Saturday, September 8, 2012

Teaching a Toddler the Lesson of Conservation with Help from EPA's ENERGY STAR

One day my husband came home and found my son and me sitting on the floor playing.

"Why are you sitting in the dark?"

"What? Oh. I hadn't noticed!"

"Uh, yeah...why don't you turn on some lights in here?"

My husband often makes fun of me that I'm really used to low lights in our house and have a high tolerance for it because I grew up in an immigrant family where not wasting anything--energy, water, food, etc. was of paramount importance. Now that I think back on it, our family room was often lit by just one mah jong table lamp, which had an extendable arm and could be pointed to various spots around the room, and occasionally the TV.

It's true...in fact, early on I found myself teaching my son what the word "waste" meant, as he would do things that toddlers do--open the fridge when there was no need, turn on the faucet just to play with it, fill his kiddie pool beyond what was necessary. I found myself struggling with this explanation. After all, how do you teach kids not to waste something when that "thing" is so intangible? They can't see the reservoirs that hold our water, or the consequences of an overly taxed energy grid.

Energy efficient heating: snuggling with cat
That's why I'm really grateful for the efforts by folks at the Environmental Protection Agency for the tools they provide parents and kids to teach them the values of energy conservation. Not only is their information super accurate, but they make lessons fun and easy-to-digest, through their kids program Team ENERGY STAR, which is infused with a Lorax theme.

I borrowed The Lorax from the library and my son instantly loved it. He had empathy for the birds and the bears who were losing their homes, and understood that pollution was yucky and dirty. The use of the Lorax in Team ENERGY STAR, as well as their use of real incentives (I'll get to that in a minute) to motivate kids to conserve energy is smart and will make a big difference in educating the next generation of American consumers.

Right now through Sept. 17 if your child submits a story at www.energystar.gov/team (it can be a photo slide show, video or essay), he or she will be in the running to receive some sweet prizes, including:

  • The new Lorax DVD, which will go to the first 100 kids to submit essays
  • 25 winners will receive ENERGY STAR certified electronics products donated by LG Electronics, including televisions, computer monitors, smart phones, and mouse scanners
  • Top winners will also be featured in Times Square on the LG billboard.
  • Plus, some of the winners may have a chance to participate in ENERGY STAR day in October with EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.
The social change geek in me sees this as a genius way to foster environmental education in a sneaky way--kind of like hiding spinach in brownies. The mom in me sees this as an important opportunity to make sure our kids learn the value of conservation (Albeit in a way that's self-serving. These are kids, after all!). Go ahead and enter, and sign up for other great aspects of the Team ENERGY STAR campaign at www.energystar.gov/team.

Disclosure: I found out about this contest because I am a paid consultant for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, however I was not paid to write this post. I am a long-time supporter of environmental and health issues.

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