In the spirit of spring cleaning, I dove into my sons’ closets recently in efforts to clear out the usual. The clothes and toys they’ve outgrown. A variety of items we’ve somehow stored and accumulated. All collecting dust over the course of several months.

What I thought I could accomplish in one afternoon instead turned into countless hours of sorting and organizing. Several giveaway bags later, I took a step back to look at the heaps of hardly-used kid items.

My three-year-old watching beside me suddenly yelled out, “WHOA mommy, we have TOO MUCH STUFF!” He was right. Embarrassingly right.

Yep. I have not been living the eco-conscious lifestyle to the degree I’d intended. And my child totally called me out. A clear example of the value-action gap. Expressing pro-environmental attitudes without coupling pro-environmental behaviors.

Since then, I’ve thought a lot about excessive consumption. How did I get here? More so, how can I better teach my children about sustainability? They are obviously watching my every move.

Time for a do-over. But I felt overwhelmed. I needed a starting point. So, I outlined a plan. A few eco-conscious, kid-friendly activities in hopes to serve as a catalyst on our journey towards green practices.

Alphabet Soup, The 3 Rs

Since we’re learning letter recognition at our house, it seemed appropriate to focus on “R” as Earth Day approaches. You are likely familiar with the catchy “3 Rs,” Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Reduce. Ways to make less waste. Reuse. Using an item as much as possible. Recycle. Turning one item into another useful item.

Introducing the 3 Rs from a young age can help set the foundation for effective, sustainable living.

3 Rs in Action

Onto practice. Hands-on ideas to encourage green living as a family.

Talk Trash

Begin a trash audit by investigating your wastebasket to help your family learn where the problem areas are. This will allow you formulate a more targeted approach to reducing the amount of trash in your home. Sort together and talk through what could have been recycled, composted or reused instead of trashed.

Once sorted, clean up. Place the items in their designated areas. Recyclables in recycling bins, non-recyclables to the garbage bin, and compost perishables, if possible. Consider colorfully decorating your various bins together. Voila! You’ve now created your home’s personalized recycling center!

Thoughtful Shopping

Now that you’re more aware of where the bulk of your waste is originating, use that information as a guide. List those items and get children involved by planning a trash-reducing scavenger hunt. Simply use your list and encourage your children to find corresponding green, alternatives to each item.

For older children, take the time to research any contemplated purchases together. Knowing how and where things come from is vital to making environmentally conscious decisions about the goods we buy. A more mindful approach can also help discourage impulse buying behaviors. Teaching children to be discerning in the marketplace truly is an important life skill.

Get Outside!

Children intrinsically form emotional attachments to their most familiar surroundings. The more time outside, the more they will respect the natural world. Get creative. Raise butterflies. Tend a garden together. Explore new trails and take family hikes often. Immersion in the outdoors encourages long-term environmental stewardship.

As parents, our most important job is to provide our children safety and security. Precisely why we must teach them to become engaged citizens on our earth. By leading through example, and discouraging mistakes of the past. After all, not long from now we will pass along to them the keys to our planet.

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Paras is an Iranian American, born in Tehran and raised in Texas. She is now pleased to call Colorado home. She is the mother of two rambunctious boys, a wife to an equally rambunctious husband (genetics!) and a pediatrician. Paras attended medical school at the University of North Texas Health Science Center and went on to complete her pediatric residency training at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. Her special interests include childhood advocacy, healthcare education, and she absolutely loves working with new parents. After having children of her own, she quickly realized that raising kiddos was not as straightforward as many pediatric medical texts or parenting books might imply! She has found it extremely fulfilling to navigate the challenging, yet rewarding world of being a working mom alongside her patients and peers. In her spare time, Paras enjoys hiking, embroidery and is an aspiring yogi on the journey to attaining and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

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