I’m a big fan of getting kids involved in energy conservation. As parents, grandparents, teachers, and friends, aside from our role modelling, sometimes we need to actively show the children in our lives the reasons for our actions. Besides getting our kids outside to learn to love the world we are trying to protect, they need to be able to see the impact of what they can do.
For most of us – big kids as well as small – it can be hard to picture the impact of changes we make. So what if I leave the tap, the TV, the lights on? How big a deal is that? Well, it’s time for some visual impact.
Next time you are doing a task that involves running water, put the plug in the sink before you start. Do your task then look at how much water is in the sink. I tested this out at home recently and did some math. If I was to leave the tap running when I brush my teeth (I don’t!), I would waste 11 litres of water each time I brush my teeth. 11 litres is one of those big ice cream pails that ice cream parlors have. Don’t take my word for it. Try it yourself. Other tasks that use water include washing dishes, rinsing vegetables, showering etc. When the sink starts to fill up, it gives them a very solid impression of how much water they wasted.
How about garbage? A nice visual for that one is to hang a grocery bag from your belt for a day, and any garbage you generate in the day, you put into the bag. At the end of the day look at what is in your bag. Could it have been recycled or composted? Did you need to make that piece of garbage at all? This is a good starting point for talking to your children about the three Rs – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Note that Reduce is first and the most valuable R.
Energy is harder to visualize. But I have two suggestions.
1. SES has a watt meter you can borrow. You plug it into the wall, then plug something into it. For example a lamp, TV, computer etc. First set it to read Watts (power) and look at how many watts are consumed when the item is turned on vs when it’s turned off.
Then set it to read kWh (energy). Leave it for a day or two and do things the way you normally do in your house, then read how many kWh you have used in that day or two. Then for the next day or two, be very vigilant about turning off the item when you aren’t using it. (Or maybe by changing behavior so you play games instead of watching TV.) Again read how many kWh you used in that time. Compare the two numbers and see how different they are.
For very young children, you may want to stack blocks or pour water or something to represent the value of those numbers.
If you are interested in borrowing this watt meter, contact the SES office.
2. Have a family “turn it off” jar. It’s like a “swear jar”. If someone forgets to turn off the light, TV, computer etc., they pay a fine into the jar. Periodically sit down as a family and decide what to do with the money. I suggest using it to improve the energy efficiency of your home – maybe buy LED lights. Or maybe donate it to an environmental charity. I know a worthy one if you need a suggestion. Wink wink.
When we can visualize the impact we as individuals can make, it’s easier to see the importance of changing our habits. Regardless how old or young we are.