Let’s face it, folks. Even if we use reusable bags and recycle our paper and plastic, not many of us moms (or dads, for that matter) are thinking about ways to help our kids boost their eco-friendliness. Sure, my son knows the difference between recycling (used coloring paper) and garbage (used diaper), but can’t I go beyond the confines of my recycling and garbage cans, metaphorically speaking? Yes, absolutely. Here’s how:

1. Get your kids used to turning off lights when they leave their room in the morning, and whenever they leave a room throughout the day. Talk to them about how turning off lights saves valuable energy and money too. If your kids are too short to reach the light, leave a small footstool underneath the light switch in their room. You can also teach them to turn off the water while they’re brushing their teeth.

2. When you can, walk places with your kids instead of getting in the car. Resist the urge to drive to the yogurt shop two blocks away. (Of course, I’m a big talker since moving to Florida, but if my memory serves me correctly, you Northerners still have a few months of decent weather before the bitter cold sets in. Or at the very least, a few weeks.) While you’re walking, talk to the kids about the smog that cars emit into the air, and how walking places is a way to keep the air clean and clear.

3. The average American uses more than 700 pounds of paper a year. That’s right — your 40-pound 5-year-old probably uses more than 15 times his weight in paper each year. So get your kids used to using both sides of a paper that they’re coloring on (double the fun!) and try to set aside a place for scrap paper so it doesn’t immediately go into the recycling bin. Remember the three R’s — reduce, reuse, recycle.

4. Garden with your kids. It is surprisingly easy to grow fruits and vegetables in your backyard. In fact, it’s as easy as going to your local home improvement or gardening store, buying a couple plants, and sticking them in the ground. Trust me, I did it, and it was that easy. Really. Growing your own fruits and vegetables teaches your kids the importance of taking care of the earth around us. Heck, at least it’ll teach them where fruit and veggies actually come from. The first time a small little pepper popped out of the ground in our backyard, my son asked me where the little sticker with the numbers was.

5. Even if you can’t garden at home, you can try to buy organic, local produce when financially feasible, reducing your entire family’s carbon footprint at the same time. This is a great way to reduce your kid’s carbon footprint because it doesn’t involve getting your kid to do anything.

Whatever you do, remember that setting a good example is the number one most effective way to teach your kids anything and everything. Let them see you turn off the lights when you leave rooms, unplug electronics when they’re not in use, make a conscious effort to recycle, and walk or bike instead of drive.

NASA has a great site for kids to learn more about the environment and ways that they can help effect change. And don’t forget to read more about raising your children’s eco-awareness here.

— Chanie

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