As a kid, the concept of consumption and money is completely foreign. Things are just there for you to use, be it the food that you eat, the toys you play with and the electricity that powers your nightlight. It’s why you’re usually met with blank faces when you tell children to turn off the lights when they leave a room or to stop opening and closing the refrigerator to see if the light stays on all the time.
So how do you convince someone to be more conscientious of the day-to-day household energy consumption when they think the pictures coming out of the television are a result of magic?
Educating children on the energy they use and empowering them to make smart energy decisions can be a fun and money-saving family activity. Here are a few ways families can empower children to reduce their energy consumption:
1. Personalize their energy usage with relatable examples
Throwing out terms like kilowatts, carbon footprint and the energy grid probably won’t connect with grade school children. So using relatable scenarios and allowing them to connect the dots between their behavior and energy usage can help educate them on their personal impact.
For example, video game consoles – such as PS4 and XBOX One – consume up to 11 billion kilowatt hours per year. That’s roughly $1 billion in annual electricity bills, and as much as all the households in Houston, the 4th largest city in the U.S. A lot of this electricity is wasted when the consoles are left in standby mode instead of being powered off. Teaching children to switch off the system when they’re done playing can lower energy usage and begin their understanding of how little actions can add up to make a big impact.
2. Encourage your school and utility to participate in community-based savings initiatives
It takes a village. Just as we hope our children’s schools help educate them on the three R’s, we also need their help teaching an additional R – reducing energy consumption.
A number of utilities, such as Milton Hydro in Ontario, have launched community engagement platforms that reward individuals and schools for customers’ energy saving behavior. The Milton Community Energy Challenge allows Milton Hydro utility customers to select a local school through the program, earning points for that school when they complete energy saving tips and reduce their energy consumption. The leading schools then receive monetary rewards to help with making energy-conscious decisions. In turn, the schools educate the children on ways they can become smarter about the energy they use. One of these schools is Queen of Heaven Catholic School in Canada, which leverages Milton Hydro’s program to educate its students to become “ECO Warriors” and raise energy awareness throughout the school with announcements and posters.
3. Make a game out of saving energy
Kids love games. Just scroll back up and see how much energy they waste doing it. So why not combine what they love with what you want?
Utilities have already started adopting the practice of gamification with their customers, and IDC Energy Insights predicts that utility companies worldwide are expected to spend $65 million on gamification tools, applications and services by 2016. Utilities reward customers with gift cards to top retailers such as Amazon, iTunes, Facebook and Starbucks, simply by reducing energy consumption and lowering their personal home energy bills. Simple Energy’s program with San Diego Gas & Electric also provides gift cards to kid-friendly retailers such as Barnes and Noble, Petco, Walmart and Toys ‘R Us, allowing parents to reward their children who reward them by reducing energy usage. Everyone needs an incentive, so there’s no shame in promising a trip to the toy store if the children follow set energy-saving tips.
Chances are, even after you begin educating them on ways they can reduce energy consumption, your children aren’t going to start reading by candlelight and generate electricity from a potato. But empowering them to understand their behavior and how simple it can be for them to make a big impact on the family energy bill can set them on the path toward living an energy-wise life.