Green starts young
It is easier to build conservation awareness in children at a very young age, says Shadi Al Kadi, director, TAQATI –Dubai Energy Efficiency Programme
While energy efficiency and sustainability are some of the hottest topics for organizations and individuals, the role of the young generations is often overlooked, and their influence is underestimated. The importance of water/energy conservation and its benefits to the environment and economy is vital for such a long-term behavior and cultural change effort to succeed. It is easier to build awareness in children at a very young age and raise them as environmentally responsible individuals than to change their energy-inefficient sticky behaviors later as adults. Children adopting energy efficiency as a part of their lives, will not only influence their individual use patterns, but also influence their schools and communities in that direction.
Children must understand the value and scarcity of our natural resources and realize that they are capable of playing important roles in the preservation of these resources. It is important to explain energy and its different sources, why energy conservation is vital and demonstrate how we can practically do that. It starts with us; it is the duty of parents and educators to empower our future generations to make environmentally responsible decisions.
1. Start Early: The younger the child is, the easier it is to ensure that sustainability becomes a second nature and a core value of his/her character. Children should understand what is energy, its sources (renewables and conventional), costs and how can they play part of conservation.
2. Teach by Example: Start by building your own knowledge on sustainability and energy efficiency. For this, many resources are available globally and locally such as TAQATI’s social media channels that offer daily tips. A rich source is Dubai government’s ‘My Energy My Responsibility’ campaign (www.MyEnergyMyResponsibility.ae) that was launched to encourage the Dubai community including children to be responsible for their energy resources through cutting down usage, monitoring consumption and adopting energy efficiency behaviors.
You also need to walk the talk by making modifications to your own behavior. Children learn from their surroundings and often replicate the actions of those around them. Once your children or students see you recycling, or turning off the lights in unused rooms, they will be more inclined to adopt the same behavior.
3. Engage them: Be it in your community, at school or at home, engaging your children in sustainability events and activities can go a long way in teaching them the importance of such values.
Dubai celebrates many sustainability and environmental occasions, such as World Energy Day, World Environment Day and Earth Hour with fun-filled educational activities and events for the community. Such initiatives go a long way in helping kids better understand and remember the messages.
Some schools have now started to incorporate energy efficiency in their curriculums and into their student activities. For example, many schools in Dubai now compete for the DEWA conservation award, which rewards schools that are taking measures to reduce their water and electricity use. TAQATI has also held an energy mascot design competition earlier this year to engage students creatively in the energy efficiency journey and saw active participation from students.
At home, involving children in simple tasks such as segregating waste for recycling, giving them the responsibility to check if the lights are off before leaving a room, reading this month’s electricity bill or simply having them observe how your automatic irrigation system works can teach them to be responsible for sustainability. When making your next home purchase, you can actively engage their kids by educating them about energy consumption of different products and their cost impact, such as choosing LED bulbs over conventional incandescent bulbs, and buying appliances with higher energy star ratings (e.g. 4 or5 energy-stars) would bring cost savings that would offset increase in price, if any.