If you are concerned about the future of the environment, it makes sense to raise your children to be environmentally responsible. After all, the future belongs to them. Investing in your kids and making them aware of the planet is one of the most environmentally responsible things you can do.

Here are some ideas on how you can raise your kids to respect the planet and want to preserve it.

* Foster a love of nature in your kids. Get out into it and go on hikes, field trips (literally), picnics, cookouts, camping, and fishing trips. Consider getting bikes for the family and going out biking in the woods or on trails. Take your kids to play in a nearby park or encourage them to play outdoors in your yard. This means limiting television and other electronic pursuits.

* Identify plants, animals, constellations, leaves, and other things in nature. Check out some field guides and take your kids to a natural area. Then collect and identify flowers, leaves, feathers, rocks, and so forth.

* Encourage your kids to participate in local clean-up projects. Consider beginning one if your neighborhood or community does not already have such an event. It's very eye-opening for your kids to see the extent of the trash and litter that builds up in a given area.

* Grow your own food if possible, even if it's just a few plants in containers. Your kids will be enlightened to see what it takes to grow food and how the natural elements (air, water, sunlight) come together to produce food.

* Recycle with your kids. This doesn't just mean having them help organize recyclables into bins and taking them to the facility. It also means teaching them creative recycling – how to fix and refurbish, for example, instead of throwing something out and buying a new replacement. Encourage your kids to make their own toys and crafts, especially out of recyclables, rather than going to a craft store or buying new toys.

* Gather wild foods. Children usually love this. Get a good book on gathering wild foods, or find an expert in your area who can show you. Whether it's raiding a blackberry patch, gathering nuts, or picking dandelion greens to cook as a potherb, harvesting nature's gifts really fosters a sense of appreciation for everything nature has to offer.

* Include your kids in your household energy-saving goals. Make sure everyone is on board with shortening showers and turning off lights. Make sure they know why – it's not just about lowering the utility bills.

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