Teaching kids healthy habits like eating their veggies and brushing their teeth is at the top of all parenting to-do lists. Let’s add another illuminating custom kids can bring into adulthood: practicing sustainable lighting habits.
Knowing how to use less energy may not come naturally to your children, but breaking it into fun lessons definitely helps. Here are ideas to get your kids thinking about your family’s sustainable lighting choices:
Compare the Bulbs
Find an inefficient, old incandescent bulb for your kids to compare with a modern compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb and a light-emitting diode (LED) bulb. Let them carefully handle them and inspect the physical differences. You don’t need to get into how each one works (unless your kids are science-oriented) but make sure to address which use the most energy. This chart from Consumer Energy Solutions lays out the specifics:
According to ENERGY STAR Kids (a great parent resource), CFLs are 75 percent more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs—and last about 10 times longer.
Chat About Energy
You might need to have a conversation with your kids about how electricity is created in your region and why conserving energy is such an important effort. Check out some books at the library about energy and lighting such as Why Should I Save Energy? by Jen Green or Switch On, Switch Off by Melvin Berger. Also browse Kids Energy Zone for fun coloring pages, online games, and videos.
This would also be a good time to mention that if a CFL ever breaks, your kids need to make a quick exit due to the mercury. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) offers directions for how you (or another grown-up) can clean up a broken CFL and how to recycle them when they finally burn out.
Have an Evening Without Electric Lights
After your kids understand how your home is lit, turn it all off for one night. You decide how strict you need to be. Are battery-operated lights OK, or are you only allowed to use candles and oil lamps? This will be a great lesson on wasting electricity and doubles as a useful way to spark discussion about how much you actually need. Make it extra fun by pitching a tent in the living room and telling some ghost stories.
Start When They’re Young
Install light switch extenders when your kids are toddlers so they can turn the lights on and off themselves. They may annoy you by constantly flicking the switch, but the power to turn off a light is empowering. Before a toddler can even walk, you can ask her to help you turn the switch off while on your way out of the room with her in your arms.
Reinforce the Habit
Every time someone in your house turns off a light, why not let everyone else know it? Have a saying like “Lights Out!” or “Bulb Off!” for everyone to shout as they’re making sustainable lighting choices. As an incentive, maybe this can be the only time you don’t have to use inside voices at your house or the kid who gets the most “Lights Out” yells over the weekend gets a prize.
During the day, light only the rooms in your home that are truly dark. No need for the kitchen to have lights on when you have three windows already illuminating the space. Encourage your children to find the brightest spots in the house for their play and tell them to remind you if you have too many lights on.
How do you save on electricity when lighting your home? How involved are your kids? Let us know by tweeting @TomsofMaine!
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.