You've done everything you can to conserve energy in your house -- purchased the latest Energy Star appliances, insulated your walls, and turned your thermostat down to 68. But the next thing you know, your kids are leaving lights on in rooms they aren't occupying. Or staring into the refrigerator for minutes on end while all the cold air escapes through the open door. Or nudging the thermostat higher when you aren't looking. How can you convince your kids to help, not hinder, your efforts to cut down on energy usage?

Knowledge is Power

Your children can't make the effort to save energy if they don't know how. Help them start building good habits early, and make sure they’re aware of simple ways they can help lower the utility bills:

To save electricity:

  • Completely power down computers, televisions and gaming consoles when not in use. Better yet, unplug them so they aren't drawing phantom loads.
  • Turn the lights out when you leave a room. There's no point in wasting energy to light a space when there's no one there.
  • Think about what you want from the fridge before opening it so you can conserve as much cold air as possible.

To conserve water:

  • Turn off the faucet while you're brushing your teeth. Leaving it running can send gallons of wasted water down the drain.
  • Don't dawdle in the shower. You want to get clean, but every minute you linger uses up energy to heat the water, not to mention the water itself.

To keep your heating and cooling bills low:

  • If the heater or air conditioner is running, don't leave any doors or windows open.
  • When you're cold, put on an extra layer of clothing instead of turning the thermostat up.

What if They Don't Wanna?

Of course, every parent knows that telling your kid to do something doesn't mean it's going to happen. The trick is to get them to buy in. While one reason to conserve energy is to save money on your utility bills, children have a habit of taking mom and dad's money for granted, so that might not be your most persuasive argument.

Instead, try teaching them about how human reliance on fossil fuels is harmful to the environment -- but they can help make a difference. If your children have particular interests, like animals, you can tie the themes together -- tell them they can help protect animal habitats by doing their part to conserve energy.

Another trick is to give them a green light to correct you if you make a mistake like leaving the water running. That gives the kid some fun responsibility, and encourages them to be vigilant about your behavior -- which increases the likelihood they will be about their own.

Check out the Energy Star Kids program for more ideas on how to persuade your kids and get them excited about conservation, and for child-tailored activities to increase their knowledge and motivation. And remember, the best way to teach your kids how to conserve is to set a good example by doing it yourself.