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How to Make Saving Energy a Family Goal

Family goal setting is a wonderful way to bring the group together and enrich family life. Successful families don't happen overnight! Whether reducing food waste, building a tree house or working on saving energy, setting goals as a family helps develop mutual respect and a sense of teamwork.

Family goals fall into two categories:

1. The Tangible - This includes attaining things you can buy or build, like a big vacation or a new big-screen TV purchased just in time for the Super Bowl.

2. The Intangible - This might mean pursuing compassion, honesty, quality time or conservation.

Whether you want to set tangible or intangible goals, family goal setting is really beneficial. Reflect on your dreams as a group, then strategize creative ways to get there. That exercise alone teaches your kids three important skills: how to open your mind to new possibilities, how to set realistic goals and how to work as a team - all very important things!

But what does a realistic family goal look like? Let's use saving energy as an example.

Family goal setting starts with getting everyone on board. Explore some possibilities with your children, using family values as a starting place. What matters to your family? What will you go out of your way to protect? Environmentalism? That's something everyone can get behind.

First things first, explain why saving energy matters.

Our homes use energy all day, every day. In the kitchen, our fridge, dishwasher, light fixtures and appliances use energy. In the living room, our computers, cell phones and laptops do too.

In the basement, our furnace, water heater, washer and dryer need energy. Outside our porch lights, garage doors and pool heaters do too.

Energy isn't free, and wasting it is is the same as wasting money. Wasting energy isn't good for the environment either! Most of the energy sources we use every day (like coal and natural gas) can't be replaced. Once they are used up, they are gone forever.

Second, practice "no-limit thinking."

Family goal setting is a fantastic way to focus the group on a positive vision of the future. Imagine all that's possible! Envision the type of family you aspire to. Ask everyone what life could look like if energy wasn't a concern.

Might you have more money for fun vacations or adventures? Might you be able to focus more time on each other? Might saving energy free up some money to get a pet or buy a canoe? These are things kids can get behind.

Third, write down a specific goal that everyone can rationalize.

Explain that energy usually costs $X in your home. Over one year, that money adds up to $X. Once everyone is clear, work together to set a goal that brings this number down. Can you halve it every month? More?

And don't forget to make sure the goal is a "SMART Goal" - Specific, Measurable, Action-Based, Realistic and Timely. There's a host of research that shows setting SMART goals drastically improves achievement of those goals.

Fourth, identify some actions that support your family goal of saving energy.

Once you've identified a specific, measurable goal, explore some strategies the family can use to get there. Maybe one child volunteers to always turn off the lights when they leave the room. Maybe another vows to turn off the computer once they finish their hour-long session. Maybe you commit to changing all the light bulbs in the house to energy efficient alternatives. Whatever you decide, make sure it counts!

For added encouragement, put inspirational posters and goal-setting quotes up around the house. Put sticky notes over the light switches to remind the kids to turn off the lights and manage how much electricity they are using.

Fifth, check in. Often.

Once a week, maybe at family dinner, check in with the group. Ask them: what's been inspiring about this? Hard about this? Challenging? Encouraging? Where are you struggling? Where are you succeeding? Do you have any tricks for the others?

If things are going well, celebrate! So, you've halved your electric bill this month. Amazing! Enjoy a special treat after dinner as a reward. Things not going well? Can't meet your goals? Explore new ideas for how to reach them and set fresh intentions.

You'll be so glad you did!

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