Begun as a day to honor the February birth of George Washington, Presidents’ Day is now a celebration of all U.S. presidents. Their achievements are varied and many; however, I’m focusing here on some of their environmental messages that we can incorporate into our lives.

Nature Is for Refuge and Retreat 

Or so preached Theodore Roosevelt,  famous for his conservation efforts as president. Under his authority, five national parks were created, as well as 51 wildlife refuges, 18 national monuments and 150 new national forests. Go, Teddy!

On a smaller scale, we can regularly recharge by immersing ourselves in nature. Studies show that disconnecting from electronic devices — even for a short time — can boost our creativity and improve well-being. Kids especially reap physical, mental and emotional rewards from spending free time outdoors. So thank Teddy Roosevelt for preserving our country’s wide-open green spaces … then get out with your family and enjoy it!

Protect Your Air and Water 

Richard Nixon made sure of this by establishing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and signing legislation such as the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Families can carry out this concern for our environment by focusing on the air and water in your home. Perform a home water audit, and follow some of these simple tips for conserving your water usage. Be considerate of what you pour down the drain because some of it could end up in local waterways. Clean your indoor air with plants or by switching to nontoxic cleaning products.

Consume Less

This was Jimmy Carter’s message to the country when he proposed an energy policy that supported alternative fuels and a lifestyle of energy conservation. While unpopular at the time, it’s a basic tenet of the green movement today.

Families know that reducing consumption reduces waste. And this extends far beyond turning the thermostat down, although that’s as good a place to start as any. It may mean repairing items to make them last longer. It may mean gifting experiences instead of plastic toys and gadgets. For parents, it may mean watching less TV since commercials are brainwashing our children (and ourselves) into materialism and overconsumption — otherwise known as affluenza.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

President Obama’s $80 million stimulus earmarked for clean and green energy solutions was unprecedented. And while it hasn’t worked out perfectly, the action underscored his goal of moving the country toward renewable resources.

We can show our kids where our values lie by taking action in any number of ways. Donating money to charities we support. Buying locally made or nontoxic products. Not buying products. Investing in socially conscious companies. Voting for leaders who focus on education or the environment. Participating in neighborhood cleanups. The list is endless.

Presidents’ Day is the one day that we honor our country’s leaders. Yet every day we act as leaders within our families — perhaps with more influence than we realize — in shaping our children’s perceptions and values.

Feature photo courtesy of Sane