Education doesn’t stop when school doors close for the summer. During the summer months away from the classroom, our children are continuing to learn through their experiences and by watching our examples. This summer vacation, let’s focus on helping them learn energy management skills — skills that will give them the tools and knowledge to save energy in their homes and develop good long-term energy usage habits.  If learned at an early age, these will become lifelong skills that will benefit them individually and in their families, with the bonus of helping us reach California’s long-term energy goals.

As a member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education and the founder of the Pico Youth & Family Center in Santa Monica, I’m teaming up with Energy Upgrade California® to invite our students and their parents to develop these skills this summer by joining the Do Your Thing™ energy-saving movement.

Energy Upgrade California is a statewide initiative that is committed to helping Californians save energy by reducing demand on the energy grid and making informed energy usage choices at home and in the workplace. Its prime focus is education and motivation—helping all of us, including our students, learn how our day-to-day actions can add up to big energy savings.

I’d like to challenge our students to join the Do Your Thing movement. One by one, they can do their part to learn how to manage their family’s household energy use, and follow through by using their knowledge to develop energy-efficient actions and habits that will last a lifetime.

My three-fold challenge to our students and their families for these summer months when more people are home during the day includes the following:

First, toss the bad energy-usage habits and develop some new ones.  In the summer, watch for things like closing the door when the AC is running, setting the thermostat a few degrees higher, and turning off the lights when leaving the room. It might be taking shorter showers, or learning to fix a dripping faucet. All these simple things will make a significant difference in the family’s energy consumption and help save money.

Second, say no to phantom load. Phantom load is the power used while electronics and appliances are plugged in but not in use.  This is an easy fix. Phones, tablets, and gaming devices draw power even when they aren’t connected to a device. Just unplug chargers and electronics, or use a surge protector and switch off the power strip when not in use.

And third, become savvy energy savers. This means learning energy-usage tricks, like reversing the direction on ceiling fans in the summer to counter-clockwise, which forces hot air to rise; or mastering smart home technology like a programmable thermostat; or switching old light bulbs to LEDs.

Students and parents — while you are home for the summer, it’s the perfect time to take on the Do Your Thing™ challenge. These manageable changes can help save energy dollars in the home and help us build a cleaner, healthier environment for all of California.

However, it’s not just about getting through the summer. We are building a new generation of energy-conscious California citizens. As they gain knowledge that will lead them into the future, let’s make sure being good energy managers is part of their skillset. The values and practices we support at home will help California meet its energy saving goals now and into the future.

Oscar De La Torre is a member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District