When my son was about 6 weeks old, I took him on his first trip to a nature reserve, Kew Botanical Gardens. Although he was too young to know what was going on, I remember feeling thankful that such spaces exist for him. I was also thankful that the trees I saw are the reason he can breathe in clean air — a simple pleasure I often take for granted.
According to the World Health Organisation, 93 percent of children in the world breathe air every day that is so heavily polluted, it puts their health at risk. In 2016 alone, an estimated 600,000 died from acute lower respiratory infections caused by polluted air.
So when I learned that Kelly Rowland, singer, songwriter, actress, mom of two, and all around icon, was also thoughtful about raising her kids to be sustainable and care about the planet, I knew I needed to learn more. (Not only because I know all of Destiny's Child's songs by heart!) In partnership with Black Forest, Rowland is working to increase awareness about the importance of restoring rainforests. As a nature-lover herself, she's supporting Black Forest's efforts to plant 10 million trees by 2030. Many parents are all putting in work to reduce the effects of pollution, Rowland included. Here's how she approaches going green with her family.
- Take Shorter Showers.
"It's a real focus in this household; we don't take long showers," Rowland shared. It's been the norm since long before she had kids! That's because when you take a shower, you're not only using water, but energy to heat the water. The average shower lasts around eight minutes — which is enough time to release large amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. You can also consider installing a low-flow shower head, which conserves water by design and can even help lower heating costs.
- Minimize Plastic.
Plastic contains toxic chemicals and can take years to decompose. In 2018, containers and packageing comprised over 14.5 million tons of waste, which is damageing to aquatic life, wildlife, and humans — our little ones included. Rowland has become more conscious about how much plastic she uses at home since becoming a mother. "We tried to get plastic out of the house," she told POPSUGAR. "It's actually really hard to do. We even did a day where we tried not to use any plastic at all. You realise how much of it is around you — there's plastic everywhere!"
Some eco-friendly alternatives to plastic include wood, bamboo, glass, and stainless steel. For instance, you could swap out a plastic toy box for a bamboo one. Rowland shares that in her house, they've started using silicone instead of plastic . . . and are still figuring out ways to make things work, like many families. "We're still a household in progress," she said.
- Be More Conscious.
We don't always realise just how much our daily habits impact the environment, positively or negatively. However, Rowland believes being more conscious could make the world a better place for our kids. "It's really just having the consciousness to say: Let me do my part," she said.
Your part could be making a commitment to recycling or walking your kids to school instead of driving. However, it's important not to behave as though environmental issues don't affect you, because they can affect future generations, Rowland explained.
"People are always like, 'Oh, it's earth, we're still here, it doesn't bother us,' but it does," she said. "And if we're actually stuck in that train of thought, it's really selfish because we're not thinking about our children or our children's children."
- Lead by Example.
If you have a young child, they're probably learning about the planet at school. Rowland said that her 6-year-old son Titan is, and he's becoming a lot more conscious as a result.
"He saw somebody littering like a month ago and was like, 'Mommy, you need to tell them to pick that trash up,'" she shared. Not only is Titan passionate about stopping littering, he's also thinking about how he's going to help save animals. According to the mother of two, one place he's starting is in her wardrobe. "He goes in my closet and asks, 'Mommy, is this real? Or is this fake?' I'm like, 'Oh God, I have to start everything over, eventually.' So my level of consciousness is raised just because of him."
That is to say, children watch everything their parents do — so they'll likely learn their environmental practices from you.
- Be the Change.
The planet is so vast that it's going to require a collective effort to minimize the effects of pollution. So, if you see an issue that isn't getting much attention, spearhead it and initiate change, Rowland encouraged. The Destiny's Child member recalls a recent story she saw about how college students in New Orleans are taking ownership of environmental issues. "They started this whole recycling initiative with glass. They made jewellery, broke glass down and made it sand. They saw that something wasn't being done in a place where they live and made it happen."
The more we all do now, the better off our world will be in the future. We're working to protect the best parts of the planet, including Rowland's favourite things: "Sunlight, air, and water. Those are elements I feel really affect me in a beautiful way. They make me smile. They give me life. They give me hope."