Technology, politics, economics. While the future of the green movement might be shaped by these large, complicated factors, the question of whether sustainable trends can be sustained themselves really comes down to the next generation of homeowners—children. And as parents and educators can attest, the outlook is promising.

"We actively cultivate sustainability awareness with them, and they are quite receptive to the messages," says Michael Klug of his two children. "My sons rail against SUVs even more than I do."

Klug and his wife, Michele Grieshaber, are the owners of the Austin project house, This Old House's first green remodel. Klug's sons, Sam, 13, and David, 11, certainly pull their weight with the responsibilities of living in an earth-friendlier house. They are in charge of filling and churning the composter, and they abide by family rules to use all bags and containers twice. Klug says the kids know not to mess with the thermostat, and they've expressed interest in using an manual lawnmower. In moments of what their father calls "brilliant naivete," the boys have even come up with their own ideas about green innovation. He recalls one of them asking, "Why can't we use steam to drive a generator, to create electricity to light a light, and then capture that energy with a solar cell and recycle it?"

Their enthusiastic "why-can't-we" attitude is not unusual. Kids growing up in the so-called green age are also growing up in the information age. Compared to past generations, they hear far more dialogue about environmental problems and solutions.

Their awareness is encouraged by what they learn in school, explains Tim Grant, co-editor of Green Teacher, a magazine that promotes environmental awareness in education. An especially effective strategy is something called "futures education," says Grant. "It gets kids thinking about alternative futures, and once kids see different scenarios, they see the steps that will take us to a better way."

The challenge in educating young people about environmental concerns is giving them the information without terrifying them. Grant says that up until kids are about 10 years old, they should be encouraged in their sense of wonder about the world and shouldn't be burdened by global environmental dilemmas. Rather, kids can learn about sustainability on a smaller scale by taking steps that people of all ages can manage right in the home.

As Klug says of his own household, "We struggle to balance the doom-and-gloom scenarios with the fact that there are things that can be done to make a difference."

Future Green Homeowners' Checklist
A dozen ways to help kids "grow up green" right in your own home.

1. Dig in. Research indicates that kids who garden care more about their surroundings. Gardening also helps improve test scores—all the more reason to hand your kid a shovel and some seeds.
2. Reduce the juice. Your child can help spot the "energy hogs" around the home.
3. Put down roots. Plant a tree. The National Arbor Day Foundation teaches kids all about trees
—and they send you 10 seedlings with a $10 membership.
4. Compost. As insect-loving kids will tell you, earthworms are pretty cool.
5. Take baby steps. This child-friendly website helps kids calculate their ecological footprint.
6. Watch water. Make your kids the dripping faucet police.
7. Don't throw it all away. Teach kids how to reuse, reduce and recycle.
8. Save the rain. Have your children collect rainwater for thirsty plants.
9. Tour the house. The EPA's virtual house helps children recognize toxic chemicals around the home.
10. Turn off the lights. Teach your kids that all it takes is a flip of the switch to save energy.
11. Shorten your shower. Show kids how to use an egg timer to cut down on the minutes it takes to get clean.
12. Learn. The greenest gift is the gift of knowledge. Here's a place to start.
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