How to Teach and Talk to Your Kids About Energy Conservation

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Your kids have likely encountered the term “energy conservation” tossed around in casual conversation, in the media, or in the classroom, but they might not fully appreciate what it means, or why it matters.

Energy conservation refers to the practice of intentionally and consciously using less energy. This can be as simple as unplugging appliances when they’re not in use or turning off the light when you leave the room. It can also include more dramatic lifestyle changes, such as walking/biking to work instead of driving.  

Understanding energy conservation and the various methods of conserving energy are hot topics in today’s world. Based on a recent Gallup poll, Americans increasingly view energy conservation as more important than energy production:

“Currently 57% of Americans say the U.S. should emphasize conservation in its approach to solve the nation’s energy problems, up from 51% in 2013 and 48% in 2011. About one-third in the U.S. now favor greater emphasis on energy production as the solution.”

So, the data indicates that many Americans – including greater numbers of children — understand the dire need for energy conservation, even if they don’t understand how exactly to practice energy conservation in their own lives, or how to teach their kids about its benefits.  

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Explain the growing importance of energy conservation in the modern industrialized world

Growing access to energy over the past few centuries has led to a startling increase in energy consumption. In 1820, only 6,246 terawatt hours of energy were consumed for the whole year in the whole world.

Then the global population exploded and the Industrial Revolution transformed the energy sector forever.

Comparatively, 200 years later in 2020, 167,781 terawatt hours of energy were used. This uptick in energy usage is expected to continue on a rapid upward trajectory if energy conservation doesn’t become a bigger priority. 

Conserving energy helps protect the Earth and honors Mother Nature for giving us sustaining fuel sources. Energy conservation helps in two main ways:  

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Let’s we’ll dive into greater detail regarding the importance of energy conservation, non-renewable vs. renewable resources, and simple tips you can introduce to your children to equip them with the tools to conserve energy on a daily basis. 

How does energy conservation protect the environment?

From an environmental standpoint, energy conservation matters because the Earth has a finite number of specific kinds of energy resources that are termed “non-renewable.” That term essentially means once they’re used, there’s no way to replace them. Later, we’ll discuss more concerning non-renewable energy resources.

By conserving energy now, we do our part to ensure that future generations of humans (and all living organisms) can continue to thrive on our planet.

How to help kids better understand energy conservation strategies

Although important, the nuances of energy conservation are not always easy to navigate.  

As a framework to help your kids understand this concept, energy conservation can be conceptualized either on a smaller, more personal scale, or a larger, more worldwide scale.

Conservation on an individual level

For individuals, energy conservation involves a consistent, conscious effort to reduce the amount of energy they use while completing their daily tasks and routines.  

The term “carbon footprint” refers to a calculation of the total number of greenhouse gases (such methane and carbon dioxide) generated by one person’s actions. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to calculate your carbon footprint and take steps from there to reduce it. 

Conservation on a global scale

On a worldwide scale, energy conservation emphasizes beneficial changes to the ways in which humans generate electricity. It emphasizes the pursuit of renewable sources of power and prioritizes energy policies that will ultimately result in a reduction of our collective carbon footprints.

A huge component of energy conservation is a massive shift in favor of renewable resources, away from non-renewable and highly polluting fossil fuels.

Help your kids appreciate the difference between non-renewable resources vs. renewable resources 

Human energy consumption patterns have rapidly changed due to the evolution of, and easy access, to technology. The marked increase in the demand for power in the 20th century led many countries, including the United States, to rely on non-renewable resources (rather than renewable resources) to produce most of their electricity. 

So, what exactly is a non-renewable vs. renewable resource?   

  • Non-renewables: These are a class of natural resources that will eventually run out as their supply becomes exhausted. Examples include gas, oil, nuclear energy, natural gas, and oil.
  • Renewables: These are a class of natural resources that do not run out, meaning that they can be replenished as needed. Examples commonly offered include wind energy, biomass energy, hydropower, and solar energy. As long as the sun continues to rise, we will be able to use harness its energy.  

(Learn why the sun is the world’s one true renewable resource.)

When it comes to energy conservation, renewable resources are preferable to non-renewable resources. Supplies of renewable resources eventually exhaust and they emit greenhouse gases as well, which impact the environment in a profoundly negative way.

If your kids are very young, this excellent primer video explains renewable and non-renewable energy in simple terms.

Four (relatively simple) ways to teach conservation to your kids  

It’s imperative that older generations model energy conservation for younger generations. Leading by example is effective for instilling lifelong beneficial habits in children, grandchildren, nieces/nephews, neighbors, etc.

By doing so, you’ll help set the tone for future generations to come.  

  • Reduce, reuse, and recycle: One of the single best ways to conserve energy is to reduce your waste (like composting whenever possible), reuse certain household items, and recycle everything you can.
  • Consider switching to solar:  Installing solar energy is a fantastic way to boost your home value, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and conserve energy all at the same time.
    Take a hard look at a rooftop system with solar panels for your home or business (check out our Compass Solar 0% financing option) Also consider installing a solar battery backup, which allows you to use solar energy during power outages and during the nighttime hours.
  • Limit your screen time: This may prove difficult to enforce, especially if your child likes to scroll on his/her phone, read an E-Book, or spend several hours in the evening watching television. However, limiting your screen time can do wonders for energy conservation because it saves electricity used to charge the device. Not only that, but it helps model to younger generations that life can still be enjoyed away from a screen.
  • Focus on your light usage: This can be as simple as switching off the lights when you leave a room. It can help eliminate energy waste while simultaneously reducing your electricity expenses by a significant sum. Switching your incandescent lightbulbs for LED lights is a simple first step – as well as installing window treatments, setting an energy saver schedule, etc.

Energy conservation becomes second nature

Once you establish your kids’ new energy conservation habits and they become routine, conserving energy becomes second nature. You will instinctively take steps to help the planet as you move through the day, save money on your energy bill, and lead by example for younger generations.  

Contact Compass Solar to learn more

At Compass Solar, advocacy is a huge part of our mission to drive positive change. Contact us to learn more about how to pass on the torch of energy conservation to the next generation of leaders.