When you hear the words “going green” do you smile or shudder? Maybe your chest swells with a tinge of eco-pride, a desire to show off your compost pile or urban chicken coop? Or perhaps you shrug it all off, who has time to fret over local farmers or hybrid cars? Life is hectic and green tweaks take time.

Many families I know have incorporated sustainable rhythms to their lives while others, understandably, see going green as a fad that adds more to an already bloated to do list.

Compost this. Recycle that. Avoid chemicals. Join a non-profit. All good endeavors but each can add a layer of stress to already frenetic lives. So, is there a guilt-free way to save the planet? A way to celebrate all that is filled with majesty and wonder in our world without stress? An eco-campaign champions sandy feet and dirty faces? You bet!

Several years ago I spotted an insightful flyer at the zoo. It read, “Before your children will want to save an animal they need to learn to love it first.” This was a simple yet brilliant statement that translates into a fresh way of approaching an earth-friendly life. Before your kids want to save the planet they need to learn to love it first!

Before we pile on them (and ourselves) chores (noble as they may be) that involve recycling, trail clean up, energy conservation or any number of necessary green tasks, as parents we need to call their little hearts to action. The best way to raise an environmentally aware child is to nurture a love for everything from catching a glimpse of the dolphins to their own reflection glimmering in a puddle on the sidewalk.

A child who grows up with a spirit that has been set free to roam their parks and beaches, the foothills, and the local streams, is a child for whom a million adventures await. This is a child whose imagination will lead her to places where, our adult minds long to return.

So as we approach those late, hazy days of summer, take a few moments to ditch whatever eco-stress has accumulated and simply bask in the splendor of the natural world. You can choose to walk slowly to your local destinations – take your time, pick up the bugs and twigs along the way. Linger at the beach, hike a new trail, set up camp in the backyard or back deck for a night. Drive out of the city for a few hours and gaze up at the evening stars on a clear night.

Embrace all that is awe-inspiring about this planet with your children, and eventually caring for this earth, our home, will be a natural overflow of their hearts. No nagging, no guilting, just a desire to protect and preserve what they deeply love – their planet.

By Tracey Bianchi (http://traceybianchi.com). Tracey Bianchi is a freelance writer, speaker and mother of three squirmy, messy children. She is the author of Green Mama: The Guilt Free Guide to Helping You and Your Kids Save the Planet.  Your can catch her musings at http://traceybianchi.com or pick up her book on Amazon or wherever books are sold.