02/05/2014 06:30 pm ET Updated Apr 07, 2014

Parents: Talk Climate Change With Your Kids

What a Winter!
Polar vortex, sub-zero temperatures, snow in unexpected locations, and just plain discomfort, have Americans unhappy, and this particular American grumpy. The inevitable question gets tossed around: "How can there be global warming when this winter has been so cold?"

Last July I wrote a blog, Too Darn Hot, in which I wrote about record high temperatures, drought, and forest fires. The series of devastating events from Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, unseasonably early blizzard made it, naturally, easier for us to point to global warming -- more easily understood as climate change. But, a handful of strange weather events is not evidence. However, a study from World Meteorological Organization reveals "Unprecedented extremes since 2001." While extremes can be attributed to natural variations, rising emissions of man-made greenhouse gasses played a part.

Global warming is the increase of Earth's average surface temperature due to greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels or from deforestation, which trap heat that would otherwise escape from Earth.

Start Them Early
It's their earth they will inherit, help them to appreciate and respect it. Everyone has to do their part to help reduce their carbon emissions -- it is especially important to teach your kids. They hold the keys to saving the planet. We all have some type of mess in our lives. It doesn't matter if it is economical or ecological, it is up to to do our part to help clean it up.

  • Take your kids on a train or a bus ride -- even better if it's a natural gas powered bus. Explain that, in the U.S., cars and trucks emit 20 percent of the carbon emissions. Trains and buses, mass transit, move groups of people, with far less fuel consumption and pollution than everyone taking their own car.
  • Use a time to limit the length of showers. Let your kids know that showers account for two-thirds of your water heating costs? If you shorten your shower time, you can save money and 350 pounds of CO2 emissions per year.
  • Plant at least one tree. Have a tree planting ceremony. Turn it into a celebration. Teach your kids that a single tree can absorb a ton of CO2 over its lifetime. Trees also absorb pollutants from the air.
  • Change your menu. Eat less meat, especially beef. If you reduce the meat in your diet by half, an average family can avoid creating about three tons of emissions a year.
  • Take your kids on scavenger hunts. Designate objects such as bottles and cans. Have them point them out to you around your neighborhood or in parking lots, then you can safely bag them. This saves the recyclables from ending up in landfills. You and your kids can later redeem them and they get to decide what to do with the money. Don't forget that some of the money should be designated to charity -- maybe buying those trees that you're going to plant.
  • Include a civics lesson. Teach your kids how democracy-in-action works. Together, with your kids, let policy makers know you are concerned about global warming. Research you representatives in local, state, and federal government -- and write to them with your concerns. Have the kids make appropriate drawings to include.
  • Wrap it up. Teach a lesson on insulation. By wrapping your water heater in an insulation blanket, you'll save 1,000 pounds of CO2 per year.
  • While you're wrapping your water heater, if you lower the temperature of the hot water to approximately 122 degrees Fahrenheit, you can save an additional 550 pounds per year.

As with all the lessons you teach your children, remember to use the world as your classroom. There are examples of waste and conservation all around us. Point them out. Explain them. Challenge your kids to come up with solutions. Also, remember that they learn by example. Create good habits, and greener living - you kids will follow along.

Please use the space provided for comments and suggestions.