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“Five things we must do to inspire the next generation about sustainability and the environment”, with Penny Bauder & Constanze Niedermaier

When my kids asked me if they could join the Climate March, I would, of course, take them. I show my pride when they take silverware to their school cafeteria to avoid plastic and get most excited when they excel in projects in school that are about social change. Sign up for a family challenge, […]

When my kids asked me if they could join the Climate March, I would, of course, take them. I show my pride when they take silverware to their school cafeteria to avoid plastic and get most excited when they excel in projects in school that are about social change.

Sign up for a family challenge, such as a zero-waste challenge.

Create a challenge for your family like no food thrown away for a whole month, no single-use plastic used in two weeks, only shopping in thrift stores for the next three months or only getting all food from the local farmers market for a whole week. While a limited challenge might not make a big difference for the world, it creates awareness for otherwise unrecognized habits.


As part of my series about what we must do to inspire the next generation about sustainability and the environment, I had the pleasure of interviewing Constanze Niedermaier.

Following a career in strategic marketing and brand management with consumer product, media, and e-commerce organizations, Constanze Niedermaier founded Whyzz. Whyzz is a media company that develops tools to help parents & teachers explain the world to kids and teach them about local cultures and global issues.

Whyzz is rooted in Constanze’s conviction that we need to raise children who are global citizens by educating them from an early age about the world, how everything in it is interrelated, and by instilling in them the belief that they can and should make a difference. She designed the web, mobile, and offline resources as a platform for adults to initiate meaningful conversations that are crucial to building solid relationships.

With a focus on expanding the Whyzz brand, Constanze published “33 Things to Explain the World to Kids,” and the award-winning “33 Things to Explain Global Challenges to Kids” (IPPY Award Gold for “Outstanding Books of the Year”).


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

Igrew up in the Eastern part of Germany when the wall was still dividing the country. My parents and I came to West Germany as refugees when I was eight years old. During that time, I had many good and many bad experiences, but one thing I remember vividly is when the kids in my new school asked me where I learned to speak German. The separation of my birth country in two parts, the cold war and nuclear threats were all too present while I was growing up. But other than that, I grew up in a happy family. With an urge to catch up on missed travel opportunities in their youth, my parents took me on many trips through Europe by car when I was young. We saw old towns and churches and castles, and the birthplace of many of history’s great thinkers and artists. We spent so much time in nature, and my dad taught me how to have a deep respect for all living creatures as well as about environmental issues from a very early age.

Was there an “aha moment” or a specific trigger that made you decide you wanted to become a scientist or environmental leader? Can you share that story with us?

Well, most people from Europe in my generation will remember the disaster of Chernobyl. That was one of the events that had a profound effect on me and my peers in realizing how vulnerable our communities, our environment, and our food supplies are.

Is there a lesson you can take out of your own story that can exemplify what can inspire a young person to become an environmental leader?

At a very young age, I had to adapt to a worldview that was contradictory to what I had previously learned in school. But I got to understand that there are very different perspectives by people from seemingly similar backgrounds. I think to be able to make a difference in the world, you need to be aware that there is always a different viewpoint. You need to immerse yourself in other peoples’ motivations and values. If today’s young generation learns about different cultures and how everything in the world is interconnected, I am convinced that we will see way more budding environmental leaders.

Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?

Everything we do at Whyzz aims at educating the young generation about the world and its challenges. Our goal is to help parents with their efforts in raising global citizens. We provide content that explains big topics and global challenges in a kid-ready language. We offer conversation starters for meaningful dinner table conversations as well as ideas on how everyone, no matter their age, can help to change the world.

We’ve published an award-winning book about how to explain the global goals to kids. We launched an app that helps families to explore and learn about specific destinations like New York City. We are working on a hands-on curriculum for global citizen camp programs. The topics we cover are focused on the Sustainable Development Goals and include Climate Change, Energy Poverty, Pollution, Endangered Animals, etc. Our vision is a young generation of curious, open-minded people that share a deep respect for the world and that have the knowledge and enthusiasm to make a difference for people and the planet.

Can you share three lifestyle tweaks things that the general public can do to be more sustainable or help address the climate change challenge?

#1: The most important thing to save the planet is to eat less meat. I consciously eat meat not more than once a week, and I started replacing cow milk with oat milk.

#2: Turn down your heater and air condition when you leave the house.

#3: Avoid single-use plastics by taking a reusable water bottle, utensils, and a shopping bag with you and try to replace heavily wrapped snacks by those that avoid much plastic — hello good old banana.

Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the central question of our interview: The youth-led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are five things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.

Spend as much time in nature as you can

There is a famous quote by environmentalist Baba Dioum: “In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.” To me, kids must experience nature as often as possible to be able to protect it.

Lead by example

If we as parents live a particular lifestyle, e.g., of minimizing waste or eating very consciously, our children will most likely follow in our footsteps. I pick up trash every time I go to a beach, avoid single-use plastics whenever I can, walk or scooter around town, and so do my kids.

Talk about the issues/challenges

Although we are not eating together as often as I would like to, we have regular family dinners where we discuss big topics in the world. Many of our friends do fantastic work in all different areas of the Global Goals, the most ambitious agreement for sustainable development that world leaders have ever made, and they are an inspiration to our children when we discuss their initiatives. The three big aims of the Global Goals are that we fight inequality and injustice, end extreme poverty, and tackle climate change. We are convinced that almost every topic, addressed in a kid-ready way, can empower our children to make a difference.

Praise and encourage

When my kids asked me if they could join the Climate March, I would, of course, take them. I show my pride when they take silverware to their school cafeteria to avoid plastic and get most excited when they excel in projects in school that are about social change.

Sign up for a family challenge, such as a zero-waste challenge.

Create a challenge for your family like no food thrown away for a whole month, no single-use plastic used in two weeks, only shopping in thrift stores for the next three months or only getting all food from the local farmers market for a whole week. While a limited challenge might not make a big difference for the world, it creates awareness for otherwise unrecognized habits.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or an example?

I am convinced that no business can be indeed “sustainable” (at least not in the long term) if it is not aligned with all of its stakeholders. Which means it needs to operate in an environmentally, socially, and financially sustainable manner. It is one of the most significant flaws in our contemporary discussion about “capitalism” or “business” that people still believe that there is a “trade-off” between financial performance (profits) and environmental and social responsibility. To the extent that there is such a trade-off still today in many industries: that is precisely the problem in our current economic system and one of the primary root causes for our most pressing global challenges (including climate change, inequality, etc.).

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am very grateful to my husband for always supporting me, or I should say, pushing me and being an inspiration for what I am doing. He has a substantial intellectual curiosity and interest in learning about what is going in the world and is always very motivated to share his insights. He has always been very busy building his firm that invests in sustainable supply chains. I, in turn, have been encouraged to spend long hours working.

You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Make raising global citizens a parenting mindset. Just like we are keen on teaching our children numbers and the letters of the alphabet, we need to focus on fostering global citizens from an early age. Curiosity about other cultures, ecosystems, and how everything in the world is interconnected should be high on the list of what we wish for our kids.

Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life? “Don’t be sad it’s over. Be happy it happened.” — Dr. Seuss

I try to practice gratitude a lot and appreciate the moment.

What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?

Instagram: @ConstanzeNiedermaier

FB: Constanze Niedermaier

This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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