Some people live on this Earth as if they have another planet set up somewhere in the universe that they plan to move to once this one gets too filled with litter. Some people live on this Earth carrying on their lives believing that plants and animals are theirs for the taking. And some people live on this Earth believing it is their mission in life to live in harmony with all living creatures and to leave the planet a little bit of a better place than it was when they got here.

As Green Monsters, we like to identify with this last grouping, living each day like it’s Earth Day and treating all creatures around us with due respect and care. More than ever this mindset is necessary to protect the planet from the many destructive practices humans have developed over the years. So what is the best way to see this happen for generations to come? Teach our children, of course!

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You might joke that there needs to be an instruction manual for life, just think of this as adding in a section that includes simply ways to take care of the planet. The same as instructions on how to keep teeth shiny and muscles strong, we should make a point to show our children how to care for their surroundings. Good habits are fostered early, so what better way to raise a lil Green Monster than to start now!

1. Clean Up After Yourself

Not only is the concept applicable for toy rooms and bedrooms, but it works for the Earth too. See you thought teaching green to kids would be hard? You’re already doin’ it! Just extend this idea to cleaning up your environment. Teach children to be conscious about what they pour down the sink (no chemicals allowed), how to recycle properly, and the importance of composting.

2. Cradle to Cradle

Thinking about the future has become a norm for children as they grow up. When I was growing up, it seemed like every stage of life was completed with eyes on the “future:” get good grades so you can go to a good college and then one day get a great job, and on and on.

The idea behind cradle to cradle is not to far away from this mindset, it’s just translated into thinking about the future of the inanimate objects that surround us. When I’m done with this shirt, what will happen to it? Where will this plastic container go after I throw it out?

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Cradle to cradle is all about learning to reduce your impact on the planet by recognizing how everything you buy or own contributes to your footprint. We don’t live in a disposable world, so your belongings should not be disposable either!

3. Be Compassionate Towards all Living Things

I learned from the wisdom of my Kundalini Yogi/Mother,”if you can’t see God in all, you can’t see God at all.” While this doesn’t need to take a religious twist, it gets to the heart of being able to recognize the intrinsic worth of all things. Current culture teaches us to assign worth based on dollar value, but there are many, many things in this world that are more important than profit.

Teaching children to value everything from their favorite pet to the little spider crawling on the floor is a wonderful way to foster a perspective that can see a larger picture and appreciate how everything has worth and deserves ample respect and care. Children are highly emotional little people, so if you teach them to love all things, they will love away!

4. Dirt Don’t Hurt

Telling kids not to get dirty is so last century. Teaching children about planting and growing is not only fun, but it teaches them the essentials of environmental conservation. Quite simply, you give what you get when it comes to growing plants of any kind. As a kid, I loved summer gardens, tending to my little tomato plants, and the holy grail: picking raspberries in my backyard.

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By showing children where food actually comes from instills a sense of appreciation for the Earth.  Once you dig in the dirt, plant a seed, and taste the incredible flavor of a home-grown tomato, you understand the power of dirt and how important it is to protect it.

5. Nature Does Not Belong to You

We already teach children the importance of sharing, but mostly only enforce this idea when it comes to sharing toys or other material things. If we taught children that they share the Earth with every living thing on it, then conservation becomes a no-brainer.

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When brushing your teeth, remember to turn off the water because you share that with animals, plants, and other people! Just because you like that flower doesn’t mean you can own it. Learning to respect natural resources and appreciate their importance, not only to yourself but to every other creature, is a lesson that can be extended all through life. The Earth is ours to share, so we want to leave it in good shape for the next users.

Image source: Jasper White/Getty Images