The U.S. Department of Energy and the Ad Council this week launched an intriguing series of public service announcements designed to teach tweens aged 8 to 12 about energy efficiency. Entitled "What's Your Excuse?" the campaign "highlights the simplicity of making energy-efficient changes in the home and asks kids to join millions of others to make a difference by using their energy wisely," the announcement said. The campaign got me thinking about the environmental education that set me on a path, years later, to write about green home building for EcoHome.
I first learned about water conservation in an elementary school science class, where I remember being terrified that the world would imminently run out of potable drinking water (a scenario that's come too close to reality in recent years in areas like Atlanta and the Southwest). These lessons come to mind whenever I shut off the faucet while brushing my teeth.
Then I started thinking about sustainable wood sources in middle school biology, where I was convinced that destruction of the rainforest was sure to make the three-toed sloth a goner, and here I am writing about certified wood. And, yes, I even remember teachers exhorting me to check my windows for air leaks. (How'd the caulk manufacturers sneak that into the curriculum?)
Environmental concerns like energy efficiency and recycling became second nature to me at a young age, and I'm not the only 20-something who feels that way. A report by research firm Yankelovich, released last week, stated that environmentalism is developing especially among Gen Xers (aged 30 to 43) and my generation of Echo Boomers (aged 16 to 29).
As children who grew up with environmentalism begin buying houses, builders need to tailor their projects and their marketing accordingly. I'm sometimes cynically tempted to think that green is just a fad, sure to fade away like the latest hot topic. But it's youths like my cousin, a middle-schooler already learning to compost and recycle, who make me realize sustainability is here to stay.
The DOE ad campaign encourages kids to save energy with an Energy Action Plan, a simple 10-step action list that promotes wiser energy use in the home, and directs youngsters to an interactive Web site where they can learn tips ranging from turning off entertainment devices when not in use to asking their parents about programmable thermostats. Builders might even learn a thing or two, as the Energy Action Plan provides a great way for pros to start a conversation about making the most of a home's energy features.
The campaign announcement said that in a February 2008 national survey of children aged 8 to 12, 85% of respondents believed they could lead their families to consume less energy in the home. Kids believe they can do it-do you?
Jeffrey Lee is senior associate editor, online for EcoHome.