THEY say that charity begins at home. Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu believes that the love for the environment begins at home too. Thus, he urged parents to foster behavior and culture change by teaching their children to respect and care for Mother Earth.

One year after the efforts to rehabilitate the pollution-challenged Manila Bay started, Secretary Cimatu said that changing people's attitude towards the environment remains the most difficult part in restoring water body to its former glory. He added that this change should start at home.

The good secretary is right. I had this experience with my kids. Inside our compound, waste segregation is a must so we trained our children to do proper waste management. We have segregation bins inside our house. When they dispose garbage in the common segregation bins outside, they see to it that they put waste in the right receptacles.

Environmental awareness can also be inculcated at home by teaching kids to save water and electricity. They should be taught not to waste food. It should be explained to them that it is not just for financial reasons but more importantly for resource conservation. It should be easy for them to grasp this message. Because of access to the internet, kids are well aware of climate change, resource depletion and other global environmental issues.

School is our children's second home. As such, it should also be a place where love for the environment is taught and practiced. Some of our environmental laws require that environment subjects be included in the curriculum. This is good, but it must be supplemented with actual exposure to the environment. Experience is the best teacher.

In grade school and high school, we have gardening subjects. We do hands on planting and harvesting of our assigned plots. While the main purpose of this subject is for livelihood, it indirectly taught us to take care of the environment. Today there is a clamor to bring back Home Economics subject in school. I suggest we also bring back gardening.

The Senate approved recently a bill seeking to institutionalize values education, including Good Manners and Right Conduct (GMRC), as a core subject in the K to 12 curriculum. Caring for the environment should be part of it.

Kids should be encouraged to play outdoors too. Our generation was lucky. We swam in rivers, climbed trees and played with soil. We chased dragonflies, butterflies and birds. Sadly today, communities were turned into urban jungle. More buildings and less trees. Kids play less outdoors and spend a lot of time with gadgets. Try to google the phrase "kids and nature" and you will find hundreds of articles detailing the benefits of exposing kids to nature.

Of course, parents should lead my example. We have to walk the talk, so to speak. We need to educate ourselves too. Some parents grew up during a period when garbage is not a problem and issues like climate change and carbon footprint were unheard of.