DAD SAYS I teach my kids to reduce wastage

Learn how dad To Kien instils good habits at home to save money and the environment.


“I believe it’s important to teach our children the value of not wasting ― saving electricity and water at home, for example, reduces our utilities bill and saves the environment.

There are three reasons why people save things ― first, because of financial reasons, second, because they are aware of saving the environment, and third, a mix of the first two.

My family is originally from Vietnam. In my childhood in the 1970s and early 1980s, my country was still poor. So, the saving habit that I observed and picked up during my childhood were mainly because of the first reason.

Everyone ― like my parents and my neighbours ― reused clothes, passed them down to siblings, or other children of similar age. We saved electricity where we could, like when we stepped out of one room and into another, we would ‘automatically’ turn off the lights in the previous room. We also reused water from the hand-washing of clothes or fruit to flush the toilet.

But it’s not just lower-income countries that practise reducing wastage. When I went to Germany to do my Masters, I saw people spending sparingly and saving things, too. Flea markets were popular in Europe, and I sometimes visited them at weekends to hunt for surprisingly good bargains or rare things from around the world.

A few years later, I returned to Vietnam and got married. My wife and I then went to Japan to pursue our next degree. Flea markets and second-hand shops are also popular in Japan. When we first moved into a home, my host family gave us many good, used, household items.

“I think that kids from age of 2 or 3 can start picking up the good habit of not wasting things.”

When we had a son and then a daughter, we were heartened to receive from our host lady her children’s old clothes that she had prudently kept for 15 years.

At our children’s nursery schools, we saw washable, reusable fabric diapers in use, instead of the disposable ones. When the kids started kindergarten, they were taught how to use things sparingly ― such as saving water, bringing a personal handkerchief, so as to use less tissue paper. We just needed to provide some additional guidance at home.

From my own experience in Japan, I think that kids from age of 2 or 3 can start picking up the good habit of not wasting things. When they grow a little older, they’ll be able to understand the concepts behind what they’ve been doing and why they’ve been doing it. Simple habits, like saving electricity and water, can be inculcated.

It all starts at home. More tips ahead!