The more energy we save, the healthier the Earth will be, and you can do your part too. For instance: You can put on a sweater instead of turning up the heat. You can bike to a friend's house instead of asking for a car ride. You can take a short shower instead of a long bath. Every little bit counts.

Credits: 25 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save Energy, the Earthworks Group and Seattle City Light, 1992, John Javna; 2001, Frank Chesley

  1. Join the Heat-Busters
  2. Learn the Alternatives
  3. It's Clothing Time
  4. If It's Not Too Far, Don't Take the Car
  5. Lights Out
  6. Be a Water Leak Detective
  7. Curtain Call
  8. Plant a Tree
  9. Stop the Great Escape
  10. The Big Chill
  11. What's Cooking?
  12. Dish It Out
  13. Clothes Call
  14. A Bright Idea
Tip 1: Join the Heat-Busters

Turn down the heat. Right now energy is in short supply and very expensive. Heating typically consumes 40% of a home's energy use. Governor Gary Locke and your local utility are asking all customers to save energy.

Turning downthe thermostat is one of the best opportunities to save your family money and to save energy and the environment for all of us. So, make sure your home's thermostat is set to 68 degrees during the day and 55 degrees at night or when no one is home.

At night, try wear pajamas and add extra blankets to stay comfortably warm. (NOTE: Older people, babies and sick people may need more heat both day and night.)


How warm is warm enough? Find out how low you can set your thermostat and still feel comfortable.

Start by setting a few degrees lower than usual and putting on a sweater or sweatshirt. Then, if you can, turn the heat down even further.

Tip 2 : Learn the Alternatives

In Washington State most of our energy is produced by hydroelectric dams. However, this year the entire Northwest is experiencing a severe drought. Low water levels in our rivers mean less water to run the turbines that produce electricity. So, while hydroelectricity is nonpolluting and renewable source of energy, it's important to consider other sources of renewable energy, such as solar and wind.

The sun is an excellent source of energy. It constantly sends energy to Earth (and elsewhere) in the form of heat and light. Solar energy can be used to heat water, homes, and experimental cars.

The wind provides energy without pollution and has been used for centuries. In windy parts of the county, including areas in eastern Washington, wind farms are being built. Wind farms use the power of the wind to turn huge turbines that produce electricity.


On a warm day, fill a sealable plastic bag with water and leave it in a sunny spot for two or three hours.

You will find you've heated the water without using any energy -- except the sun's.

Tip 3 : It's Clothing Time

When you turn up the heat on a chilly night, you must warm the air around you before you feel comfortable. That takes a lot of energy, which also means more pollution and greenhouse gases in the air.

The best way to stay warm is to dress in layers -- T-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, turtleneck, sweater -- to create pockets of warm air close to your body. A sweater can keep you just as warm, without using any more energy.


Experiment with dressing in layers. You'll find the clothes you choose don't have to be bulky and uncomfortable to be warm. With a sweatshirt on, you could turn down the heat about 2.

Make it a family project. Try to encourage everyone in the family to dress in layers and you'll be able to turn the heat down. If dressing in layers keeps everyone warm enough to turn the heat down by 5, your family will be using 15 percent less energy to heat your home.

Tip 4 : If It's Not Too Far, Don't Take the Car

Cars burn fuel for energy -- gasoline, diesel and some natural gas. These cause pollution, so the less we drive, the healthier our planet will be.

Burning these fuels produces exhaust, which is a major cause of pollution. The gases in the exhaust add to the greenhouse effect, acid rain and smog.

Walking or riding your bike may take a little longer, but think of the energy you'll save and pollution you'll prevent. Every gallon of gasoline that is saved keeps 20 pounds of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.

And the exercise you'll get is just an added benefit.

In other countries, people use bikes more than autos. In Japan, for example, there are special garages for those who ride their bicycles to work.


Next time you need to travel a few blocks, think about the alternatives before you ask someone to give you a ride. Could you walk? Ride your bike?

Encourage your family to walk or bicycle instead of driving. How about walking or biking together?

Tip 5 : Lights Out

You wouldn't leave the water running after you left the bathroom or kitchen, would you? So you shouldn't leave lights on when you leave a room, either. The electricity keeps flowing just as the water does, and it's wasted.

But your family is paying for it anyway.

Turning off a light may not seem like a big deal, but about 20 percent of the energy used in the United States goes for lighting.

If you turned off just one extra light that usually stayed on for a few hours each day, you would keep as much as 100 pounds of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.


  • When you're the last person to leave a room, be sure to flip the light switch off.
  • Use daylight. If you're reading during the day, open curtains or blinds instead of turning on a light.
  • Dust your light bulbs. (But make sure they're cool first.) A clean bulb gives more light than a dusty one.
  • Count the number of bulbs the family uses in your house. Now imagine 100 million homes like yours, each with the same number of bulbs as yours.
Tip 6 : Be a Water Leak Detective

Do you turn off the faucet while you're brushing your teeth? Or doing the dishes? You should. Everyone in your family should. Water must be pumped to your home from rivers or reservoirs through long pipelines. Wasting water wastes energy as well as water.

Leaks also are wasteful. For example, a leak that could fill a coffee cup in 10 minutes will waste more than 3,000 gallons of water a year.


Read your meter.

  • Ask someone to teach you how to read your water meter, if you have one. It probably will be in a corner of the basement, on an outside wall or under a concrete or metal cover near the street. (NOTE: If it's underground, you won't be able to read it.)
  • Pick a time when everyone will be out of the house and no water is being used. Read the meter and write down the reading. When you return home, take another reading. If the number has increased, you may have discovered a leak.
  • Tell an adult in your house about it.
Check your toilet.
  • Toilets often leak without anyone noticing it.
  • Ask an adult to take the top off the tank of your toilet. Put about 12 drops of red or blue food coloring in the tank, until the water is brightly colored.
  • Wait about five minutes -- and guard the toilet so no one uses it.
  • Now look at the toilet bowl. If colored water shows up, you have found a leak. Your toilet is wasting energy and should be repaired.
Stopping a hot-water leak will save even more energy each year -- enough to power your TV up to two hours a day, for more than six years.
Tip 7 : Curtain Call

Even when windows are shut, heat can escape through them because they are much thinner than the walls. Closing the curtains adds an extra wall to the room and helps keep the heat from escaping.

The curtains that work best are thick and don't leave spaces around the edges where heat can leak out.

On cold nights, go on an energy patrol, closing all curtains.

But on days that are cold but sunny, open the curtains to take advantage of free heat and light from the sun.

On hot summer days, close the curtains to block sunlight and keep the extra heat out.


Put your hand next to a window on a cold day. You can feel that the air next to the window is colder.

By closing drapes or curtains on cold days, you can save as much as one-third of the heat that would have escaped through the windows.

Tip 8 : Plant a Tree

A tree can help shade your house from the hot summer sun and help block cold wind in winter. All the while, it's absorbing polluting gases while releasing oxygen.

    Be an energy saver
  • Go to a nursery or gardening center with a parent or other adult. The clerks there can help you decide what kind of tree to plant, and where.
  • The best places are where they will shade your home from the sun -- usually the east, south and west sides of your home. Make a map of your yard to figure out the best place to plant a tree.
  • For fire safety, plant the tree at least 10 feet from the house, and trim the branches if they start to grow over the roof.
  • Young trees don't provide much shade, so you'll have to wait for your tree to grow before full energy-saving benefits are realized. But your little tree already will be helping clean the air.
    Projects with others
  • Talk with family, neighbors and schoolmates to see if you can start a community tree-planting project. You'll be surprised how many people will like the idea, especially after you explain how important trees are to our environment.
  • How about your school? Could it use some trees to save energy and provide shade during recess? Talk with your teacher or principal about planting trees as a class or school project.
Tip 9 : Stop the Great Escape

Those sometimes-invisible cracks around doors and windows waste energy -- big time. Weatherstripping and caulking will seal them and reduce your family's energy bills -- also big time.

Almost half the energy we use at home is for heat, so it's important to not waste it. By weatherstripping and caulking, your family can cut its energy use by as much as 10 percent.


On the next cold, windy day, go on a leak hunt.

Find a piece of thin paper or tissue paper.

Hold the paper up to frames of doors and windows where air might be escaping. If the paper moves, as if there is a slight breeze, you've found a leak.

Make a map of your house showing where the leaks are and show it to your family.

Have a weatherstripping day and help your family install weatherstripping if it isn't already there. Or you can help replace old, worn-out weatherstripping or caulking.

Tip 10 : The Big Chill

  • When you open the refrigerator, trying to decide what to eat for a snack, you're wasting energy.
  • Your refrigerator uses more energy than any other appliance in the kitchen.
  • Americans open their refrigerators an average of 22 times a day. That's more than 8,000 times a year.
  • When the door is open, the cold air you feel is being replaced by warmer air and extra electricity is needed to cool it again.
  • There is a dial inside the refrigerator for adjusting the temperature, but many families do not use it correctly. Therefore, refrigerators often are colder than they should be.


  • Think about what you want before you open the refrigerator door. Then quickly take what you need and close the door.
  • Check the seal, the long rubber strip on the edge of the door. If there is food or dirt on the seal, cold air may be slipping out. Clean the seal with a wet sponge.
  • With an adult, use a thermometer to find if your refrigerator is colder than necessary. It should be set between 38 and 40. If the food feels icy, the temperature is too low.
Tip 11 : What's Cooking?

If you help with the cooking in your family -- and even if you don't -- you can learn and share a few simple cooking tips to help save energy.

Whenever someone opens an oven door to check progress, the oven loses 25 to 50 of its heat. More gas or electricity is needed to reheat the oven, wasting more energy and money.

Microwave ovens are more energy efficient for heating small items such as a bowl of oatmeal or a plate of leftovers. Toaster ovens work for smaller items as well.

You can lower oven heat by as much as 25 if you bake with glass or ceramic (clay) pans.

Use the smallest pot for the job. And put a lid on it.

Choose a burner that matches the size of the pot. If the burner is too big, much of the heat is wasted. If it's too small, the food won't be heated evenly.

Listen for whistles, loud sizzles or other noises coming from the pot. It may mean the heat is turned up too high.

No peeking. Don't open the oven door to check on food unless you have to.


Here's an experiment you can do with an adult, to show how much energy can be saved when you use a lid while cooking.

Fill two pots about the same size with the same amount of water. (Measure it with a measuring cup.)

Cover one pot; leave the other uncovered.

Start the heat on both at the same time, with the heat at the same level.

See which one boils first. It should be the covered pot. Imagine how much energy we can save if everyone covered their pots when they cook.

Tip 12 : Dish It Out

Washing dishes takes hot water and it takes extra energy to heat water. If you have a dishwasher, you're using electricity too.

If you leave the water running while you're washing dishes, gallons of water go down the drain unused. If you could save all that hot water, you would have enough for a hot shower.

    If you do dishes by hand:
  • Instead of letting the water run, fill the sink or basin and use a dishpan for rinsing. You could reduce the amount of water you use by up to 50 percent.
    If you have a dishwasher:
  • You probably don't need to rinse the dishes before putting them in. Scraping off the food may be enough.
  • If you do rinse before, rinse in a dishpan or sink full of water instead and don't let the water run. Use cold water, not hot water.
  • Run the dishwasher only when it's full. Running it to clean just a few dishes wastes both water and energy.
  • Use the air-dry setting or open the dishwasher for the heated dry cycle begins (if the manufacturer's instructions allow).


To learn how much water you save by not letting it run, you will need an empty half-gallon milk carton and someone with a watch.

Hold the milk carton under a faucet and turn on the water. How long does it take to fill it up: 10 seconds? 20 seconds?

Now figure it out. If it takes 15 minutes to do the dishes, how many milk cartons' worth of water is wasted running down the drain?

PS -- Don't waste the water you've collected. Use it to water a thirsty plant.

Tip 13 : Clothes Call

It takes a lot of energy to run a washer and dryer. Up to one-fourth of the electricity your family uses can go to the washer and dryer. If your clothes aren't really dirty, you might be able to save energy just by putting them away.

When you do wash dirty clothes, you still can save energy.

  • Most of the energy a washing machine uses goes to heating the water. That means that doing laundry in warm or cold water will save energy. (Hot water still may be needed for diapers or heavily soiled clothes.)
  • For each load of laundry your family washes in cold water instead of hot, enough energy can be saved to power your television for 34 hours.
  • If every American family changed only one load of laundry a week from hot water to cold, we could keep nearly 5 million tons of pollutants out of the air each year.
  • Match the amount of water you use to the clothes to be washed. Use only as much water as you need.


Check out your family's laundry detergent. Does it say cold water? If not, ask whoever buys the detergent if your family can switch. (Detergents with few or no phosphates are better for the environment.)

Volunteer to help with the wash, if it's not already part of your household chores.

Wash a load of white laundry in hot water using a regular detergent. Then wash another load of white laundry in warm or cold water with a cold-water detergent.

Compare the two loads. If the laundry in the warm or cold water came out just as clean, you have found a detergent that will help you save energy.

Tip 14 : A Bright Idea

Believe it or not, all light bulbs are not equal. Some will help you save energy, but some actually will use more.

Ordinary light bulbs have a small wire inside. When electricity runs through the wire, the wire becomes hot and gives off light. Unfortunately, only about 10 percent becomes light. The rest is just heat.

Other bulbs have gas inside them. In these, almost all the energy is converted into light.

One of the best gas bulbs is the compact fluorescent. It uses only one-fourth the energy as a regular incandescent bulb, but gives off the same amount light - and lasts at least 10 times as long.


Check out the lights in your home. What is each one used for? Reading, which requires a lot of light, or lighting a closet, which needs very little?

Do you have light fixtures that use more than one bulb? By replacing several low-watt bulbs with one high-watt bulb, you can get the same amount of light, but use less electricity. (Put a burned-out bulb in the empty sockets to avoid a bad accident.)

Visit the local hardware store and examine compact fluorescents and other energy-saving bulbs. If you have trouble finding them, ask the manager.

If every family in the United States replaced just one regular bulb with a compact fluorescent, we'd save as much energy as one whole power plant produces every year.

Tip 15 : Getting Into Hot Water

When we wash our hands, take a bath or shower or wash dishes we use gallons and gallons of hot water. It takes a lot of energy to heat that water, which makes it a good way to conserve energy.

  • About one-fourth of all energy used in U.S. homes goes just to heat water.
  • The water heater in each home holds about 20 to 50 gallons. The heater goes on and stays on until the water reaches the temperature set by your family.
  • Then it sits there, waiting to be used. When you turn the hot-water faucet, it flows until you turn it off and cold water replaces it in the heater. That sets the water heater on again.


Don't go with the flow. When you bathe, shower or wash dishes -- whenever you use hot water -- remember to use only as much as you need.

Ask an adult in your family to look at the water heater with you.

Check the water temperature. You can save energy and still have hot water by turning it down to 120 or 130.

Feel the side of the water heater. If it feels warm, some the heat is escaping, which means it's wasting energy. Your local hardware store sells special insulating blankets to help stop that energy loss.

More on conservation from public power:

US Department of Energy
* We say "kids" with the greatest respect about the conservationists of the future
who can save energy now.
Phone 206.684.3800 (Seattle) | 425.783.1700 (Everett) | 253.502.8377 (Tacoma)