Keiki Make Green Resolutions

Nathaniel Shuman, 7, with his winning HECO contest artwork ANTHONY CONSILLIO PHOTO

Nathaniel Shuman, 7, with his winning HECO contest artwork ANTHONY CONSILLIO PHOTO

As I was writing this column about kids and energy conservation, a song popped into my head and got stuck: the old American spiritual He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.

Only my version, the earworm, went like this:

“They’ve got the whole world … in their hands,

They’ve got the whole world … in their hands,

They’ve got the whole world … in their hands,

They’ve got the whole world in their hands.”

The earworm was prompted by some very cute drawings for a New Year’s Energy Resolutions Contest — part of the Home Energy Challenge sponsored by Hawaiian Electric Company and state Department of Education.

The Home Energy Challenge is exactly what it sounds like: It challenges students and their families to conserve as much energy as they can.

Nathaniel Shuman, a second-grader at Palisades Elementary, drew himself as a big refrigerator and promised to do his part by “not leaving the refrigerator open.”

Good thinking, Nathaniel! When I asked him why that was important, he told me, “Because it wastes electricity and makes all the food dry and costs lots of money.”

And his mom added that energy conservation is a family affair.

“We just remodeled our kitchen,” Carolyn Shuman says, “and bought all Energy Star appliances.”

The Shumans are a big Navy family with four kids and Dad deployed on a submarine. Conserving energy is a must for them. They use fans, not air conditioning. They leave the window blinds open to catch the breeze. And they make sure to turn off all lights when they don’t need them. Everything they do helps the environment while saving them money.

“We definitely, definitely make that a top priority,” says Shuman.

Nathaniel is one of four winners of the New Year’s Energy Resolution contest.

Mililani Mauka Elementary fourth-grader Cassie Ching recommends “hanging up clothes instead of using a dryer. It uses electricity.

Dries by the sun.”

Kamilo‘iki Elementary fifth-grader Julie Readnour has learned to block the sun’s heat. “If it’s hot, instead of using fans start using blinds. It will conserve energy and make that room a cooler place.”

And Laie Elementary sixth-grader David Watkins says, “This year I promise to play outside and do things like riding on bikes more,” instead of staying inside and using up electricity playing video games or watching TV.

Sam Nichols, who coordinates the program for HECO, says the Home Energy Challenge really does work. Students in participating schools have saved 1.5 million kilowatt hours in the seven years of the program’s existence.

And, she says, “You may want to know that 1.5 million kilowatts saved represents approximately $470,000 savings for all of the families over the last seven years.”

That’s pretty darn good. The schools with the largest energy savings win prizes and even cash. But Nichols says the value of the program goes deeper: “I really believe in the Home Energy Challenge. Kids go home, they talk to their parents. Energy conservation is top of mind.”

The hope is that by bringing the message to schools and having each successive generation of kids participate, the habits of conservation will become ingrained. This is how we change the world — a family at a time.

I think it works. The energy future lies in the hands of our kids.

They’ve got the whole world in their hands.