How I Save Energy
Advice for stay-at-home parentsBy Stephanie Janard
No doubt about it, I'm blessed to have a career that allows me to stay home with my 4-year-old son, Sage. On the other hand, we have the energy bill to prove it. For years, I've gone about our daily domestic routines with little thought to how much energy I use in the process, compared to households where parents work outside the home and their children are in daycare.
But one day, on a whim, I looked up the national average for most residential energy usage — about 800 kilowatt-hours a month. Our own household? A whopping 1800 kwh! It was time to implement some meaningful changes in our home, starting with...
- Spending more time away. While my first instinct was to turn off the thermostat and the lights, on second thought, I really didn't want our son to remember a childhood spent huddling in a dark house with a miserly mother. There's a much better alternative: spend it at the library! You'll be surprised how quickly the time goes by reading through a satisfying stack of books with your child, playing games, or working out a puzzle together.
- Rotating play dates within a circle of friends can also get you and your child out of the house several days a week. On sunny days, meet up at a nearby playground; in summer, swim at a local pool if your town has one. Or just set up a wading pool in the backyard and have a potluck picnic.
- Getting off the computer. Let's face it, many of us stay-at-homes are on it more than we dare to admit. But not only is this machine a greedy energy user, it uses up attention better spent on our child. Same goes for the TV, so replace both with some good old-fashioned play. I've weaned my son (and myself) off of morning TV by organizing a little area I call his "art station." This gets us busy with play dough, crayons and just being a little more creative in the morning instead of zoning out in front of Sponge Bob or Dora.
- Getting out of the kitchen. The more I'm at home, the more I cook. And as the mother of a picky eater, I'm usually cooking for one. Yet my child is perfectly happy with daytime meals like cereal for breakfast, a sandwich at lunch and light snacks that don't require energy intensive stovetop use. These days, so am I.
- Making energy conservation fun. If you already keep a reward chart for your child with gold stars for making up his bed, setting the table and other chores, why not add "remembering to turn off lights" to the list?
Of course, your own reward for trying some of the above strategies won't just be a lower electric bill. As the quantity of energy you use shrinks, the quality of time you spend with your child is almost sure to increase.