5. Turn Off the Lights
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Remembering to flip off the light switch when you leave a room is a skill that must be taught. Assign your child the role of "switch supervisor" and have him intermittently walk through the house, turning off any lights that aren't being used. Since lighting accounts for about 15 percent of a home's overall energy bill, your switch supervisor is making a valuable contribution to the earth and your household's bottom line. He can also alert an adult if electrical appliances, like hair dryers and cell phones, are not removed from the outlets when they aren't being used or are fully charged.
For extra incentive, allow the switch supervisor to fine energy-wasters and collect penalty pennies for their misuse of power. The accumulated funds can be put toward an eco-friendly purchase, such as programmable light timers or energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs, which use about 75 percent less electricity than traditional bulbs.
There is more to do when it comes to helping the earth. There always will be. But for now, I can focus on creating a strong foundation for my kids and surrender any lofty aspirations. I trust our simple changes are enough to make a difference.
Originally published in the April 2011 issue of Parents magazine.