Educating The Next Generation on The Impact of Energy Use

As we start the second week of the 2021 Reduce Energy Use DC initiative, we hear from Mary E. Spruill, the executive director of The NEED Project.  In just the last decade, The NEED Project has grown to encompass a curriculum portfolio of 100+ teacher and student guides designed to engage and teach educators and students about energy. Since its founding over 40 years ago, NEED has kept its Kids Teaching Kids philosophy as a fundamental programming principle.

Below, Mary shares why it is important to educate children about the importance of energy usage, why the Reduce Energy Use DC campaign is so impactful, and some tips for reducing your personal energy use. Don’t forget to take the Reduce Energy Use DC pledge here!

“No one ever really thinks about energy. Energy is all around us and makes many aspects of our lives possible, more comfortable, and more interesting and fun too (thinking of your televisions, smart phones, tablets, and game consoles).  All of this requires our electric grid – an interconnected network of wires that bring electricity to our homes, schools and businesses.”


Importance of educating kids and teachers on energy usage

The energy we use each day takes a lot of work to make it useful energy for us.  That’s why we help teachers, students and their families understand why energy efficiency and conservation is so important.

Reducing your energy use is one way you can help make a difference in your home, at your school and at work too. There are lots of ways to make a difference in our energy use, our environment and climate change. The biggest one is increasing your energy knowledge and understanding all of the aspects that go along with making our local community a better place. That’s why our team at The NEED Project works with teachers and students in DC and around the country to learn more about energy and energy efficiency.

Here in DC, we have the Energizing Student Potential program supported by Exelon and Pepco. This effort provides teacher training and hands-on classroom experiments and lessons to help students explore energy and to take their knowledge and share it with other students, their parents and the general public. Kids can make a huge difference in the decisions we make. You often hear people say today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders. That is true, but students are leading today – even our youngest students – as they learn and share and think about smarter ways to use energy. Students are able to turn off lights at home and at school, they can monitor school energy use in a Student Energy Team, they can host Energy Fairs to help their neighbors learn how to reduce energy use too. 



The impact of efforts like Reduce Energy Use from an educational perspective

There are two major reasons we want to Reduce Energy Use in DC and around the world. One of those is that reducing our energy use – making smart decisions about using our energy and also using energy efficient technologies when available – will often allow us to save money. Turning off the lights, turning off the game console, not standing in front of the open refrigerator deciding what to have for a snack – all of those things help reduce energy use and can help save money too. Just like making a decision to carpool or take the bus or Metro can save on gasoline.   

The other reason is that being smart about energy use can help us deal with climate change in a proactive way. Reducing our energy use reduces the amount of electricity that must be generated and can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released in the process. Reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can help us as we look for ways to slow and mitigate climate change. 

Top things youth can do to contribute to reducing energy

Educating yourself and others and thinking more about your decisions at home and at school can make a big difference. Check out these tips and let’s get started Reducing our use together.

Insulation, Doors, and Windows

  • Prevent air leaks by sealing doors and windows and making sure there is proper insulation.
  • To prevent air leaks, caulk, seal, and weather-strip all cracks and openings to the outside.

Appliances and Electrical Devices

  • Turn off devices when not in use.
  • Wash and dry full loads of laundry and use a cold-water wash cycle.
  • Enable power management settings on computers, printers and other related equipment.
  • Use “smart” power strips to eliminate “phantom loads.”


  • Turn off lights when not in use.
  • Use task lighting—instead of lighting the whole room provide light where it is needed.
  • Switch to LED (light emitting diode) lights when you can.

Water & Water Heating

  • Use less hot water.
  • Make sure there are no water leaks or drips.
  • Insulate water heaters and water pipes.


  • Open windows in cooler weather.
  • Close shades, curtains or blinds during the day to keep heat out in the summer. Open them when it is cold out.
  • Use ceiling fans or box fans to keep you cool.

How can teachers and students learn more about energy efficiency?

You can find more helpful tips on our website or linked below!