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Breaking Down Environmental Responsibility

In honor of Earth Day, the Mission Society is featuring a series of conversations and tools to help educators and parents promote an understanding of the environment with young people. In this piece, we discuss the impact of individuals, the government, and big corporations on the environment, and how we can all work together to be good stewards for our planet.

When it comes to discussing responsibility around positively impacting the environment and addressing climate change, it can often seem like the weight of the work falls on the shoulders of individuals. Whether we focus on recycling or keeping our shared outdoor spaces clean, much of the emphasis is put on the small acts that we can do each day to make a difference. While we want all of our students to know how much power they have to influence the future of our climate, we also want to assure them that they aren’t alone in this pursuit.

The truth is that being a good steward requires far more than just our individual input. This Earth Day, we wanted to take a closer look at the ecosystem of caring for our environment. Below, we are breaking it down into three simple categories: individual, corporate, and government responsibility.

Individual responsibility means talking about the little things we can do every day to make a difference, like turning off lights when leaving a room, recycling, reducing plastic use, and conserving water. When we spoke with local Pre-k teacher Millie Ansah, she shared that, to her, individual impact doesn’t mean you’re alone.

“It’s important to highlight their community. Make it a joint effort– whether it’s two friends, the whole block, or the whole town. We can all be responsible for making our air cleaner and our world better. Small actions, when we work together, can add up to big changes for the environment!”

Corporate responsibility involves talking about how companies and businesses can also do their part to reduce their impact on the earth. Businesses have the opportunity to prioritize sustainability. They can be conscious of the resources they use, focus on environment-friendly packaging, put practices in place that reduce air pollution, and more. Consumers can also make informed choices when purchasing products, ensuring that we engage with businesses that are making an effort to be more conscious of their environmental footprint.

Government responsibility includes local, state, and federal entities, from your community district to the presidential office. They have a responsibility to create policies and regulations that protect the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We can participate in community initiatives, use our right to vote for candidates who care about the climate crisis, and advocate for policies that prioritize sustainability. For Millie, truly understanding how we care for the earth also includes confronting the ways in which these entities can fall short.

"The government can make mistakes. It’s important to talk to young children about the consequences of these events - like what’s happening with the water crisis in Mississippi or what happened with the big oil spill in 2010 - and address how these entities are responsible and what resources they have to fix their mistakes. It's important to develop an understanding of the bigger systems at play, and where they should be held accountable."

At the Mission Society, we will continue to demonstrate all of the ways we can participate in environmental stewardship, whether that's through volunteering for community service projects, pursuing a career in environmental science, or pushing for change at the policy level. We want to prepare our students to care for our planet - as individuals, community members, policymakers, or even corporate leaders. But our hope is that we can also ensure that students know the weight of the world is not solely on their shoulders. We have to work together, alongside the government and corporate entities in our countries, to create a bright and happy future for our planet.

Thank you to Millie for taking the time to speak with us and guide us on how to message these concepts to young people. To learn more about how to teach children about the environment or to find some fun eco-friendly, educational activities you can do with kids, check out our blog or follow us on Instagram, and Facebook.

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