Many adults grew up hearing their parents call out, “Don’t forget to turn off the lights!” as they left a room. These days, it’s the children who are hammering these reminders into their parents. As more kids learn about the impacts of energy conservation, they will begin to apply these concepts at home and help their families find ways to live more efficiently.
At a public school in northwest Denver, students are actively learning about ways to protect and preserve the environment. Recently, Veterans Green Jobs had the opportunity to speak with 50 fifth graders at Brown International Academy about reducing their carbon footprint.
Sam Marall, an energy auditor for Veterans Green Jobs’ Denver and Jefferson County Weatherization program, began with a concept tied to money.
“If mom and dad spend less money on the utility bills, what do you think they’ll spend more on?” he asked the kids.
“They’ll have more to spend on you,” Sam said. “That’s right – clothes, toys and other things for you.” That caught their attention. Their eyes lit up. It was a message they could relate to.
But Sam didn’t let them get too far down that path. He asked his next question: “Who can tell me what a carbon footprint is?” Hands shot up. Yes, that’s right, he told them, a carbon footprint is a measure of the impact our activities have on the environment.
And then, “What are some of the things you can do at home to reduce your energy output?” Again, hands went up. The answers varied from turning off lights in a room to using less hot water.
His next question stumped them: “What is the single biggest energy saver in your house?”
No answer. He responded himself: “It’s you. You are the biggest energy saver. You can put on an extra sweater instead of turning up the heat. You can turn down the temperature of your hot shower. What else?”
Sam engaged the students in an interactive discussion to develop a list of energy-saving tips the kids could apply at home. But not without pausing every once in a while to show them his gadgets.
First he demonstrated his thermal infrared camera – a tool used to detect temperature variations in a room. Holding it up to a student volunteer’s body, and then the fluorescent lights on the ceiling, Sam explained that the camera can indicate heat leaks in faulty home insulation. The results can be used to improve the efficiency of heating and air-conditioning units.
Sam also described the use of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), which use less power and have a longer life. He explained how wrapping insulation around pipes in attics prevents heat from escaping out of the roof, and sealing leaky windows prevents cold air from seeping in and warm air from getting out. All of these things lead to greater energy efficiency.
In the end, Sam quizzed the kids on what they had learned. They had picked up several new terms and ideas, but the presentation only supplemented what they had already been learning in the classroom. Most of all, it added to what the kids already knew deep down: That good habits begin at home.
- Check your water temperature.
- Take showers instead of baths.
- Open curtains during the day to allow the sun to shine in, and close curtains at night.
- Do only full loads of laundry and dishes.
- Check your thermostat settings and get a programmable operation.
- Hang clothes to dry instead of using an electric dryer.
- Check your furnace filter at least once a month.
- Keep heat registers clear of furniture.
- Turn lights off.