"We’ve created a monster." My dad used to say those words whenever he caught me doing what every parent dreads: Reminding him of his own qualities because his child had taken them on as his or her own. Like when you have a habit, good or bad, and you notice your child starts with that same habit around her peers? That’s when my dad was spot on. That’s when you’ve created a monster.

We’ve had plenty of monsters around our home. I see them (read: myself) in the expressions our son makes. I see it when our oldest daughter starts ranting and raving about some topic she obviously cares deeply about, considering the tone of her voice and the area of arm flailing.

But the latest "monster" has emerged in the form of our youngest child, an elementary school student who has taken Earth Day to heart.

Truth be told, I’m a self-proclaimed tree hugger. Not because I want to fight policy and save the world, but because I just love trees and the land in which they grow. And while in years past I worked proudly in the mining industry, I also will be the one to remind you to turn off your lights and to recycle that bottle or paper. Throwing something away that could be recycled causes this little twinge of guilt in my gut that I can’t quite extinguish without an act of kindness toward nature. Sounds hokey to some, myself included, but in my heart I know that a nice relationship with nature is pretty important.

And apparently I have brainwashed my children into thinking the same things. I have created recycling monsters.

"Mom. Did you know that people are just throwing away — THROWING AWAY!! — plastic water bottles? I can’t do that. I just can’t," says my teenager in disgust.

"Mom. Do you know that we use a piece of paper every day — EVERY SINGLE DAY!! — in our one class and there are 75 kids and 183 days in a school year and so that’s at least 13,725 pieces of paper that we use? And they are one-sided. One-sided!!!" says the elementary student with an affection for math and a flair for the dramatic.

According to recent recycling statistics, the average American uses 700 pounds of paper per year. (For reference, 100 pieces of copy paper weighs about a pound.) While I’m not sure if this figure takes into account my daughter’s daily classroom work, I am sure there are quite a few Americans and even more sure that trees are a pretty amazing thing to have around. And while we’re saving as many of those as we can, it wouldn’t hurt to keep the rivers clean and the air sweet for future monsters.

And maybe, just maybe, those monsters will grow up and teach their kiddos the same bad habits. Here's hoping there are trees left to hug.