Teaching kids to conserve energy

How to Teach & Encourage Kids to Conserve Electricity

For many of us, we can take electricity for granted. We may rarely stop to think about the impact our electricity use has on the environment or our energy bills. It’s no small issue either. Over 5bn metric tons of C02 was emitted from the production of energy in the US in 20184. Meanwhile, researchers also found that the health costs alone of US electricity generation run into the billions6. So, if we are to improve on the status quo, we should all stop to think about how we can reduce our energy consumption. If you’re thinking about saving electricity at home you might also be thinking about how to save electricity for kids?

We can all play a role in reducing the demand for energy generated from fossil fuels by reducing the amount of electricity that we use. Of course, electricity forms an integral part of everyday life. From light bulbs to playing video games to watching TV, we all use electricity. Having a more considered approach to our use can help the required transition to lower carbon7.

Whilst aware adults can make a conscious effort to reduce use, children may not benefit from real insight into the climate issues we now face without the benefit of us helping them understand the challenge we’re facing up to. Therefore, it is important to show our kids how to reduce electricity use.

We can do this at home or at school. Either way, it is vital not least because research shows lessons at school do in fact improve behaviors at home. If we are to protect our future for the next generation equipping our children with the knowledge to save electricity is one of the steps we can take to reduce energy consumption. And save money on our electricity bills too.

With this in mind, how can we encourage them to use less? What can we do to help them make a difference?

Forming Good Habits While They Are Young

Children can be wasteful with energy. Simply put, their lack of understanding of the bigger picture can lead them to needlessly leaving lights on or the refrigerator door open. Despite this, if we can teach them while they are young, we can help instill energy-saving behaviors early which can last a lifetime.

For the most part, the younger they are, the easier it will be to help avoid bad habits forming and instill good energy-saving practices. As adults, we should guide our children and show them the downsides of using too much electricity.

Of course, remembering too that children absorb information and are influenced by our own behaviors. By positively influencing their behaviors we can encourage them to think about how they use electricity and act to reduce their own use.

Encourage Them To Turn Off Lights

Turn off the lights to save electricity
Photo by Raul Varzar on Unsplash

Without encouragement to do so children can be oblivious to the fact that we’re best to switch off lights when we don’t need them. Rather, they can quite easily switch a light on and then forget about switching it off when they leave a room.

Therefore, we should help them to understand that the simple act of turning off unnecessary lights can save energy. Many of us now use low-energy LED bulbs and other energy-saving technologies. Despite this, collectively, the amount of energy we all use can add up. So, if we can encourage children to actively turn off lights, then every small amount of energy saved can all add up to a big difference.

Shorter Showers

We all love a long steamy shower or a luxurious hot bath. Lots of our kids love water too. With that can come a long time spent in the shower. In fact in the average household, we use around 18% of our electricity consumption heating water8.

Of course, we all have to wash. Still, a little education and encouragement can go a long way. A simple yet effective route in how to save electricity for kids is the shorter shower. Simply knowing that spending less time in the shower and opting for a lower temperature can all help to save energy and reduce our electricity bills. You can also consider switching to a lower flow showerhead which means you’ll both use less water and save on heating costs.

Help Them To Understand the Importance of Unplugging Devices

Many of us are guilty of leaving devices plugged in and turned on. From our televisions to our smart devices, they all use electricity, even when on standby.

In the US around a quarter of the electricity used at home goes to power devices on standby, equating to about $19bn of use per year3.

Meanwhile, in the EU rules introduced since 2009 have limited the number of energy devices on standby use to around 35TWh per year. However, there remain ample savings to be had as the EU27 still gets through around 43TWh of electricity annually powering devices on standby or sleep mode5. To put the numbers into perspective 35TWh is roughly the same as the total annual energy consumption of the entire country of Romania.

Televisions, gaming consoles, and devices on standby out of sight in children’s rooms, therefore, all play a big part. If they leave electrical equipment on standby, explain how much energy can be saved by shutting them down completely. Simply encouraging them to unplug their devices saves energy.

Similarly, devices always on charge use electricity even when fully charged. The convenience of having their charges devices ready to use when they need them can result in wasted energy. When a device is fully charged, encourage them to take it off charge. What’s more, these small changes can also help households save money.

Turn off devices to save electricity
Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

Make it a Rewarding Experience

For many children, it’s fairly safe to say that saving electricity is not a hugely inspiring endeavor. Despite this, you can help make the experience of how to save electricity for kids one that is rewarding and enjoyable.

For example, try turning teaching electricity conservation into a brainstorming exercise. Ask them to compile a list of items that they can turn off each day. Ask them to guess how much money each one would save on electricity costs. It can then become a competition where children are rewarded for remembering to turn off their chosen gadgets on their list.

Apps such as the energy cost calculator can help you with the numbers.

You can then create a monthly total of how much electricity you save. Then you can encourage them to try and beat that next month. Once they save a certain amount, you can reward them with a treat that those savings help to pay for.

Children love nothing more than an incentive to get something done2. Over time, turning off gadgets and reducing electricity use will become a normal part of their daily routine.

Apps Can Help Them Explore the Value of Energy Conservation

Adults find it hard to escape the proliferation of smart devices. Many children are also now connected and online via their mobile devices. To help kids save electricity we can turn their screentime into an energy conservation learning experience. Thankfully today a number of apps now fit the bill and do just that.

For older children, there are apps that can help them calculate the cost of energy. We can also take it one step further as there are even apps that can teach children how to read electricity meters.

Have a search on the AppStore or Google Play for the ones that fit your needs and the age of your children. A great place to start is JouleBug which rewards sustainable actions with trophies.

If we provide them with the chance to learn, we can instill an understanding of the importance of saving electricity.

A Brighter Future Begins With The Younger Generation

Brighter future next generation
Photo by Joseph Gonzalez on Unsplash

In our quest to reduce greenhouse gases, we all need to make a change. Climate models estimate that temperatures could increase by 2°C by the end of this century9. If we allow this to happen, the consequences will be irreversible.

We could see an increase in sea levels from melting ice caps. We will see significant threats to wildlife and there is likely to be irregular weather patterns and drought1. It could lead to loss of life and complete habitats.

We need to educate and grow awareness of the climate challenge we now face It certainly holds true that ensuring that the younger generation can take these changes forward will prove essential to continue our transition to clean renewable energy. If we act now, it will help the next generation. This can help us to avoid the damage that CO2 emissions cause.

Saving Electricity is Easier Than We All Might Realise

There is no doubt that we cannot live without electricity. However, the way in which we obtain electricity is where the problem lies. Whereas the switch to renewable energy sources continues at a pace we still generate the majority of our electricity from fossil fuel in the majority of countries. We are therefore using up natural resources at an alarming rate and creating CO2 emissions.

Despite this, we can all make small changes in the way we use electricity. Simple changes are often the most effective. Therefore, if we expect our children to save electricity then adults need to lead by example.

We too can turn off devices that are not in use or alter the water temperature of our hot water to reduce electricity. In doing this, we can collectively use less electricity. We shouldn't underestimate the impact we can have working with our kids to help them understand how to save electricity. Through encouragement and education, we can show our children how to create a greener and brighter future.

1Meehl, G.A., F. Zwiers, J. Evans, T. Knutson, L. Mearns, and P. Whetton, 2000: Trends in Extreme Weather and Climate Events: Issues Related to Modeling Extremes in Projections of Future Climate Change. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 81, 427–436, https://doi.org/10.1175/1520-0477
2Bång, M., Svahn, M., & Gustafsson, A. (2009). Persuasive design of a mobile energy conservation game with direct feedback and social cues. In Breaking New Ground: Innovation in Games, Play, Practice and Theory. Proceedings of DiGRA 2009 (9th ed.). Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA).
3Home Idle Load: Devices Wasting Huge Amounts of Electricity When Not in Active Use. NRDC Issue Paper. May 2015.
4What are U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions by source and sector? EIA. U.S. Energy Information Administration. 2018
5Anibal T. de Almeida, Carlos Patrão, Philippe Rivière, David da Silva, Barbara Schlomann, et al.. Standby and off-mode Power Demand of new Appliances in the Market. 6th International Conference on Energy Efficiency in Domestic Appliances and Lighting (EEDAL’11), Copenhague : Danemark. (2011), May 2011, Copenhague, Denmark. 12 p. ffhal-00770133f
6Ben Machol, Sarah Rizk, Economic value of U.S. fossil fuel electricity health impacts, Environment International, Volume 52, 2013, Pages 75-80, ISSN 0160-4120, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2012.03.003
7Gareth Powells, Harriet Bulkeley, Sandra Bell, Ellis Judson, Peak electricity demand and the flexibility of everyday life, Geoforum, Volume 55, 2014, Pages 43-52, ISSN 0016-7185, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2014.04.014.
8Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2015 Residential Energy Consumption Survey
9Global Climate Change - Chapter 20. by Anthony J. Mcmichael , Diarmid Campbell-lendrum , Sari Kovats , Sally Edwards , Paul Wilkinson , Theresa Wilson , Robert Nicholls , Simon Hales , Frank Tanser , David Le Sueur , Michael Schlesinger , Natasha Andronova
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