Whether your child is barely tall enough to reach the light switch or you have a teenager living in his own world, it can often be a challenge to get kids to save energy. The monetary and environmental consequences of not turning off the lights when they leave the room just don't register in their minds yet. But parents can help steer their children toward becoming energy savers with some helpful tips.
Set a good example. Children emulate their parents' behavior. If you constantly adjust the heat rather than put on a sweater, leave the lights on all over the house and stand with the refrigerator door open while deciding on a snack, you can't expect your children to do the opposite.
Start early. Even before your youngsters are strong enough to close the front door, you can tell them why it's important to do so. Babies love a running commentary, so while you're taking a short shower or cooking efficiently in the kitchen, you can explain what you're doing and why. You can also ask them for "help" – lift them up to turn off the light switch or have them push a door closed for you.
Read about recycling and saving gas, electricity and water. Many children's books do a good job explaining climate change in terms they can understand, such as how it can harm Earth and the creatures on it.
Start a mantra. If the book your daughter reads says she can save the polar bears by turning off the computer and lights when not in use, explain new things as they come up that can also help "Save the polar bears."
Put each child in charge of something. Your son may be in charge of making sure the lights are out before everyone leaves the house and your daughter may be in charge of making sure everyone recycles paper instead of throwing it away. This makes them feel they're part of the solution – and they will probably enjoy getting to remind their parents of the rules every once in a while!
Pick your battles. You may be willing to go behind your child and turn off lights if you can get him to forgo the 20-minute showers. Some things are worth the tradeoff for some peace in the family and at least some savings.
Walk as a family to the store. Especially if you're walking to the ice cream shop, this will be a good way to save gas and spend quality time together.
Keep computers and charging equipment in main rooms, not bedrooms. Your kids' phone chargers and laptops don't need to be plugged in all the time – that leads to vampire energy use. By keeping these devices in the kitchen or family room, you can keep a better eye on their usage.
Attach a list of snacks to the refrigerator door. If your kids always come home from school and automatically open the refrigerator, make them stop and think before they touch the door. An up-to-date list of the contents of the fridge will help everyone figure out what they want before they waste energy standing in front of an open door.
Use a timer for the shower. If your teens insist they don't take long showers, time them. Then set a timer letting them know exactly how much time they should be taking. Reducing shower time by just a minute or two every couple of days can ease them into a new, shorter routine.
Give incentives. If all else fails, bribe them. Make a deal that if your child meets a certain goal, he or she gets extra time for something special or can pick the movie that night. Having something to look forward to can do wonders for children's attitudes.