a lake, beach, park or other natural area with your family (with gloves on).
  1. Take action to green your home

Your balcony, backyard and street-side verge are all micro-ecosystems, and the UN says it’s important to manage these areas in ways that boost nature.

You can do this by:

  • Planting indigenous trees and other plants at the right time, in the right place
  • Caring for new and existing plants to ensure they thrive
  • Thinking about other micro-ecosystems you can restore as a group effort (such as your work premises or child’s kindergarten), and
  • Making compost to improve soil quality and garden vitality, suppress pests and plant diseases, reduce the green waste going into landfill, and help your soil stay moist.

A DIY worm farm is also a fun project for families, with educational benefits for your child and environmental benefits for your garden.

  1. Make smart choices by donating money to a restoration or conservation initiative

Contributing to an impactful initiative doesn’t have to blow the family budget, and there are lots of eco-friendly organisations to choose from.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) lists various New Zealand conservation programmes you can donate to here and global organisations, like WWF and Greenpeace, do good work in Aotearoa and abroad.

  1. Make smart choices by only buying products and services that are certified as sustainable, and cutting your resource use

The UN encourages you to purchase items with a ‘credible eco-label,’ and to actively:

  • Look for recycled products and those with less packaging,
  • Buy local, and
  • Stop using avoidable and unnecessary plastic products.

As we enter the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, it’s also time to put the ‘reuse, recycle, refuse’ mantra into daily practice by:

  • Buying second-hand goods
  • Repairing things that are broken, and
  • Focusing on sharing and borrowing, rather than always buying brand-new. For example, kids’ toys, books and clothing are quickly outgrown, but they can be easily passed between families and communities (COVID-permitting).
  1. Make smart choices by moving to a diet of seasonal, sustainable and plant-rich products

We are what we eat, and much of what we eat is putting our planet under pressure. To ease this pressure, the UN recommends that you:

  • Favour produce that’s in season and grown locally
  • Try to reduce your family’s meat and dairy consumption, and
  • Reduce the amount of food your family wastes.

Shopping at a local farmer’s market is one way to cut down the distance your food has travelled, and a weekly meal plan helps to ensure you buy only what you need (and takes the guesswork and time pressure out of mid-week meals).

Instead of buying apples that are ‘magically’ in season all year round, switch to seasonal fruit for your child’s lunchbox, and look up family-friendly recipes that are packed with taste, but easier on the environment (like this creamy vegan pasta primavera with local/seasonal carrots and peas).

  1. Raise your voice by ‘greening your circle’

The UN is calling on all people to join #GenerationRestoration, so while you’re taking action and making choices for the good of the planet, you’re encouraged to persuade your friends, extended family and community to do the same. For example, you could:

  • Explain ways to easily change your friends’ habits and consumer choices
  • Ask your family what they value about local ecosystems and what could be done to improve things, and
  • Educate yourself about local ecosystems, so you’re better able to explain their benefits and ailments, both in private and public conversations.

‘Raising your voice’ could mean highlighting the plight of a local nature reserve during playgroup, telling your mum how to recycle soft plastics, or writing a letter to your local newspaper about ecosystem loss. Whatever works!

  1. Raise your voice by voting with care

Everyone has their own politics, but if there’s an election coming up, the UN encourages you to consider the policies and parties that are committed to environmental restoration and sustainable development. 

If a politician has made promises they haven’t kept, you can hold them accountable at the voting booth, and because this is the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, it’s important to remember that each and every year of governance really counts.

  1. Raise your voice by getting creative

Last but not least, World Environment Day is a chance to celebrate our beautiful planet and remind everyone that Earth is worth saving.

There’s the opportunity to make, take and share images of beautiful local ecosystems, and whether your child contributes to an Enviro Day art exhibition, or you post photos to social media (with the tags #GenerationRestoration and #WorldEnvironmentDay), pictures really can speak a thousand words.

At the end of the day, there are lots of ways to ‘reimagine, recreate and restore’ Earth in the decade ahead.

We all need to join the global movement to heal our one precious planet, make peace with nature and create a flourishing future, so let’s get to it – as individuals, families, communities and Earthlings.

Save the dates!

World Ocean Day  – on 8 June 2021 – is another chance to cherish our beautiful blue planet, and you might like to:

  • Sign the 30x30 petition calling for governments to protect at least 30 per cent of Earth’s ocean and land by 2030, then
  • Share the message on your social media.

Arbor Day is also being celebrated on 5 June in New Zealand, and this an opportunity to plant a tree (or three) and get arty.

Bark rubbings, leaf prints and a handprint cherry blossom are all fun ways to tap into your child’s tree-ativity!

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