Using energy efficiently is the key to many of the health, environmental and even financial crises we face. Burning fossil fuels like coal and oil pollutes our air and water, contributes to asthma and other respiratory problems, and is a major cause of climate change. It's up to all of us to do what we can to make a difference, and most of us try to do our part, especially where our families are concerned. That job has gotten a little easier with the launch of Team ENERGY STAR , a new program to get kids and their parents engaged in simple actions that collectively can have a big impact.
The program has received a strong welcome from many moms who have made the connection between their kids' future and the energy we use. Here are some of the reasons why they care and what they're doing about it.
PROTECT KIDS' HEALTH
Karen at EcoKaren has a very personal reason for joining Team ENERGY STAR: she's worried about her family's health. "This year’s allergy season was exceptionally hard on my family," Karen reports. "They have been suffering since February – that’s early! – with sneezing, watery eyes, exacerbated eczema, post nasal drip … you name it, they’ve had it. I was wondering if the mild winter we had had anything to do with it and sure enough, Rutgers University published a report saying that allergy season started early this year and it was because of climate change. Rutgers University has been working with the Environmental Protection Agency on “Climate Change and Allergies” and they found a direct correlation between the two. We know climate change affects our weather but I didn’t think to connect it to allergies!"
Kathy at Safe Mama offers one clear reason to use energy more efficiently: "...the increasing rate of pollution… there is so much gunk in our air already. ” Kathy notes that trying to get kids to save energy in the summer can be particularly challenging because summer "...means running the air conditioning more, and fans, and the kids are all home from school charging their electronics, maybe watching tv, video games (hopefully playing outside too) and the whole family is under the same roof more often. That means we consume more energy! Team ENERGY STAR is a great way for parents to encourage their families to live a more energy efficient lifestyle – which is better for the environment, and your WALLET."Over at Big Green Purse , I get fired up about the health impacts of burning fossil fuels, too. I know the most obvious impact is on our lungs. But because burning coal and oil releases the carbon dioxide that is changing our climate and turning the planet into a hothouse, plants like poison ivy are actually getting worse. I joined Team ENERGY STAR to be part of a community of people who understand that, working together, we can make a difference."
STOP CLIMATE CHANGE
Kimberly of the EcoMom Alliance reflects on her son's ability to keep moving from dawn until dusk, then writes, "I just wish we could harness the energy of children to replace fossil fuel burning energy production. Until then, I'm grateful for every opportunity to contribute to saving energy." That's important, she notes, because "About 70 percent of the electricity we use comes from power plants burning fossil fuels. Burning fossil fuels causes greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change - a real and urgent challenge affecting people and the environment, worldwide. Using energy-efficient products and practices reduces the amount of carbon pollution added to the atmosphere and can lessen the effects of climate change."
Climate change activist Harriet of Climate Mama urges families to make a "family climate change plan" along with their plans for summer vacations and camp. Why start at home? "According to the Environmental Protection Agency," Harriet reports, “an average home contributes twice the amount of greenhouse gases to the environment as an average car!” When we use electricity in our homes, chances are a power plant somewhere is burning fossil fuels (like coal, oil, or natural gas) to produce that power. This creates greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, a real and urgent challenge affecting people, and the environment, worldwide." Harriet reminds us that "the “world” is meeting later this month at Rio+20 to try to figure out how we can work together on climate change and sustainability issues so we can get the future we want and need for our children and for ourselves."
Katy at Non-Toxic Kids knows that "using energy-efficient products and practices reduces the amount of carbon pollution added to the atmosphere and can lessen the effects of climate change." But she also admits that "sometimes we forget to practice real and meaningful conservation of our precious energy resources." She says,"If every American household took part in the Change the World, Start with ENERGY STAR Pledge , we would: save more than 126 billion KWh/yr of electricity, save $18 billion in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions from 20 million cars. That is astounding!"
Lori at Groovy Green Livin joined Team Energy Star because energy efficiency makes such a big difference. "In 2011 alone, Americans, with the help of ENERGY STAR, saved enough energy to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 41 million cars — all while saving $23 billion on their utility bills and reducing the pollution that contributes to heart disease, asthma and allergies," she writes. But, Lori says "there’s still plenty to do. Climate change continues to be a very real concern and childhood illnesses, including asthma and cancer , are on the rise. Team ENERGY STAR is asking that we get our children involved and encourage them to save energy at home-because we all know the future is in their hands." How right she is!
Laura at Moms Clean Air Force makes this key point in her enlightening post: "In our homes, the vast majority of our electricity comes from power plants that burn fossil fuels like oil and coal. Even with the beneficial addition of scrubbers on some of the power plants in recent years, we don’t need to add to the carbon pollution that we see impacting our environment and our health. If we can lessen carbon pollution, we will reduce the impacts of climate change...By using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs we help give our environment a fighting chance. While small measures alone won’t solve our climate crisis, they do make a measurable difference."
Brenna of Almost All the Truth captures the passion we all feel when she writes, "It is one of the most important subjects around the world right now ...Our reliance on fossil fuels comes at a greater environmental cost as time passes. Climate change is one of those very real costs. Air pollution, water pollution, along with adverse health effects for humans, wildlife , and environment are others. We may never see the effects of our actions, but our children will and their children certainly will pay the price , along with many of the creatures and habitats which have no one to speak for them."
"We must speak up! We must act now!"
Anne at Flour Sack Mama signed her kids right up for Team ENERGY STAR and they all got busy making Lorax mustaches and coloring in the activities pages they printed out (they tried to get the family dog involved, too, but he preferred to eat a biscuit.). "The new Team ENERGY STAR initiative does a great job of tying one family's household savings into the bigger picture. Less energy used now means a brighter future for our kids and grandkids and for the place they need to call home long after the rest of us are gone."
Haley at Green and Clean Mom outlines four reasons why it makes sense to join Team ENERGY STAR: "Kids will have fun, become educated in energy efficiency, help protect the environment and parents will save money. The typical household spends more than $2,100 per year on energy. With ENERGY STAR you can save over one-third or more on your household energy bill...You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by joining."
Mary at In Women We Trust wrote a blog headline that says it all: "Save Your Household Cash by Joining the Energy Star Team!" "Saving money and keeping the kids busy at the same time is a win/win for anyone’s home...get started downloading FREE educational and interactive materials including Action Kits, Home Check-Up, and Lorax activity books and kits. What a great addition to a home school program or keeping kids doing something besides watching TV on a rainy day. Bring your best stories back to ENERGY STAR on how you changed the world."
MAKE IT FUN! INSPIRE AND MOTIVATE KIDS
Jen at Jen and Joey Go Green realized she needed back-up when she saw her sweet little two-year old standing in front of the open refrigerator door. "As parents we have done our part by choosing Energy Star appliances that help us to reduce the amount of energy our family consumes. But in order to get the most out of these appliances we need to ensure that we all use them properly. Our fridge and freezer beep when they have been opened for more than about 15 seconds... We have joined Team Energy Star to find age relevant tips on how to talk to B about energy conservation and l earn new ways to reduce our own impact at home."
Tiffany at Nature Moms likes making a game of saving energy, especially in the summer. "This is when costs for the household can skyrocket, at least in our household," she says. "Our water bill goes up mightily and we have hefty A/C bills unless we keep it in check. The kids run out of the house and leave door open (letting hot air inside), they leave the TV on while they play outside, etc. (sound familiar?!!) Yet if we make a plan together and set some goals for conserving energy you may be surprised that it is easier than it looks to save money and conserve energy. Perhaps you might even take your bills from last year and try to beat them, using any surplus for special treats." I also like Tiffany's suggestion to have designated snack times so kids will not be in and out of the refrigerator all day!
Jen at The Green Parent also understands the importance of involving kids, and the whole family, in saving energy at home. "Team ENERGY STAR empowers kids to help protect the climate through easy-to-implement, money-saving actions and provides them an outlet for sharing their passion for preserving our environment. And," she says, "with Dr. Seuss’ the Lorax as the engaging theme for Team ENERGY STAR, kids can learn and have fun at the same time."
Shane at Environmental Booty appreciates the "fun" aspect of Team ENERGY STAR, too. "My 6 year old is flipping out at the prospect of working with the Lorax and Dr. Seuss to help save our environment. I am excited to have an eco-inititave to share with my growing, green kids....Join us," urges Shane. "This is going to be fun to change the world together."
Erin of Healthy Home Magazine is also glad to have the Lorax involved in this project. "As a parent who gets tired of sounding like a broken record, it’s nice to be able to use his name in vain sometimes when I want the kids to turn the water off while brushing their teeth or turn the lights of when they leave the room. My 4-year-old son has recently even been schooling me on things I can do to “save the earth” that he has learned from the Lorax…like remembering my reusable shopping bags when we head to the grocery store."
April of Frugally Green observes that "It’s important to get our children excited about saving energy when they are young, so it’s normal for them. Little Miss already knows it’s important to reduce, reuse, and recycle, and she’s starting to grasp the importance of saving energy. I know we’ll be signing up for to make this easier."
Stephanie at Good Girl Gone Green is motivated to save energy by the thought of her child's future. "I now see the challenges we are going to face as parents with my daughter as we teach her to how respect the environment and live more sustainably, but still let her be a kid. I believe that it is so important to educate our children, all the while keeping it fun."
USE ENERGY EFFICIENTLY
Calley at The EcoChic offers five smart energy-saving tips to consider this summer, including eating more raw foods and salads to cut down on the amount of energy you need to cook. I also appreciate her suggestion to use more natural light, especially now that the summer days are so long!
Paige at Spit That Out The Book says, "Teaching the whole family to take small steps at home to save energy—like turning off the lights when you leave the room, unplugging chargers from the wall when devices are finished charging, programming your thermostat to save energy when you’re away, and changing out incandescent light bulbs to energy-efficient ones—add up to big energy savings." One result? "Even at 2 years old, my toddler already talks about saving water, turning off lights, and making sure not to waste his leftover banana."
Jennifer at EcoChild's Play says, even though her family "lives off the grid," they still try to do more to use energy efficiently. Appliances that meet Energy Star efficiency criteria help. "Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, ENERGY STAR has nearly 20,000 partners committed to improving the energy efficiency of products, homes, buildings and businesses, and the ENERGY STAR label can be found on more than 65 product categories," she reports. "In 2011 alone, Americans, with the help of ENERGY STAR, saved enough energy to avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those from 41 million cars."
Amanda at the Eco-Friendly Family offers a whole host of energy-saving activities she has done, from enabling her ENERGY STAR computer and monitor to sleep when she's not using them, to changing her air system's filter regularly, to having her heating and cooling equipment professionally maintained. "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing’s going to get better. It’s not,” she quotes the Lorax as saying. Most of us would agree!
IT'S ALL A BALANCING ACT
Rachel at Mommy Greenest sums it up perfectly when she writes about her challenges composting, gardening, and taking other eco-friendly actions. "I’m pretty good at recycling, and have developed a bit of a plastic bag phobia—Los Angeles just banned them, huzzah!—but my carpool-worthy car is a certified gas guzzler, which basically cancels out all of the good I’m doing on that front. And despite the fact that I live by example—as well as nag and plead and annoy them to no end—my kids cannot remember to turn out the lights when they leave a room...As any mother knows, it’s a balancing act to manage the needs of your family and the planet. Which is why the EPA’s new Team Energy Star initiative gives me new hope for the light switches in my home."
After reading Rachel's and everyone else's thoughtful posts, I hope YOU have new hope, too. And if you have any new ideas, or experience trying to inspire your own kids to save energy, please share in our comments section below.
Congratulations! Katy Farber of Non-Toxic Kids has just won anenergy-efficient ENERGY STARcertified LG washer and dryer. The appliances have also achieved Energy Star's Most Efficient 2012 designation. Many thanks to LG for providing this wonderful gift.
Full disclosure: I am a long-time independent advocate of energy-efficiency and the ENERGY STAR program. I am currently working as a paid consultant to introduce Team ENERGY STAR to parents and families.