It is important for every one of us to play a role in protecting, preserving and teaching the next generation how to respect the earth, our environment and all the elements that make up our planet. Most of us are in one way or another environmentally conscious. Many of us recycle, collect bottles instead of tossing them out, use energy efficient appliances, etc. Most of us do these things as second nature, and we have gone one step further by initiating these activities in our communities and most importantly in our homes. We encourage our children to become environmentally conscious, to lead eco-friendly lives and to live with nature as opposed to trying to control it. The most important thing we can do for our planet is to lead the next generation to understand and care about the environment as much as they would care about anything important to them. Let us look at a number of ways that we can engage our children to become the environmental leaders of tomorrow.

Lead by Example

Many families and communities are already doing this. Walk the walk; show children the importance of what you do by not simply talking about it, but by making it common practice in all environments; be a positive role model. Talk about what it means to live an environmentally conscious lifestyle, then work with the entire family Make a plan together – start with small manageable steps that can be quick wins such as recycling, turning lights off, washing clothes in cold water, turning off taps when brushing your teeth, etc. Each one of these pieces of the plan can be accomplished by all members and can make everyone feel successful in this endeavor. Talk about why you as a family is doing this and show how what you are doing makes a difference.

Teach the 3 R's – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Most schools have programs set up to teach children about the 3Rs. In one school, a group of Grade 4's have begun calling them the Waste Warriors. Their goal is to teach other kids in the school how to bring their lunches without a ton of waste – how to teach their parents to use reusable containers, bags, ice packs, etc., and to keep the waste to a minimum. Some of the schools have begun to look at composting as another option to further decrease the lunch waste and protect the environment.

Make a plan to learn about how to reduce waste and save the environment by using reusable shopping bags, lunch boxes and containers when you're out shopping or using old socks, towels, etc., instead of paper towel when cleaning up messes. Turning off the tap water when kids are brushing their teeth is another way to teach them how to reduce usage. Teach the principle of reusing by creating craft projects out of old containers, or purge clutter and give away to others in need. Recycle everything possible – sort cans, paper, cardboard, glass and use blue bags and containers to send items to recycle centers in your communities.

Volunteer

See what environmental groups are in your local area and volunteer as a family to help them out with their cause. Work with groups to plant trees; help organize earth days; join others in cleaning up the parks and green spaces in the spring time.

Keep kids excited about their role in protecting our environment.