Watt Watchers of Texas: Texas is Too Good To Waste™

April 22, 2022, marks the world's fifty-second annual Earth Day. Founded in 1970 in the United States and becoming global in 1990, Earth Day was a social, cultural, and political movement that aimed to restore and revitalize the nation's natural environment. Before this time, the United States, along with much of the rest of the world, was seemingly unconcerned with the effects industry, agriculture, and transportation had on our natural resources. Seen as a road to prosperity, the mass production of products, food, and unsustainable energy practices were common and rarely questioned. However, the pollution, waste, and serious public health complications that followed were not so easily ignored.

Following an oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, in 1969, Senator Gaylord Nelson, Pete McCloskey, and a young activist named Denis Hayes decided to take action. So they founded Earth Day to inspire Americans to take action, encouraging them to take to the streets to protest. The movement was a great success, which later contributed to the passage of multiple environmental conservation laws that have greatly impacted the way we view sustainability as a society. 

Earth Day 2022 has officially announced its theme as Invest in Our Planet. This means investing time to learn more about the world's energy resources and the changes you can make to reduce your energy consumption. The past couple of years have brought about many social, political, and cultural changes. The consequences of decades of irresponsible energy consumption have become too large to toss aside, and a new generation of people who want real change are taking a stand. Modern energy has created an environment where we can live with ease and comfort. These leaps have proven to be exceptionally advantageous, leading to advances in medicine, transportation, and much more. However, the disconnect from our energy sources has also made it easy to overconsume, resulting in poor energy literacy and a lack of environmental awareness. 

We need now a new cultural and political shift in the way we look at energy. Sustainable practices are the key to job growth and long-term profitability. Being mindful of the products we purchase, for example, avoiding fast fashion and buying from local sources, encourages the development of a more environmentally friendly economy. Large industries will be more hesitant to shift their mass production operations if they see no profit in an alternative. However, demonstrating a demand for more sustainable practices can create a new path where innovative ideas can thrive. An improved version of industry and innovation is right around the corner, with new job opportunities, economic growth, and a cleaner environment. The decisions we make today will determine how fast we get there. 

At Smart Energy Education, we want to help you and your students invest in our planet by providing free energy education resources in the classroom or at home. Packed with blogs, courses, Watt Watchers Activities, and more, our goal is to improve energy literacy worldwide. We want to help you unlock your energy conservation and sustainability potential and introduce you to amazing energy careers. For more information regarding our resources, visit smartenergyeducation.com. 

Water and energy are the two fundamental components of a society, and they are interconnected. Educating students on the world's energy resources, how they contribute to our daily lives, and the consequences of wasteful practices is critical to shaping a more resourceful world. 

The city of San Antonio, for example, has a great history of sustainability and energy conservation efforts, recently even announcing its plan to be carbon neutral by the year 2050. Their consistent push toward a clean energy future makes them a leading city in the nation for sustainability practices. This is why Smart Energy Education and the Watt Watchers of Texas were proud to recently partner with the City of San Antonio, CPS Energy, Itron, Inc., and the San Antonio Water Service to provide a free, in-person screening of the energy and water documentary Thirst for Power for over 300 San Antonio area high schoolers at The Tobin Center for Performing Arts.

Thirst for Power, shot on location across France, California, and Texas, explores the history of civilization’s quest to procure abundant water and energy — from ancient Roman aqueducts in Europe to modern America’s vast hydroelectric infrastructure. The film explores our dependence on water for energy as well as vulnerabilities in our current systems. Changing the way we think about water and energy can secure the long-term sustainability of both precious resources. The documentary combines anecdotes and personal stories with insights into the latest science of energy and water, and identifies a hopeful path toward wise long-range water-energy decisions and a more reliable and abundant future for humanity.

In celebration of World Water Day, the March 25th screening event focused on the history of water resources, the connection between water and energy - otherwise known as the water-energy nexus - and its contribution and influence on our modern-day lives. Prior to the start of the event, students had the opportunity to play a series of interactive Kahoot games to test their water and energy knowledge. The event was then kicked off by Mayor Ron Nirenberg, followed by the documentary screening, and culminating with a panel of local students moderated by Dr. Michael E. Webber, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin and author of Thirst for Power. The event concluded with a call to action and words of inspiration for the future from the CEO and President of SAWS, Mr. Robert R. Puente.

According to the United Nations world water development report 2021, throughout the past century, the global use of freshwater has increased by a factor of 6 and will likely continue to grow by about 1% each year. These statistics prove that we, as parents and educators, need to emphasize water sustainability education. Education on water and energy is more critical now than ever before; Smart Energy Education contains world-class energy education resources available to educators, families, and communities all around the world. So even those who are unable to make it to live events can still access fantastic learning resources to use at home or in the classroom. 

As we say at Smart Energy Education; “The way we manage energy and water will define the century”. So with education, collaboration, and innovation we can inspire and help create a more resourceful world. 

World Water Day, founded by the United Nations in 1993, is an international celebration of the world's freshwater resources and was created to help spread awareness on the importance of water conservation worldwide. With rapidly increasing climate change, growing populations, and heightened demand for clean water, communities have had to become increasingly more innovative in their water resources. Resorting to water reclamation and water desalination practices and increasing reliance on groundwater, it is paramount that the importance of conserving the world's precious water resources is highlighted for the prosperity of our future to be maintained. 

Water runs through the pipes in our homes with convenience and ease nowadays. When we need water, we simply turn a knob and can then immediately use it for drinking, cleaning, cooking, and showering in our homes. If they are environmentally conscious, people will be mindful of their water consumption when completing daily at-home tasks. But the reality is that we use water for much more than what is seen immediately in our homes. Easy access has made the general consumer less aware of their water resources, consequently becoming unaware of the water usage that happens every day in less obvious ways. 

Water consumption is all around us, from the water used to cool down the power plants that provide us with electricity to the water we use in food production and clothes manufacturing facilities. Its overwhelming inefficiency is more severe than one might assume. According to The United Nations world water development report 2021, 69% of the total water withdrawals conducted worldwide are due to agricultural practices, industry accounting for 19%, and municipalities for 12%. 

While some awareness regarding the importance of conservation efforts has surfaced in recent years, the use and dependence on these water resources increase annually; unfortunately, water availability and quality have failed to follow the same pattern. Fast fashion, for example, needs water during the production of the textiles, the plastic and paper used in the packaging, and the transportation used to deliver the items to your door. Not to mention the water contamination that can later be caused when the clothes are no longer in fashion and are thrown away. Keeping these things in mind when purchasing products and being overall more aware of the processes put in place to create the products we love could help you, as a consumer, make more conscious decisions to impact water availability positively in the future. 

In addition to this, it is crucial to keep in mind that first-world nations and modern-day societies with access to water resources are not unanimous worldwide. Many communities internationally struggle every day to meet the minimum water demand necessary to survive. These issues are outstanding in our modern world. They will continue to become increasingly incremental obstacles to our future if changes are not made in how we consume water agriculturally, industrially, and as a society overall. 

As advocates for water conservation and sustainability practices, Smart Energy Education encourages you and your family to take some time to celebrate World Water Day and learn more about your water resources and how they are consumed in your home. From the length of the showers you take to the manufacturing practices of the appliances you buy, we urge you to be mindful of your water resources, keeping in mind that while they are essential to our comfortability and survival, they are not unlimited. 

Check out some great water conservation activities and blogs on Smart Energy Education and the Watt Watchers of Texas to learn more!

Career-Connected Learning, sometimes referred to as Work-Based Learning, is an educational model that introduces students to career paths and employment opportunities through interactive programs and partnerships with established business entities, professionals, and experts in different fields. It is a model that has successfully been adopted worldwide and has proven effective in carving a path to fill skills gaps in industries lacking qualified job applicants. 

The United States currently faces several challenges regarding educational and professional pathways. Increasing tuition costs for four-year universities and a decrease in related employment opportunities have made many students reconsider their post-high school education and career options. Many feel confident that they are not ready for the economic stress coupled with traditional universities but are also often unaware of lucrative alternative opportunities. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is currently a concerning gap in qualified middle-skill workers in the United States. Defined as a job that requires more education and training than a high school degree but less than one earned through a four-year university, middle-skill jobs are some of the most in-demand and well-paid in recent years. However, in pushing students towards more academic, university-centered careers, the current educational system has failed to present jobs in the middle-skill sector as beneficial and often necessary alternatives. The juxtaposition of these two circumstances offers a unique opportunity for career collective and work-based learning programs to thrive. 

With employers reporting a significant lack of job applicants with minimum relevant work experience, technical, vocational, and soft skills, government agencies have created programs to combat the issue. Educational models incorporating career-connected learning (CCL), work-based learning (WBL), and vocational education and training are now being developed along with government funding and assistance initiatives. Included are employer subsidies in the form of grants, reimbursements, or tax credits, which vary depending on each state's unique laws and regulations. The economic initiatives coupled with program expansion efforts in different states represent a significant step forward to fill the skills gap; however, partnerships between educators and employers need to be emphasized for any real change to be sustained. When creating career-connected learning pathways, vocational skill-building opportunities such as apprenticeships and internships are critical. 

A great example of these programs is Career Connect Washington, a community leadership organization that creates work-based academic programs for students. Through the use of their CCW Program Directory, they are able to publish career-connected partnerships and opportunities that students in the area can then choose to pursue. This type of network is significant because it creates and shines a light on job opportunities in the students' area while providing them an avenue to receive the education and training needed for the job. With the help of grants as well as organizations such as Microsoft Philanthropies, Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council, Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, and many more, Career Connect Washington has succeeded in creating a community focused on building multiple sustainable pathways to lucrative careers for young students. 

Career-connected learning programs are pivotal to the future fulfillment and success of the United States' middle-class jobs. Energy and sustainability careers are often associated with rigorous STEM degrees which leads them to be overlooked by students. However, opportunities in the energy sector are abundant, and can present themselves to those with varying educational backgrounds. At the end of the day, for environmental and sustainability efforts to be sustained in a community all aspects of infrastructure and industry need to work together and do their part. Traditional universities and careers that require only a high school degree are not for everyone, and thankfully they are also not the only option. If you are an educator or student, look into your area's career-connected and work-based learning opportunities. You could even be the first to reach out to organizations that may want to create a program with your school. 

For more information regarding alternative careers in the energy sector, visit the Smart Energy Education website!

Our ability to pass on information from generation to generation, known as collective learning, stands as a hallmark of what makes us unique as human beings. Before modern civilization, it was imperative to communicate knowledge regarding animal migration, safe vegetation, and climate patterns to survive in the wild. The knowledge we have accumulated over centuries has allowed us to advance far beyond any other animal on the planet and continues to be a pivotal factor contributing to our future. Society today is drastically different from what it used to be. 

Essential knowledge for our survival, that which deserved priority for the education of younger generations, was more obvious when the threats to our survival had fangs and made loud, intimidating noises. Modern-day threats are much more subtle and are often man-made. Additionally, history has taught us that knowledge is power; therefore, political and economic factors often contribute more directly to the education system and can unfortunately fail or even consciously choose not to see the importance of specific topics. Energy education has slowly but surely become a top priority for the world's strongest superpowers and with it investment in sustainability efforts has allowed a new wave of educational programs to emerge. 

However, energy education can be very broad. It consists of everything from what energy itself is and what types of energy resources we currently have at our disposal to how energy can be used to make our lives easier. New technology can be exceptionally exciting. The advancements made during the industrial revolution in Great Britain catapulted the nation into a new era and allowed them to become one of the world's most influential and powerful nations. However, the environmental consequences created due to people's ignorance regarding these new technologies continue to affect the world to this day. 

The first thing that needs to be understood is that energy is a pivotal part of nearly every industry in the world. It is the foundation of our infrastructural systems and can influence us in the form of the water and food we consume, the way we use transportation, the comfort levels we experience in our homes, and much more. Therefore, passing down what we have learned about the consequences of irresponsible energy consumption is essential if any real change is going to be achieved. 

Collective learning is important because, since the 1800s, our knowledge surrounding energy resources and the effect of using them responsibly has grown exponentially. However, our effort to combat the negative effects of our actions has not been quite as significant. Modern-day energy education needs to be revamped and fortified, and to be taken seriously; the community must see environmental sustainability as a priority for the future. 

Educators tasked with incorporating new sustainability resources into their curriculums need to be aware of current political standpoints, government policy as well as new technological innovations. These factors determine the margins in which energy professionals may do their jobs and can reveal vital gaps in our energy systems. For example, the UK's new law set to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035 will force those currently working in the energy sector to pivot their approach and use of energy resources substantially. This requires additional training, resources, and time. In some cases, new careers need to be created, and in all cases, old careers will need to be updated to meet the new demand. 

Trade careers, such as those that involve plumbing and HVAC technicians, are often not considered when thinking of energy education; however, they play a pivotal role in the energy sector and can have a huge impact on clean energy. The restructuring of our energy systems that is due to take place throughout the next decade will soon require the development of trade skill pathways for energy careers. With increasing costs associated with four-year universities along with decreasing guarantee of employment after graduation, this could mean new, lucrative opportunities for those who choose to take on a trade program instead. Additionally, with the need to repair or rebuild aging infrastructure, the demand for qualified skilled trade workers will continue to grow. 

The importance of collective action must also be strongly emphasized. Community standards in regards to clean energy as well as expectations surrounding energy resources can have a huge impact on the energy industry. When the community comes together to assure energy education is being incorporated into the curriculum at schools and conservation efforts such as recycling programs are being implemented and maintained, it can assure that collective learning in these communities is sustained and can guarantee long-term positive effects. 

For more information on clean energy careers, at-home activities for students, and much more, visit Smart Energy Education!

November kicks off the start of the Holiday season! There is so much to be excited about and with Thanksgiving, time with family and lots of amazing food, it's bound to be an amazing time of year! The chaos that has surrounded the world over the past two years has created huge obstacles for families around the world, so finally being able to get together is what we have all been patiently waiting for. But let's not forget the sacrifices that have been made to bring us all these amazing experiences. America Recycles Day is the perfect reminder that even though the season of food, gifts and travel is in full swing, it's important to take a step back and continue to be mindful of the world's resources. Recognized by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on November 15th, 2019, America Recycles day was created as an acknowledgement of the importance of recycling in the United States. It serves as a time for Americans to educate themselves about recycling and to reflect on how they use and dispose of the recyclable products they rely on in their everyday lives. 

Propelled by the world's concern for the environment, the increase in recycling rates over the past fifty years represent an incredible leap of progress. While the benefits of recycling may seem obvious, there are more opportunities that come with the implementation of recycling programs than one might think. According to the EPA, reuse and recycle activities  account for about 681,000 jobs in the United States. That's a lot of money in wages that Americans can then use for their family and to contribute to their community. While also creating the opportunity to bring innovative minds together to brainstorm solutions to the world's most outstanding environmental obstacles. The technological advancements that have been achieved in recent years with intentions of creating a more efficient and green energy industry are monumental, and have held the door open for up and coming industry professionals to continue on the same path. The new generation of students heading into the workforce will now have the unique opportunity to combine their passion, whether it be in the arts, STEM, or anything else with sustainable practices like never before. What better way to start on this journey than a fun and effective recycling project? 

The environment will always be grateful if you lend a hand, with the increasing amounts of plastic products being distributed around the world each year, being able to repurpose and reuse some of these items can make a huge difference. However, not everyone understands how the process surrounding the recycling system works. For example, have you ever taken a nice lunch break in the park then found yourself standing in front of three colorful trash cans with different symbols? Many of us have and in these situations most of us throw everything into one random bin or make a guess. What many people fail to realize when doing this is the hassle it creates for recycling companies down the line. Understanding how to recycle correctly is an essential component of the recycling process. 

Good intentions can sometimes lead to materials damaging the equipment at recycling facilities, which can slow down the process and make it more difficult for recycling companies to do their job. For this reason, it is essential that you do your research to find out what can and cannot be recycled at your local recycling facility. Any items that are usually excluded from recycling facilities such as computer devices, holiday lights or electric cords can be disposed of in an environmentally friendly way as well, just look into your local electronic stores recycling program and check out the Watt Watcher’s Disposing and Recycling E-Waste activity to learn more. 

Thankfully, we have some great resources that can be useful for when you find yourself in these situations. Watt Watchers of Texas is an excellent source of information when it comes to all things recycling. With the primary goal of helping schools and homes save money by saving energy, you can rely on them to provide exciting sustainability activities. Among these amazing activities is, About Recycling, an activity that you can use to educate yourself and your children about all things recycling. Additionally, check out Hunt for Recycling, where you can take action to reduce the waste that ends up in landfills. 

America Recycles day represents a step in the right direction towards a more sustainable future. Lets keep the ball rolling by taking action and striving to make a difference every day. This Thanksgiving, as you sit around the dinner table with your family, take some time to reflect on the energy it took to bring everyone together and to produce everyone's amazing platters. Take some time to think about what you could do to save a little energy, do a little recycling and lend a hand to the environment during such a high energy resource time of the year. 

The New Year has finally come, so let us raise a toast to new beginnings and new opportunities. As we discussed in our Energy Awareness blog post, Energy is an integral part of our lives and is one of the most sought-after products in the world. Energy conservation efforts, scientific discoveries, and the general human desire to improve our daily lives will always be conducive to change. History has demonstrated that minor occurrences and ideas can lead to technology’s most innovative leaps forward. Government projects and proposals, amongst other factors, set to commence in 2022 are due to shake up the energy sector and allow new jobs and opportunities to surface. Let us break down some key factors set to impact Energy in 2022. 

Climate change has been a controversial subject around the world for years. While some suggest that climate change should not be considered an international crisis, growing scientific evidence, and current unusual weather changes have helped catapult concern for the environment around the world. Efforts surrounding recycling, water conservation, and renewable resources are set to increase significantly in the upcoming years, opening the door to new industries, technologies, and ideas. 

According to a new AP-NORC/EPIC poll and the University of Chicago, climate change concerns are substantial and increasing. Three in four Americans agree that climate change is real. Forty-one percent conclude that it is caused primarily by human activity; you can expect to see support for the clean energy movement to pick up some speed in the upcoming months. Taking some time to research the effects of global warming along with discovering what you and your family can do to slow it down could get you ahead of the game for the new year. The most remarkable change comes from influential organizations; therefore, people in high-ranking positions within the energy industry who care about the environment are key to future progress. If you find yourself in a position where a career change seems to be the right choice for you, or are a high school student, consider looking into a career in energy through University or a trade program. 

The incredible advancements accomplished in recent years, such as those for electric cars thanks to the new public interest and significant investments, mark the beginning of a new age in Energy. It seems the world has finally begun to see the importance of renewable energy for our future. Goals to reduce the use of coal in nations worldwide, like the ones here in the United States, will leave a vacuum in the energy sector. Improvements to existing clean energy technology, such as wind turbines or water plants, will be required to keep up with the demand for power these countries must meet. Accompanied by an increasingly clean energy market, accelerated demand for new technology is bound to follow. Clean energy technology flourished in 2021, likely due to the COVID 19 Pandemic that temporarily limited the use of public buildings and transportation. But this does not mean everything will go back to usual once the pandemic ends. 

The world is hungry for change, and new technologies are being developed each day to help reach international clean energy goals. Taking some time this year to investigate new opportunities in energy could prove to be more lucrative than one might imagine. Something as small as making sure you turn off the lights in empty rooms or understanding the correct way to recycle to something as significant as pursuing a professional career in clean energy can make a substantial difference. 

Government policy will always be one of the main contributors to climate change reform. The laws that are put in place to address the disposal of waste, the use of the resources we have, and the type of resources that are used must be addressed and modified where appropriate if the clean energy goals the public wants to see are to be accomplished. In the past year, the United States and countries such as the UK and Mexico have experienced the beginning of progress in clean energy. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) bill passed in the US alone will create millions of jobs in the next two years and will open the doors to many of the opportunities mentioned above.  

If climate change is something you are passionate about or something you wish to become more educated about, this is a great year to get the ball rolling and make some real change! Support for clean energy is stronger than ever before. Students and young adults are due to experience a new opportunity to pursue a hands-on, highly in demand and high paying career if they feel a traditional four year university is not right for them. 

Take the first step by learning more about the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act in our blog here! Then explore the Watt Watchers of Texas website and Resourcefulness resources available on Smart Energy Education to discover how engineers and scientists use technology to generate energy in our everyday lives. 

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), signed on November 15th, 2021, represents a significant step towards truly modernizing the United States' aging and increasingly outdated infrastructural system. Consisting of $1.2 trillion and allocating $550 billion in new spending over the next five years, according to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Summary, the IIJA presents a historic investment in our water, transportation, and energy systems which could mean new and exciting opportunities for Americans and American companies. 

The American Society of Civil Engineers spent the last two decades crafting the Report Card for America’s Infrastructure program, on which the US recently received the unfortunate score of a C-. While many might find this to be surprising, it is important to consider that the integrity and reliability of our infrastructure system is something many Americans do not take the time to understand unless it causes a disruption in their lives. Long before current weather changes such as Winter Storm Uri developed life-threatening conditions in Texas, underrepresented populations have been made aware of the dangerous consequences caused by a lack of efficient and modernized infrastructure systems. Famous examples, such as the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which began back in 2014, have demonstrated that investment in water purifying facilities and properly maintained pipelines are a major necessity for the safety of our communities. Inadequate infrastructure goes far beyond unfinished roads and potholes, and when ignored, can have serious consequences. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act hopes to diminish these hazards and facilitate the creation of a new and fortified foundation for US infrastructure. 

In light of new international demand for renewed sustainability practices along with health concerns and anxiety surrounding climate change, the IIJA is also meant to relieve some of the stress by creating paths to long-lasting solutions. The investment in everything from public transit, water infrastructure, and the power grid to more innovative technology such as electric vehicle charging will not only increase the demand for qualified STEM professionals but will also catapult the need for qualified trades workers who can physically get the job done. The power grid alone is set to receive $65 billion in funding and will require a substantially large, diverse, and dedicated team to accomplish what is needed. 

Despite the positive future, this bill paints for Americans, it is also destined to reveal a lack of qualified workers to fulfill many much-needed jobs. This is largely due to insufficient funding in education when it comes to energy and trade careers, along with few training opportunities for workers who are already in the industry to improve their skills and move up the ladder. Without proper training, which in many trades jobs can take significantly more time than other jobs, workers will be unable to meet the intense demand that the projects proposed in the IIJA require. 

American educators are now faced with a new responsibility. The world is changing, and as a society, it is important to understand that the systems used to help us travel, eat, and drink need to evolve. For this to happen, we need innovative minds contributing to all sectors of our infrastructure. Educating students on the opportunities outside of traditional college degrees such as trades careers for electricians, plumbers, or working in construction is essential to drive new workers into the roles that are essential to our future. 

The average student loan debt for a recent college graduate in the United States is around $36,900. High school students or even just people looking for a career change should consider the lucrative opportunities that a bill like the IIJA could open the door to. When researching potential education and training programs, students should make sure to look into those involving the energy sector, water, recycling, etc. They might be surprised to learn the amazing jobs that are available. 

Smart Energy Education and the Watt Watchers of Texas are dedicated to bringing you the latest information on all things energy and energy careers. The new Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act (IIJA) is bound to have a great impact on the energy sector, and we are excited to help share the news on new opportunities. To learn more about trade career opportunities, energy and sustainability, visit us online by following the links above!

At Smart Energy Education and Watt Watchers of Texas we have worked tirelessly to update our resources and continue to provide the best energy education programs out there. Our goal to help boost energy literacy for K-12 students has remained the same throughout the pandemic and continues to motivate us when creating new resources for our community. And speaking of community, we were thrilled we had the opportunity to safely come together in person and launch a new learning experience in San Antonio with the DoSeum and our sponsor CPS Energy. 

The DoSeum, San Antonio Museum for Kids (originally the Children's Museum of San Antonio), has been around for over 25 years and is one of the leading resources parents and educators in San Antonio have when it comes to exciting, hands-on STEM learning experiences. Offering everything from field trips and exhibits to classes and innovative programs, the DoSeum creates opportunities that bring families together and connect them to their community while introducing children of all ages to everything the amazing world of science and technology has to offer. 

When partnering with such an amazing powerhouse it's important to bring an extraordinary project to the table. That's why Smart Energy Education and Watt Watchers came together with the DoSeum to develop the “What is Energy?” Passport, a booklet made to help children become expert energy-savers through exciting family activities that center around energy conservation and sustainability. Created with resources from Smart Energy Education and Watt Watchers as well as insight from energy expert Michael E. Webber and others from The University of Texas at Austin, the “What is Energy?” Passport is a one of a kind energy literary experience that creates a unique opportunity for children to understand water and energy in a new, interactive environment. 

Launched on November 6th, 2021 as a part of a DoSeum Pop-up activity, and hosted alongside a conservation-themed scavenger hunt, the “What is Energy?” Passport was presented as an interactive activity that families and students could participate in together throughout the DoSeum. Life size versions of Watt Watcher’s classic characters, Lil’ Tex and Ann made an appearance as well, posing to take a picture as they stayed on the lookout for the Wasters Gang!

With such a great turn out, it's refreshing to see the community come together to learn about such an important topic. Energy is in everything and having the ability to understand the systems that are established to make energy accessible to everyone is vital when looking towards a more sustainable future. 
A big thanks to everyone who attended the DoSeum launch, especially those young learners who  participated in the “What is Energy?” Passport scavenger hunt. To do your own scavenger hunt at home or at school, please visit Watt Watchers to download the activity materials today.

The past two years have been full of surprises. In person restrictions continue to be implemented around the world and pose a unique obstacle for educators. Although most schools have returned to in-person learning, having in-school guest speakers and field trips are still not available for many schools. With the start of the new school year in full swing, educators everywhere are now faced with the challenge of making up for lost options and continue to use their creativity to create exciting activities and lesson plans to use in their classes. Thankfully, the successful implementation of virtual learning in the classroom over the past year and a half has demonstrated that we can adapt to new circumstances no matter the obstacles and has inspired many to continue using their creativity to supplement their lessons with virtual experiences and programs. Smart Energy Education has an abundance of online resources for teachers and students - and now we’re happy to launch a new opportunity for schools; the SEE Virtual Field Trip series. 

Through the SEE Virtual Field Trips, schools will have access to live presentations with experts in the energy sector such as author, professor and energy expert, Dr. Michael E Webber. Developed in partnership with SECO, CPS Energy, Itron, inc. and The University of Texas at Austin, the Virtual Field Trip program aims to boost energy and water literacy while giving students more information about jobs in the energy industry. Today students have more choices after graduation and for their future careers. Picking which career you would like to pursue as a student can be an incredibly stressful and daunting process, however having a professional who is an expert in their field walk the class through their experience and job responsibilities can be an excellent resource. Our SEE VFTs provide everything mentioned above in an interactive 30 - 45 minute session, which easily fits into planned lessons.

Virtual Field trips offered by Smart Energy Education create a special experience because they allow for both the ability to talk to an energy expert in real time as your class learns about the industry and energy systems while also offering the option to watch a pre-recorded presentation with interactive games and videos. This way, no matter the time restrictions an educator might face there will always be an opportunity to participate in the program. Additionally, the SEE team will work with teachers so they can choose the energy or environment  theme that best aligns with their classroom needs. 

Why should you sign up your class for a SEE VFT? Because learning energy is important. Energy is critical to our survival. Plus, no matter what students are interested in, they will be amazed to learn about the key role energy plays in our daily lives. On a SEE VFT they’ll learn valuable ways to help save energy, save the environment, and learn about technical and non-technical energy career options. 

Do you have questions or want to learn more? Our team is ready to assist you. So contact us today to schedule your SEE VFT!

Watt Watchers of Texas was established in 1985 to help schools save money by saving energy. In the early years, Watt Watchers primarily focused on the Student Patrol Program, where students would walk through the hallways of their school in groups looking out for signs of wasted energy (such as lights left on in unoccupied rooms.) To help the school improve, the Student Patrols would then give a “ticket” reminding those who left lights on to switch them off next time. This process gave students a sense of responsibility and ownership of their school, and a special power to make a difference in the environment. 

Since then, the Watt Watchers program has grown and evolved. While Watt Watchers still helps schools create their own Student Patrols, today the program’s online resources give visitors access to videos, games, timely blog posts, activities and lessons that K-12 students can use to learn more about energy and sustainability. This growth and development has been overseen by author, professor, and energy expert Dr. Michael E. Webber at The University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Webber also oversees the Webber Energy Group (WEG,) a research organization that analyzes energy and environmental problems at the intersection of engineering, policy, and commercialization. The students, researchers, and staff who work at WEG are passionate about sustainability and energy conservation so it's no surprise that one WEG researcher is also a former Watt Watcher.

After participating as a Watt Watcher in elementary school, Kelsey Richardson grew up wanting to make a difference in the energy industry. Richardson’s fourth grade teacher Mrs. Thomas, at Oak Hill Elementary School, introduced her class to the energy saving program.  Although Watt Watchers is voluntary, Kelsey jumped at the opportunity to help her school and the environment.

“Most of what I remember during my time as a Watt Watcher involved walking around the elementary school and switching off the lights in unoccupied rooms,” Richardson said. “I also was given a binder with Watt Watcher tips and a Watt Watcher pencil. I remember feeling very official and like my job was saving the world.”

Being environmentally conscious and making proactive decisions about energy use was always  a priority at Richardson’s home. Turning off the lights when leaving a room and taking shorter showers in the summer were some of the habits her father instilled in her from a young age and were contributing factors when deciding to become part of the Student Patrol. 

Today, young people are very aware of environmental problems around the world. An  that surveyed 10,000 people between the ages of 16 and 25 in 10 different countries discovered that the majority of the participants were incredibly worried about the environment and believed that the world's governments are not doing enough to combat climate change. These attitudes have only become more widespread over time, but programs like Watt Watchers can help. Through hands-on activities and lessons, educators and parents are able to provide an outlet where students can actively create green habits and help reduce the stress environmental change can cause. As Richardson recollects, “my fourth-grade self saw these behaviors as small steps towards saving the world from climate change, a global issue which terrified little anxious me.”

Once in high school, Richardson’s curiosity for energy-saving led her to a school mentorship program that connected students to industry professionals. This is where she met Dr. Webber. Through his mentorship, she was given the opportunity to attend research presentations from engineers of all different disciplines on a multitude of energy research projects. Realizing the applicability that engineering can have on conservation and sustainability she was inspired to pursue her passion for green energy through an engineering degree. 

“I was deciding between chemical engineering and environmental engineering for my major. After talking to some folks at UT, including some WEG members, I was given the advice that a chemical engineer can do most of the same jobs as an Environmental engineer, plus additional Chemical Engineering specific jobs,” she says. “As an 18-year-old who couldn’t plan for a week from now, let alone four years from now, the additional flexibility that came with a chemical engineering degree sounded very appealing.” 

Dr. Webber’s mentorship and Richardson’s participation as a WEG member gave her exposure to research projects and opened doors for jobs. As an undergraduate research assistant for WEG, she worked on projects relating to the accessibility of utility solar programs, the utilization of interstate highway right-of-ways for solar energy generation, and the equity of decarbonization of the Texas grid. And in early 2021, everything came full circle for Richardson when she helped create virtual learning resources for Watt Watchers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kelsey was able to take her school experiences, research knowledge, and fond memories of Watt Watchers and turn them into lessons to help inspire young students. 

In May 2021 Richardson earned her bachelor's degree in chemical engineering and a certificate in environment and sustainability. She is now pursuing a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at The University of California, Santa Barbara.

Previous generations seem to have swept environmental issues under the rug, while the consequences of pollution and global warming have become more apparent over time. The next generation of students has the opportunity to make a huge impact in saving the planet. Watt Watchers not only helps students learn about the importance of energy and water sustainability and conservation, but for some students - like Kelsey Richardson - it might also put them on a path to a career in energy. 

The world needs more innovative minds like Richardson working to solve the problems that have been created. If you are an educator or a parent, consider using Watt Watchers at school and at home - starting an energy patrol today might lead to a rewarding career in energy tomorrow. 

October is one of the most memorable months of the year. We get to feel the Fall weather settle in and with Halloween just around the corner, there are plenty of reasons to be excited. But there is more than just pumpkin spice and spooky decorations that make October special. Declared by President George Bush in 1991, October is also Energy Awareness Month! Energy is one of the most influential components that contributes to the functionality of our modern day lives. We use energy to produce food, clothes, transportation and much more. Over the years, energy pioneers such as Nikoli Tesla and Benjamin Franklin made giant technological breakthroughs, leading to innovating inventions we take for granted every day. As technology has continued to advance over the years, our easy and seemingly unlimited access to electricity, water and food has made us forget the important steps needed to make the energy we use every day readily available.

Designed to make sure Americans become more aware of energy resources and the importance of proactive thinking when it comes to energy use, it is essential to take advantage of Energy Awareness month, especially as parents and educators. Taking some time in October to reflect on current energy practices in your home, school or company is what it's all about. Often energy and sustainability are not prioritized and inevitably they are overlooked as the years go by. But this does not mean you can't get things back on track. Creating an energy awareness game plan can make it easier to understand your energy habits throughout the year. A great way to start is to complete an assessment of how energy is being used and distributed in your home or organization on a daily basis. Analyze how the system in place could be more efficient and determine what actions need to take place to make this possible. Something as simple as turning up the air conditioning when you leave the building could help save energy and cut down your utility bill significantly.

Saving a couple hundred or thousand dollars each month is definitely something to look forward to. However, understanding the need for sustainable energy practices starts with being conscious of the consequences our actions have on our natural resources and the impact that our energy use has on our environment. Unlimited energy access can make the reality regarding the longevity of fossil fuels and water resources seem foggy and a problem for future generations. However many of the obstacles we face now such as water scarcity and contamination are directly impacted by the habits you develop in your own home. According to the US Energy Information Administration, the average American used an average of 893 kWh per month in their home in 2020. This energy is created through different resources such as coal and nuclear energy as well as renewable resources like water and wind energy. Often we end up using more water by keeping the lights on in empty rooms than we use to drink and shower. Taking some time to learn about these energy sources could significantly impact your view on energy use, and maybe even prompt you to think twice before you leave a light on in an unoccupied room. 

Lucky for you, Watt Watchers  has all the resources you need to stay up to date on all things energy! Through our Watt Watchers program you can educate your children or students by taking them through interactive activities and fun learning games to make energy and sustainability an exciting part of their day. For any middle or high school students looking into a career in energy, try also going through the Resourcefulness eCourse, where they will have the chance to gain a more profound understanding of the energy-water nexus through articles, short videos and quiz questions. Finally, if you are an adult and are fascinated with energy and see yourself starting a career in the energy industry, make sure to check out Energy 101. Created by The University of Texas at Austin professor and energy expert Dr. Micheal Weber, Energy 101 has everything you need to gain the foundational knowledge on energy and the energy industry. At the end of the day, Energy Awareness month is all about being aware of our energy resources and making educated decisions about how energy is used. After all, energy is everywhere and is one of the fundamental necessities we need in our modern day lives.

For more information regarding our energy programs check out our Welcome Back to School Smart Energy Education blog post!

Watt Watchers of Texas is a Partner Program of Smart Energy Education.
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