The Girl Scouts of Northern California teamed up with Stanford University to create Girls Learning Environment and Energy (GLEE), a program that teaches energy conservation and environmental leadership through four- or five-week courses with Girl Scout troops. Right now they offer two GLEE courses: Home Energy, which focuses on ways to conserve energy in their own homes, and Food Choices, which focuses on the environmentally conscious food and transportation decisions they can make.
The Home Energy course was especially effective at improving energy-conservation practices, such as using power strips that could be turned off at night and switching to cold water in the washing machine. The girls who participated in this course increased their home-energy saving activities by 49% directly following the course – and even 8 months later their energy-saving activities were still 27% higher than when they began the course. The parents also took these lessons to heart. By the time their daughters earned badges, parents’ energy-conservation behaviors had increased by 12% and were still up by 6% over 9 months later.
After completing five hour-long courses on energy conservation, Junior-level Girl Scouts boosted their households’ energy-saving activities by as much as 49%, according to a study published Monday in the journal Nature Energy.
The GLEE team invited Girl Scout Junior troops from Santa Clara, San Mateo and Alameda counties to try the program. Fifteen troops were randomly assigned to a course focused on saving energy at home, and 15 were assigned to a different course examining energy use related to food production and transportation. Altogether, 327 Girl Scouts and 303 of their parents tried one of the two programs.
The Girl Scouts’ success in this unique clinical trial demonstrates that children have the potential to serve as agents of change for their entire families, Hilary Boudet, an assistant professor at Oregon State University’s School of Public Policy, and her colleagues concluded.
Americans could certainly use the help. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. households account for 21% of the world’s energy use, despite making up about 4% of the world’s population.