What is energy conservation? And when should you start talking to your kids about it? These days it’s not uncommon for our little ones to have big questions about the world.
Understanding energy and ways to conserve energy is important. In 2021, it was calculated that the planet consumed more than 176,000 TWh (terawatt-hours). To protect the world that gives us so much, we have to consider how our need for power impacts it.
So, whether you’re starting from ground zero or you’re an energy conservation hero, there are many different ways to teach your kids about energy conservation.
In our last blog of this series, we explained how to teach your kids about solar energy. Now, we’re focusing on fun ways to teach your kids about energy conservation, so let’s get into it!
What is energy conservation?
Energy conservation is the conscious effort of reducing the amount of energy you use to complete tasks in your daily routine. In other words: trying to find new ways to use less energy.
Why is energy conservation important?
Energy conservation is important because our resources are finite. On a large scale, energy conservation impacts the ways we generate electricity, encouraging the pursuit of renewable sources of power. On a smaller scale, it helps each individual be more mindful of their carbon footprint.
Technology has transformed the ways we consume and generate energy. This drives our increased demand for power. But how are we getting that power? The U.S., for instance, still produces the majority of its electricity from non-renewables.
- Non-renewables are natural resources that will eventually run out.
- Renewables are natural resources that do not deplete and can be replenished.
Power from non-renewables tends to emit a lot of greenhouse gases, which are pollutants that affect the environment. In the U.S., electricity production is the second largest greenhouse gas emitter, but there are still other factors that contribute to overall pollution.
When should you talk to your kids about climate change?
It’s never too early to start talking to your kids about the environment, but according to an article from Wired, “Starting around eight is when the larger perspective of climate change and its implications are beginning to be understood, and the feelings begin to arise.” This depends on your kid, but you’ll know it when they start asking the bigger questions.
Back to school means back to learning. And questions about the environment can be tackled with knowledge in a fun, kid-friendly way.
4 kid-friendly ways to teach about energy conservation
Kids learn best by example. That means you set the tone for your household. If you lead with an eco-friendly example, your kids will be sure to follow. The best ways to conserve energy are often the easiest and require little change to your daily routine. So, here are some simple ways to conserve energy in your home:
1. Switch up your lighting habits
You can start changing the way your home uses energy right now with the flick of a light switch. By simply turning off the lights when you aren’t using them, you can significantly reduce your electricity expenses and eliminate the risk of wasting energy. Consider trying this in your home:
- Use LED lights — Can you believe that incandescent light bulbs use up to 90% more energy than ENERGY STAR qualified LED lighting? A simple way to make your home more sustainable is switching out all your bulbs to LED.
- Install window treatments — Blinds or curtains are an awesome way to block out or let in the sun. They can control when the sun comes into certain parts of your home and help to warm up or cool down depending on the time of day and season. In fact, around 30% of a home’s heating energy is lost through windows. So if you use energy efficient window attachments, you can help keep your home more comfortable year round.
- Turn the lights off — Practice being conscious about when to use energy. If a room is unoccupied, there’s no reason for the lights to be on. By simply turning off lights when they aren’t needed, you could do wonders to lower your carbon footprint.
A teachable moment
Playing around with light switches might not sound like a good time, but you can make anything enjoyable with a little creativity. You could make a game out of it. Grab a stopwatch and see how fast your kids can flick off all of the lights in your home. Once they’re done, go to each room and chat about which rooms need to have light and which ones don’t. By doing this activity, you’ll show them watt it takes to conserve energy by adopting better habits at home.
You can get assistance with teaching your kids about energy conservation from a number of apps. Some apps we like include:
- Smart Energy Saver ― Kids participate in puzzles, trivia and fun facts about energy conservation. As they get better at these games, kids will unlock new levels of play and earn extra points.
- Energy by KIDS DISCOVER ― Features like interactive 3-D models, high-definition videos, quizzes and puzzles teach kids about different forms of energy. Most importantly, kids will also learn about how they can conserve energy.
- JouleBug ― Designed for kids 12 and up, this app teaches easy ways to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle. Kids can earn achievements, including badges, and share their progress on social media.
2. Consider going solar
Powering your home with solar energy is another way to conserve nonrenewable resources and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
Sunshine is an abundant, renewable resource that provides Earth a virtually endless supply of power in the form of solar energy. By going solar with a rooftop system, you can rely less on electricity produced by non-renewables and more on the sun. This is true even if you only use your solar array to power your home during the day.
And if you add a solar battery backup to your system, you can use solar energy at night and during power outages, as well. This further enhances your positive impact on the planet.
Why does this matter? Electricity produced using fossil fuels emits harmful greenhouse gases. And because this form of electricity is non-renewable, it’ll run out at some point in time. The more power we demand, the sooner that time will come.
The process of producing solar energy for your home doesn’t emit greenhouse gases. Each person that goes solar helps reduce the strain these gases place on the environment.
A teachable moment
Wait! Don’t throw out the pizza box! You can teach your kids about the power of the sun and make recycling fun! A cool idea is to turn your leftover pizza box into a nifty solar oven. This DIY project is a great way to turn recycled materials into a functional item. And, while you’re at it, tell your kids about how solar can power components of your home, as well.
Fun with apps
Enphase, a leading manufacturer of microinverters, makes an informative app available to homeowners that have gone solar with Enphase products. This useful tool breaks down information about your system’s performance in user-friendly formats and terminology. Using the Enphase App, you and your kids can review performance statistics like the following together:
- Energy production reports broken down by day, week, month or year
- The overall health of your system in terms of how well it’s performing
- Which appliances in your home are consuming the most energy
3. Limit screen time
This one might be a toughie, no matter how old your child is. We all love our devices, but they’re energy guzzlers! They’re fine when they’re in use, but the problem arises when they need a charge.
Less screen time helps, but make it a habit to start unplugging unused devices and chargers. Even if a device is off, it still draws electricity. When you unplug the device, it stops the flow.
A teachable moment
A great way to ease up your kid’s reliance on electronics is to supplement their learning in other ways! This is a great opportunity to bond or stimulate their minds. Break out the card games, the board games or get artsy. There’s a host of at-home activities you and your child can try.
4. Reduce, recycle and reuse
This one might not come as a surprise to most. Surely, you’ve heard that recycling can reduce pollution. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), manufacturing accounts for about 24% of direct carbon emissions in the U.S. Recycling and reusing can help alleviate the demand for new raw materials.
Project Drawdown forecasts encouraging emission reductions if the average worldwide recycling rate increases to 62%–82%. In this scenario, with about 50% of recycled materials coming from households and the rest from businesses, recycling could prevent 10.36–11.29 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 2050.
Reducing the amount of stuff you buy and the amount of single-use items in your life is also very effective. The manufacturing of a new product generates greenhouse gases and typically requires numerous materials. When you buy products you can reuse, you help decrease the number of new products manufactured.
A teachable moment
Another option for sparking interest in recycling is letting your kids sort a variety of items to decide which ones can be recycled. This activity will make them feel included and empowered, while teaching them what makes an item recyclable.
Connect with your little one’s love of animals (and the world around us), by showing them the amazing things you can create with recycled materials, by building a bird feeder. Don’t worry, the instructions are easy to follow. And chances are good that you already have many of the items used at home. After all, that’s the entire point of this activity!
Teaching energy conservation can be easy
Conserving energy can be fun and, most importantly, easy! You have to decide what these energy saving practices look like for your home.
There are so many ways to reduce your carbon footprint and live a more sustainable lifestyle. Plant a tree. Use alternative modes of transportation, like riding a bike or walking.
Start teaching your kiddos the best ways to conserve energy for the future of our world and future generations!