Energy conservation should be a life skill you teach your kids, just like making their beds in the morning or bringing their plate to the sink after a meal. Here’s how to create a super simple energy checklist to get the whole family on board with saving resources and money.
Life is full of teachable moments. From planting a garden to doing laundry, parents use everyday tasks to teach kids how and why things are done. When a concept “clicks” and a child takes an interest, everyone benefits; the child gains experience and the parent gets to lighten his or her load.
This year, consider adding your energy-saving responsibilities to your family’s list of teachable moments. You may find that the kids excel at keeping you on task too!
HOW TO EXPLAIN ENERGY CONSERVATION TO KIDS
Start with a conversation about energy itself, including what it is and where it comes from. Try to keep the conversation age-appropriate and fun.
I remember my dad explaining electricity with an analogy of hundreds of little dump trucks that travel back and forth from the power plant to your home. Here’s his explanation:
Electricity is doing work when it turns on a light. From the power plant, the little dump trucks take electricity to distribution stations or substations. Then it travels through the power lines into people’s homes. The work they do is like filling up a hole from a dirt pile.
Transformers change the voltages. The power gets to your home on the hot wire and returns on the neutral. If something comes between them it’s called a short (or tripping a breaker). Switches open and close the flow of electricity.
When we want to conserve energy, we can open the bridge (turn off the light). That way the trucks aren’t wasting their time and energy continuing to fill a hole that doesn’t need to be filled. Once the little trucks have dumped their energy, they have to make it back to refill the truck. That’s called a circuit.
For more ways to explain electricity and for fun projects, check out the Green Education Foundation. Here, you’ll find simple explanations for complex topics like geothermal energy and games to make learning fun.
CREATE AN ENERGY CHECKLIST
Once your kids are excited about saving energy, set out with a daily checklist for each person in the household.
Try to have as much fun with the concept as possible. You may even turn it into a game with a weekly prize (winner gets to pick dinner or dessert) for the person who checks off the most items from the list.
Think about ways your family might waste energy. Are the kids always leaving the lights on or the fridge door open? Add those items to your checklist.
Assign an energy monitor. This person will be in charge of making sure everyone sticks to the checklist and does their best to conserve energy throughout the day.
Here is a sample list to get you started:
- Turn off all the lights and electronics when you leave the room or leave the house. This includes the television, computer, and video games.
- Listen to hear if there’s any water running. This can be a simple check for audible drips.
- During the warmest part of the day, close curtains to block the sun. You may want the curtains open for light while you’re home, but there’s no need to let energy escape while you’re away.
- Ask an adult to adjust the thermostat. Conserve energy by using less heating or air conditioning while your family is away from home.
- Close the refrigerator door. Leaving the door open even briefly allows cold air to escape, which causes the refrigerator to work harder to maintain its cold temperature.
- Take shorter showers or bathe with less water. Try shaving two minutes from your total shower time or fill the tub halfway instead of full.
- Ask an adult to replace burnt-out bulbs with EnergyStar-rated bulbs. Energy-efficient bulbs use up to 80% less energy than incandescent lightbulbs
- Turn off the water when brushing your teeth. Save water by turning the faucet off when it’s not in use.
- Turn off lights whenever you are the last person to leave a room.
- Do homework next to a window with natural light instead of a lamp.
- Ask Mom or Dad to turn the car off when the engine is idling.
- Ride a bike instead of asking Mom or Dad to drive you to school or to your friend’s house.
- Encourage your parents to carpool with friends.
Once you have a checklist that works for your family, encourage everyone to come up with energy-saving items to add. As you get better at conserving energy, you may find it easy to find ways to conserve more.
Not only will your children learn good habits that will carry through to adulthood, but you’re likely to save money in the process.