Educating Kids Key to a Sustainable Future

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by Tony Martinez

To a child, it’s a big world out there. Cities just a few miles down the road seem like they’re halfway around the planet. It’s important for children to realize how their actions impact the global environment beyond their own backyard. Teaching children to understand the importance of energy efficiency and sustainability better prepares them for their future.

Parents, teachers and the community can help students understand their global impact and demonstrate how making good choices now can improve the future. We have introduced an initiative in our city (San Antonio, Texas) called San Antonio Energy Champions. As users of energy, we can educate youth to more effectively use and conserve energy. Each person plays a part, not just the ones who pay the bill.

Young people may not like the idea that if the electricity goes off, they can’t play their favorite video games. Teaching them the importance of energy conservation introduces a sense of immediacy and helps them understand the repercussions of wasting energy.

Educating youth can be as simple as presenting them with a familiar object, such as a light bulb, to teach energy efficiency lessons. Homeowners, building operators and energy users everywhere are switching from traditional light bulbs to CFL bulbs. A CFL bulb emits much less heat and carbon dioxide into the air we breathe. Switching out light bulbs in the home is just one easy way of doing our part to sustain the future and create a positive impact on the world.

One immediate impact that a sustainability education can provide is a decrease in school energy bills. If students understand that simple luxuries like lights and water are not free, they might take more of an interest in conserving them. Something as simple as encouraging students to use the back side of a piece of paper could cut their paper trail in half. Integrating a unit on energy efficiency and sustainability not only teaches children about the environment, it saves school districts money that can be spent elsewhere.

On average, the United States uses about 15 times more energy per person than the typical developing country. By teaching young children the importance of sustainability, you empower them and show them that they, too, are capable of making a difference. We all depend on each other. Once children realize this, they will be more inclined to make choices that are good for their neighborhood as well as the rest of the world. Teaching sustainability doesn’t just stop with the child. Parents benefit as well because children can start encouraging environmentally-friendly choices in their homes and communities.

Americans represent only five percent of the world’s population, but generate thirty percent of the world’s garbage. Look for ways to educate children on energy efficiency in your own community. You would be surprised to find out how much they might already know. Give children the opportunity to create a sustainable future.

• When you’re done with a light, TV, stereo, computers, video games or anything else that uses electricity, turn it off to save energy. Better yet, plug these into a power strip and turn off the power strip also.

• Keep the thermostat below 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, and even lower at night. You’ll be comfortable and you will save money and energy by running the heating system less.

• Close doors to your house, the refrigerator and the oven. The air conditioner won’t have to work as hard to cool down your house and your appliances will use less energy to do their jobs.

• Fix leaks. A hot water faucet that leaks one drop per second can add up to 165 gallons a month. That’s more than one person uses in two weeks.

• An energy-smart washing machine can save more water in one year than one person drinks in an entire lifetime!

• An automatic dishwasher uses less hot water than doing dishes by hand — an average of six gallons less per wash if you run it once a day, or more than 2,000 gallons per year.

Tony Martinez, co-owner of Champion AC located in the San Antonio, Texas area, is a leader in the green movement. Martinez educates and trains his crews in residential replacement, ducts, zoning, high-efficiency systems and indoor air quality.