By: Ashley Wasilenko

When my three-year-old son came home from school singing a song about “the Earth is our Mother, we must take care of her,” it made me realize as parents, we need to take every opportunity to teach him about, well—everything! Carpe diem!

We were driving home in the car, and he asked why we have to take care of the Earth like it said in the song. A question with so many possible responses, but I started by explaining ways in which we can all work together to help keep the Earth healthy. I tried to find analogies that would resonate for my little outdoorsman who loves landscaping and planting and puttering outside like a 50-year-old man.

But instead I tried to keep it simple, and explain some things we can and should do in our everyday lives to help the planet. ?

We conserve energy at home—

We have made many changes in our home to be more eco-friendly. We bought an ENERGY STAR certified smart thermostat, which allows us to control the temperature remotely, so we don’t have to waste the heat/air conditioner all day when we aren’t home—and, more importantly, it saves us money. I’m happy to keep an extra $50 a year in my pocket! We have started to switch all of our bulbs over to the energy-efficient ENERGY STAR certified LED bulbs, and explained to him this helps conserve energy. I love them! They are the perfect brightness and color – and last for 12 years! My son will be in high school then. (Cue the waterworks from mama!) All of these he puts his tool belt on, and helps “install,” so he feels like part of the process.

We planted a garden—

Something we do every year, but this is the first year he was heavily involved, and helped actually plant. I explained how we could grow our own food. We start with seeds, care for them, water them, give them sun, and then they will grow into herbs or veggies that we can eat! And he can even harvest them and help Mommy cook them. ?

We go to the Farmers Market—

Every Sunday in the summer we make it a routine to go to the farmers market and stock up on delicious produce, milk, eggs and treats from local farmers and vendors. Each time, we go talk to our favorite farmer, and ask what is extra delicious this week and what’s coming next week. Whenever I cook it up for dinner, I always remind him “farmer Guy grew this for us to enjoy.” We’ve even visited the farm a few times, so he can see where his food comes from.

We eat what’s in season—

When he asks for watermelon in the dead of winter, I always remind him that we eat what is in season. Likely that means it’s grown locally, or traveled a shorter distance to get to us. And it just plain tastes better – something he can understand more than reducing carbon emissions.

We do the little things—

Turn off the water when you’re brushing your teeth. Turn out the lights in a room if you’re not in it to conserve electricity. Some day he will realize all that electricity and water actually costs MONEY. Another little switch I’ve made myself? Opting for ENERGY STAR certified appliances. Whether it’s an energy-efficient washing machine saving me $45 annually (mamas do a lot of laundry) or the dryer using about 20 percent less energy than standard models, I love being able to set a good example without having to work any harder than I already do. All I do is look for that blue label to know I’m making a smarter choice. ?

We recycle—

It seems simple, but this is a huge one. Our son helps us take out the garbage and recycling. And like any toddler who is obsessed with all moving vehicles, a garbage truck is no exception. He knows our garbage men’s names, and waves every morning, says thank you, and have a nice day!

I never thought it would be this hard to teach a little human the ways of the big bad world—and still manage to shield them from the icky stuff. But I’m a believer in taking the positive route. Don’t talk about the Earth being in bad shape, or global warming, or there may not be a planet for your grandchildren. Definitely all concepts they cannot grasp. But instilling values, family values now, shows them the right way, rather than telling. Leading by example and doing things together, as a family—this is how we shape these tiny humans into thriving, contributing members of our society.

When it comes to saving energy in our homes and protecting the environment, the simple choice is ENERGY STAR. Making smart choices can help all mamas (and dads!) use energy more wisely. With ENERGY STAR, all you have to do is look for the blue label. How simple is that?

Sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR program.