What does the little blue label mean to you?
By: Kristinn Leonhart Vazquez
Have you ever tried to explain what you do to friends and family? Or folks you’re just meeting for the first time? You likely boiled it down to the simplest possible form. If not, for sheer entertainment value, you should try explaining what you do to a six-year-old, or more specifically, my 6-year-old. Here’s a recent exchange with Sofia when she learned I got a new job. “But Mom (*with visible consternation, i.e., the furrowed eyebrow and hand on hip*), you’re still helping to save the planet, right?” Me: “Yes, Sofia, I still work to save the planet, and do you know how you can help me? You can start by turning the light out in the room you just left.” Sofia: “Mom [*insert eye roll here*], how does turning out the lights help the whole planet?” Me: “Because the energy that it takes to keep that light on has to come from somewhere, Sofia. And do you know where it comes from? Most of our energy is created by burning fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, and when we burn these things, we also make pollution that warms our planet.” Sofia (*eyes now light up*): “So if we turn out the light, we’re really helping the planet?” Me: “You got it, AND, Mommy has to pay less for our electric bill each month.” Sofia: “What are some other ways we can help save the planet, Mom?”
I ask her to tell me what she thinks, and I get to hear about recycling, how we shouldn’t litter, how we can plant trees, and even how to catch water in rain barrels and use it to water our plants. These are the things she knows from kindergarten. It’s amazing what kids learn from their teachers about protecting the environment today!
We talk about power strips – how easy power strips make it to unplug a whole room and how when we leave a room, we should make sure all of the outlets are unplugged. We talk about air drying our clothes during the summer, and we talk about the spiral lightbulbs we use in our home. And then there’s turning the thermostat up during the day and bringing it back down when we return home. I explain why we clean the vents and run the ceiling fan instead of making it cold with the air conditioner. We talk about the shower races we have and why they’re important – I time the kids when they take showers to encourage them to take shorter showers. A little competition goes a long way! We feel the same way at ENERGY STAR: check out our latest competition – the Battle of the Buildings!
We talk about keeping the drapes and blinds closed to keep it cooler inside. And then there’s walking to the grocery store (or riding our bikes, she exclaims) instead of driving. We talk about only watching TV and playing computer games for one hour a day. I try to help her understand how each action helps protect the planet. Occasionally I am reminded of a popular comedian who does a skit on how children continuously ask, “But why?” And then, when her older brother joins in, we have a funny side conversation about “energy vampires” that has me in stitches, and I know I am going to get the best drawings from the kids after this conversation.
We talk about my new job and the little blue label, and I ask both kids to help me find it wherever we happen to be. I tell them they can find it on products, on buildings and on homes. They are fast becoming ENERGY STAR ambassadors with the ENERGY STAR brand manager as their proud mom. What actions do you take to protect our environment?
For more fun activities to do with kids, click here.
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About the author: Kristinn Leonhart Vazquez joined the ENERGY STAR Team on June 18 as Brand Manager. She has been with the U.S. EPA for eight years supporting a wide range of voluntary programs and regulations to protect peoples’ health and the environment, and prior to that time, worked as a book and journal editor. In her spare time, she enjoys volunteer teaching, not just kids, but adults too.
Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.