Elementary school pupils running outside

School’s Out For Summer, Or Is It?

Spring is almost over and although children may not be rushing out the classroom door much longer, that doesn’t mean they won’t be taking their parents to school this summer. There are two programs out now to encourage pre-college students to “green” their homes: Green My Parents and America’s Home Energy Challenge by the U.S. Department of Energy.  Both programs focus on educating children about the issues, identifying opportunities for improvement at home and putting solutions in place.

Green My Parents (GMP) was launched a year ago by 18 year-old co-founder Jordan Howard. GMP is a high-school grassroots movement to help families conserve energy and water with a goal of $100 per household yearly savings. Not long ago I heard Howard’s moving story of how her underprivileged L.A. school peers decided they needed to prioritize making a difference on the environment. It’s an amazing story, considering 80% of the students at her school fall into the “financially disadvantaged” category.

While GMP is most certainly a worthy cause, my first thought, if I’m being honest, was: what’s the motivation for kids to participate? Well, the incentives come in three different ways.

  • Recognition: It doesn’t matter if it’s from peers, parents or receiving awards, kids love to be recognized for a job well done (just like their parents).
  • “Saving the Planet”: Today’s youth have grown up overhearing serious discussions about environmental issues instead of the Cold War, so it’s in their DNA to want make a difference.
  • Saving Money: Saving energy, water and reducing waste saves money and kids hope their efforts will result in some cold, hard cash in their pockets to have fun with.

To help promote the initiative, GMP has gone new media savvy. One of the things I’ve heard since I started writing this blog was that I need to be where my audience is. Well, with that in mind, GMP has an online “kit” full of green tips. The founders also took social media by storm. Kids started sharing conservation stories with each other on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter — and they might’ve mentioned the loot they bought with the money their parents gave them. There is even a book out now.

Not to be outdone on the conservation front, the government is jumping in on the action too.

Last week the U.S. Department of Energy launched its America’s Home Energy Education Challenge for students in grades 3-8. It’s a two-pronged program to educate kids about the environmental and financial benefits of conserving energy.

First up, the Home Energy Challenge provides tools and encouragement for students to conserve energy at home and join their classmates to compete for $200,000 in prizes for the best performing schools. The playing field is level so that urban schools — where most apartments don’t even have individual electric meters– can win by developing the best Energy Conservation Plan. Registration closes Sept 30, 2011 and they’ll be comparing the energy used in Sept-Dec 2011 to Sept-Dec 2010.

The second competition is the Energy Fitness Award. Modeled after the President’s Physical Fitness award, this program is a test that challenges students to improve their knowledge of energy use in buildings, to learn more about the energy they use, and to design and develop energy plans. If you pass, you build points for your school, and yes, you get a badge too.

These motivations are familiar to us at Kendall-Jackson. We like to be recognized by our industry, the government and consumers for the hard work we’re doing to conserve energy, water and waste. As farmers — and parents — we want to maintain a healthy environment for the future. Saving some money along the way is just the added benefit of doing the right thing.