This year, World Water Day has a most important theme: Water and Energy. Do these two topics belong together? Absolutely! Along with commercial agriculture, thermoelectric energy generation is the leading consumer of fresh water in the country. And what’s more, when we produce energy in the most traditional ways, we create enormous carbon emissions as a byproduct, and this affects our oceans. Water and energy are inextricably connected, and the time for action is now.
Water clearly is the source of life. Even “going green” requires “blue” (water). Children and teens can become aware of critical issues related to this water-energy connection in ways that help them become more alert and attentive to the world around them. When I lead workshops I often ask, “How early in the day do we interact with water?” In addition to the most obvious answers (flushing the toilet, showering, brushing teeth, washing dishes), have you considered that all your electronics rely on water? The alarm clock that is plugged in along with your cell phone needs water to create the energy. The washing machine that cleans our clothes is most obviously water + energy. Have your students or children take a scavenger hunt to see how these two essential elements carry us through our day.
What kinds of action can kids take?
In addition to writing Going Blue: A Teen Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands and Make a Splash! A Kid’s Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands with Philippe Cousteau, grandson of legendary environmentalist Jacques-Yves Cousteau, I have authored several Action Guides for Philippe’s organization EarthEcho International. One document is “You Have the Power: An Action Guide for Energy Efficiency.” This is free to download on their website (click on Educator Resources, log in, and access an array of excellent free publications and videos). As part of “You Have the Power,” I listed many ideas for youth action divided into four categories: direct, indirect, advocacy, and research. These four ways to dive in to service do make a splash and develop lifelong habits of environmental stewardship.
For Direct Action
- Turn on only half of the classroom or household lights on a sunny day.
- Turn off the lights when you leave every room.
- Unplug or use power strips that stop energy flow when computers, televisions, fans, or any energy-zapping item is not being used or when school is out or your family is out.
- Check windows and outside doors for air leakage.
- Install more efficient light where appropriate.
- Turn off lights in exhibit cases and let the trophies shine without extra lighting.
For Indirect Action
- At school, create a flyer or booklet on energy issues for younger students.
- Make energy “hot spots” posters, signs, or stickers to place where people need reminders to reduce usage.
- At school, meet with support staff who can join the campaign and help them design their strategies for the cafeteria, offices, and building maintenance.
- At home, sit down with your family and share what you’ve learned; agree on places where reminders would be helpful.
- Start a campaign to share your good ideas with other schools and families.
- Host a parent or community education night.
- Create a public service announcement for your school or local radio or television station.
- Compare current monthly energy bills with past bills at the same time of year.
- Keep accurate data of changes and report findings to school officials.
- Make a case for employing HVAC data collection devices at your school so that students can use this information in academic classes to monitor and make recommendations to reduce energy use.
As young people learn about the importance of protecting and preserving our natural resources, we are indeed giving them the gift of life itself and aiding them in keeping our planet healthy for future generations.
Cathryn Berger Kaye, M.A., is an international service learning and education consultant and a former classroom teacher. She presents at conferences around the world and works with state departments of education, university faculty and students, school districts, and classroom teachers on a variety of education issues such as service learning, civic responsibility, student leadership, and respectful school communities. Cathryn lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Barry, and frequently visits her daughters, Ariel and Devora. For more articles and blogs and her international speaking schedule, visit www.cbkassociates.com and contact Cathryn directly at email@example.com.
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