Energy conservation is becoming an increasingly necessary topic to discuss. As we have more technology than ever, we are using more power than ever. In our lives and in our children’s lives, can you imagine the amount of energy that will be used and how far technology will soar? Taking the time to form small habits can make a huge difference in the energy crisis, especially if we all pitch in just a little bit.
Did you know that energy is consumed even when a piece of electrical equipment is plugged in and not even switched “on”? It’s called vampire or phantom power usage. This is because for something to be activated on demand, it has to keep a steady flow of electricity in anticipation of being turned on. According to Forbes, “An individual product draws relatively little standby power, but a typical U.S. home has forty products constantly drawing power… almost 10% of residential electricity use”. That’s a lot of unnecessary power usage! Think about how much money you could save long-term.
Furthermore, our society is obsessed with energy consumption instead of energy conservation; whatever the source may be, we use it. Fuel for cars. Electricity for our growing number of gadgets. Or even alternative sources like wind and solar power to ameliorate the high costs and growing needs for energy. So the question then becomes, what could the world do with our small efforts. What could the world do with everyone’s small efforts? AND how can we teach our children?
What kinds of electronics could you do without? Our family has not had cable, Satellite, or any sort of TV other than Antenna TV for over 3 years. We no longer use our microwave to reheat food (but this is for health reasons too) and even started hand-washing dishes (and this one is for spending time together and health reasons as well). We don’t have a garage door opener, home phone/answering machine, and more. We don’t need them so we don’t use them. And ultimately this means less electricity usage in our house.
Beyond keeping things unplugged when not in use, we COMPLETELY unplug the house when we go on vacation. (Other than the fridge and freezer of course). It may sound silly to constantly keep things unplugged, or maybe it sounds inconvenient to you. However it only takes 28 days or 4 weeks to develop a habit. So why not try it? For a couple of years we have been unplugging what we are not using and we don’t even think about it anymore. Really, it could save a lot of energy and a lot of money in the long run. Take a look at some of the estimates for how much it costs to keep something plugged in vs. how often those products typically get used: click here and/or here.
So if you have a coffee maker, keurig or the sort, and keep it plugged in… The average power usage is 128 kilowatt hours per year at an average of $0.12 per kilowatt hour… That’s $15 for it to sit on your counter every year when in reality if you kept it unplugged, it would only cost little more than 90 cents in a year. And remember that we typically have 40 things on standby in our homes? There is lot of money and energy we could all be saving!
Ways you can reduce your consumption:
- One way you can help is buying energy star appliances, light bulbs, and more. Learn more about phantom loads at energystar.gov. Ponder this quote: “If everybody traded one light bulb, the impact would be like taking 1 million cars off the road for one year or the ability to light 7 million additional homes in the United States” (CBS).
- Unplug what you’re not using at that very moment. Cell phone chargers and the sort are easy. Some of the bigger items will take more time and adjustment. We don’t unplug things with remotes, because it;s not logical for us, but we bo unplug blenders, toasters, chargers, and even larger appliances when they’re not in use.
- Don’t turn on a light or appliance if you’re not going to use it for at least 2 minutes before turning it off… or if you don’t need it to begin with. (My husband, after talking to him about this article, literally walked and turned the kitchen light on to walk through the room… grumblegrumble…) So yes, it can be a difficult habit to break, but for at least a week make a conscious effort as a family to ask yourself if the light needs to come on in the first place. Have your children make signs for the switched if necessary.
- Identify things that rarely get used but stay plugged in. Then, fix the situation. Have this be an activity for your children. Have them take inventory of the house. They can identify what is plugged in, what gets used and how often, and if it should be unplugged.
- Potentially, you can eliminate unnecessary, energy-consuming items in your home we also don’t typically fill our light fixtures with every bulb slot because that might light isn’t necessary.
- Stop charging what does not need to be charged. It drives my husband crazy, but I let my phone go down to almost dead before charging it again. It just means the charger is not in the wall as much and it’s only charging what needs to be charged.
Activities with Kids to teach Energy Conservation
- Have your older kids do calculations about how much an appliance costs and how much energy it consumes over a month, a year, and it’s average lifetime.
- Have the youngest kids walk through the house with you helping you unplug unnecessary items. This is also a great time to teach electricity safety.
- Do a energy inventory together and make decisions as a family.
- Track your energy bill together.
If you choose energy star light bulbs, please be aware that many contain mercury and require proper disposal. For any light bulb, appliance, or electronic device, look into proper disposal techniques and recycling centers in your area!
Don’t forget to stop by the Ultimate Earth Day Guide to find more great learning resources and activities!
So, how do you teach yourselves and your children about energy conservation and its importance?
Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!