Caring for the environment
What does it mean to care for the environment?
The Earth has all the things we need to live, but we need to take care of the Earth so it can keep giving us what we need. Caring for the environment means doing things that will keep the Earth healthy, like recycling your plastic bottles instead of throwing them in the bin, and turning off lights when you don’t need them on anymore.
It’s up to us to do what we can to care for the environment. There are plenty of ways to be green and make choices that help our planet, and you don’t have to be a grown-up to make eco-friendly choices!
It’s important to conserve the Earth’s natural resources, like water, so people living decades after us can still enjoy living on our amazing planet.
Top 10 facts
- Just as we can help animals through conservation, we can help our planet through conservation too. We can do things that are good for the environment and that don’t cause pollution.
- Caring for the environment is also called ‘being green’ – this means doing things that keep green things growing, like grass, plants and trees.
- One reason to care for the environment is climate change, which means the air around us is warming up too much because of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air above us. CO2 is a gas that comes from places like engines in cars and airplanes, and machines that run power stations.
- Use less power by turning off lights when you leave a room, and unplugging the TV when you’re done watching it. Saving power is good for the planet.
- Over 70% of the surface of the Earth is covered in water, and everything that lives on the earth (including you!) needs water to survive. So, it’s important to think about ways to conserve water.
- It’s also important to keep our water clean. Water pollution happens when chemicals, rubbish and other nasty things make it dirty and dangerous for humans and animals to drink.
- One really big way to be green is by recycling – this means that things we don’t want anymore, like an empty drink bottle, can be re-made into a brand new drink bottle. All we need to do is throw it away in the right bin!
- Paper is made from trees, and it’s important that we keep planting new trees to make up for the ones that have been cut down to make paper. By recycling paper, paper makers don’t need to cut down so many trees.
- Something that breaks down into teeny tiny pieces over time is called ‘biodegradable’. Biodegradable things are better for the environment than non-biodegradable things.
- There are lots of green choices you can make every day to care for the environment!
Did you know?
Doing things that are good for the environment is also called being green. How green are you?
The three main things to remember when it comes to caring for the environment are:
- Reduce the amount of rubbish you throw away and the amount of water you use
- Reuse things where you can, like water bottles
- Recycle rubbish by sorting it out into bins for different materials like paper, plastic, tin and more.
Recycling means turning old, used-up products into something new. For example, you can make a new plastic bottle by collecting, cutting up and mixing together old plastic bottles; the old bottles don’t get thrown in the bin, and new plastic doesn’t have to be made for the new bottle.
There are lots of things you use every day that can be recycled and turned into new things. How many of these have you recycled this week?
- Newspapers and magazines
- Cardboard boxes
- Wrapping paper
- Plastic bottles and tubs
- Glass bottles and jars
- Tin cans
Over 70% of the surface of the Earth (the bits you can see when you look at a globe) is covered in water. That means there’s more water on the Earth than land!
It’s important to save water to make sure everyone has enough. This doesn’t mean stashing it away under your bed! It just means not using more than you need. So, when you brush your teeth, don’t leave the tap running the whole time – turn it off when you don’t need it, then turn it back on when it’s time to rinse.
You can also save more water if you take a shower instead of taking a bath!
Can you find the following in the gallery below:
- Rubbish in landfill
- Plastic rubbish
- A skip full of rubbish
- A power plant
- Water being polluted
- Water pollution: plastic bottles near the sea
- Recycling bins
- The recycling symbol
- Paper recycling
- Plastic bottle recycling
We didn’t always know about the best ways to care for the environment. People who lived a long time ago used to think it wasn’t a big deal to dump chemicals and rubbish in the water, or to let dirty smoke from factory chimneys fill the air. Sometimes it’s taken people getting sick to realise that pollution catches up with us eventually, and that it’s important to keep our planet clean.
A drought is when there hasn’t been any rain for a while, and water reservoirs (where water is collected) are very low. It’s important to save all the water you can so when there is a drought, there will still be enough to go round to everyone who needs it.
It’s also important to keep our water clean. Everyone and everything needs water to live, and dirty, polluted water can cause very serious diseases and can even suffocate fish. Causes of water pollution include:
- Using chemicals to kill plants and pests in gardens and farms
- Factories dumping chemicals into nearby rivers
- Oil spills in the ocean
- Waste that comes from sewer pipes
- Landfills where rubbish is dumped
We can do our bit to make sure water stays clean by:
- Not using chemicals in the garden to kill pests and weeds
- Not throwing rubbish in lakes, rivers and the ocean
- Using hand soap and washing up liquid that says it’s eco-friendly and biodegrades (meaning it doesn’t leave chemicals in the water or soil after it goes down the drain)
- Recycling, so less rubbish goes in landfills
Recycling is good for the land as well as the water. It means less rubbish is dumped in landfills, and that less energy is used to make something from recycled products than to make something that’s brand new. Everyone living in the UK produces 82,000 tonnes of rubbish every day – that’s a lot of rubbish to get buried in a landfill! The more we can recycle, the less we have to throw in the bin.
Our climate is getting warmer. One reason for this is that there too much of a certain kind of gas in the air above us – this is called carbon dioxide (written as CO2). CO2 comes from lots of different places, but places that we can try to control are:
- Cars – cycle or walk instead
- Airplanes – take a bus or train instead
- Power stations (where we get electricity from) – use less electricity by turning off lights when you don’t need them anymore, and unplugging things like the Xbox when you’re done playing
Making choices like those is part of being green. They are positive things we can do to help our planet and care for the environment. Other green choices are:
- Using biodegradable products – these are things that will break up into lots of little pieces over a few years, and become part of the Earth again.
- Using less energy by turning off lights and unplugging things, and by using low-energy light bulbs
- Throwing away different kinds of rubbish in its proper bin to help recycling. For instance, Mum or Dad can help you find which bin throw away all the plastic bottles in, and which bin you should put cardboard that you don’t want anymore. This all gets taken to a recycling plant to make up into new plastic bottles and cardboard boxes.
- Thinking about how much water you’re using, and turning off the tap when you’re done.
- Carrying around a reusable bottle to drink water and juice from instead of buying new plastic bottles all the time.
- Reusing shopping bags instead of getting new ones every time you buy something.
- Making sure you use both sides of a piece of paper before throwing it away – and when you do throw it away, recycle it in the right bin (ask Mum or Dad for help).
Paper is made from trees. Trees are cut down, stripped of their bark, chopped into tiny pieces, and then soaked so the wood becomes soft. Just like the Ancient Egyptians made paper by soaking strips of papyrus to make them soft, we do that today with wood so it all mixes together and makes a smooth surface that’s easy to write on. After sheets of paper are made from the wet, soupy-looking wood, the water has to dry off and the sheets are flattened.
It’s important that new trees are planted when grown trees are cut down to make paper, otherwise we’d run out of forests pretty quickly! It’s important to recycle paper where you can so fewer trees need to be cut down. This means that the animals who live in forests can keep their homes, too.
Words to know
Biodegradable – something that can break down into teeny tiny parts that become part of the earth again
Carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas that is found in all living things; it is also released into the air when fuels like coal and petrol are burned
Climate change – the term used to explain how the earth is getting warmer, because of too much greenhouse gas in the atmosphere; this is mostly caused by too much carbon dioxide (CO2)
Compost – turning things like food scraps and dead leaves into fertiliser for new plants by letting it all decompose into a kind of dirt that’s full of vitamins plants love
Conservation – a word we use a lot with being green; it means ways to keep the planet clean so we can protect parts of it that are already in good condition, and help parts of it that need to be tidied up
Eco-friendly – a word used to describe something that is good for the environment
Greenhouse gas – a type of gas in the atmosphere that keeps the earth warm
Pollution – when something makes part of the environment dirty and dangerous for living things, like spilling oil into the ocean or having lots of petrol fumes in the air
Recycling – the way that rubbish that we don’t want anymore can be turned into brand new products, meaning that less rubbish gets thrown into a landfill
Just for fun...
- Lots of online, interactive recycling games to play
- Play a Rapid Recycler game or the Zero Waste Challenge to see how much waste you can save from an online landfill site
- Cook some delicious leftovers recipes
- Learn about water and water conservation with interactive games and quizzes
- Download the Trash and Climate Change Activity Book
- Find out what happens in your compost bin
- Take some CBBC quizzes to prove you're a recycling expert and how much you know about recycling
- Make your own recycled paper
- Colour in some recycling-themed pictures
- Print out a game board for Generate: The Game of Energy Choices and explore energy choices and energy generation
- Calculate your carbon footprint
- The Garbage Dreams Game is a role-playing game where you try to recycle 80 percent of a city's rubbish
- In Beat the Uncertainty: Planning Climate-Resilient Cities you are the leader of a coastal city. Can you make the right decisions to increase the city’s resilience to climate change?
- Lifeboat to Mars is a biology simulation game in which you are tasked with piloting a spaceship with a cargo of microbes and a variety of plants and animals which you'll need to start an ecosystem
- Sort waste as fast as you can to earn recycling points in an online game
- Explore the digital Recycle City to see how its people reduce waste, use less energy, and save money
- Play Trash Smash: try to dispose of marine debris correctly and help clean up the environment
- Print Discover Your Changing World With NOAA, a free activity book about climate, the factors that drive and change it and the impacts of those changes
Best kids' books about caring for the environment
Find out more
- NASA's Climate Kids website is packed with information for children
- A kids' recycling information page to read
- Look at CBBC's Newsround climate change page for videos and information
- Wastebusters is a fantastic kids' recycling resource that shows how changes in the way we learn, live, play, work, and travel can help us live happy and healthy lives with the resources available to us
- Read about how different materials are recycled and find out how to dispose of different kinds of rubbish safely
- Watch kids' video guides to plastic bottle recycling, dealing with rubbish and responsible buying
- Understand more about weather and climate change with information and games from the Met Office
- Read BBC Bitesize learner guides about humans and the environment, then watch video clips about caring for our planet
- Find out more about the dangers of fatbergs and their impact on the environment and become a Fatberg Fighter, educating your family on the importance of keeping our drains healthy!
- Download "waste cards" that explain what happens to paper, glass, plastic and general rubbish after we recycle and throw them away
- The Young People's Trust for the Environment offers hundreds of resources for kids, teachers and parents on environmental Issues
See for yourself
The Atmosphere gallery in the Science Museum in London explains the science of how the climate works, what it’s doing now and what it might do next
Watch lots of recycling videos