Parents follow child's lead when it comes to saving energy

Posted July 26

Girl Scouts and their parents were both more likely to try to save energy after the children took part in an educational program designed to influence their behavior.

Researchers at Oregon State University and Stanford University teamed up to teach members of 30 Girl Scout troops about energy conservation. After the girls learned about ways to save energy, they continued to adopt that behavior for more than seven months, according to a study in the journal Nature Energy.

Their parents were also impacted by what their children learned and shared with them. The adults' conservation behavior lasted more than eight months after the program ended.

Hilary Boudet, assistant professor of climate change and energy at Oregon State and the study's lead author, said the study indicates education programs could greatly impact whether families waste or conserve energy.

"Children are a critical audience for environmental programs, because their current behavior likely predicts future behavior," she said in a written statement. "By adopting energy-saving behaviors now and engaging family and community members in such efforts, children can play an important role in bringing about a more sustainable future."

Efforts to change energy-use behavior were more successful over time than were similar education efforts focused on food and transportation energy use, the researchers wrote: "We show that Girl Scouts and parents in troops randomly assigned to the residential energy intervention significantly increased their self-reported residential energy-saving behaviours immediately following the intervention and after more than seven months of follow-up, compared with controls.

"Girl Scouts in troops randomly assigned to the food-and-transportation energy intervention significantly increased their self-reported food-and-transportation energy-saving behaviours immediately following the intervention, compared with controls, but not at follow-up. The results demonstrate that theory-based, child-focused energy interventions have the potential to increase energy-saving behaviors among both children and their parents," the study said.

The research was conducted as part of the Girls Learning Environment and Energy Program (GLEE), a collaboration between Stanford and northern California Girl Scout troops.

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