Fifth-grader Ahn Jae-hoo has the email account ilop642, using the acronym for “I Love Our Planet.” Since entering elementary school in southern Seoul, he has participated in Earth Hour, an international event for conseving energy by turning off lights, every March.
“Using air conditioners and electronic fans as little as possible in summer is part of my own energy-saving efforts. And I always unplug my computer after using it,” Ahn said.
Lee Doo-yeon, 11, is an “energy guardian” who monitors power consumption at school and home, and encourages his family and friends to save energy.
Some 10,000 students in Seoul are participating in the young corps at the forefront of the environmental movement promoted by the city authority, schools and civic institutions.
“My mother is also part of the energy saving initiative including reducing the use of appliances that consume energy like the electronic cooker and water purifier,” he said.
|Seoul City Mayor Park Won-soon (center) poses with participants in an environmental program called “Energy Guardians” in July 2012. (Seoul Metropolitan Government)|
The children are among the “eco-generation,” a term the city government uses to refer to current young people who are educated to become ecologically conscious and accustomed to energy-saving lifestyles.
In addition to the school curriculum, the Seoul City government is running a variety of environmental programs including conferences, contests and camping trips. More than 21,000 students have participated over the past three years.
Every year, some 100 teenagers participate in a mock conference of the C40 Large Cities Climate Summit, an annual international meeting of leaders from major cities, discussing the issues of climate change, energy efficiency, renewable resources and sustainable development.
“While preparing for weeks for the mock conference for climate change, I pondered seriously on possible solutions to the deteriorating environment,” said Seong Yoo-jin, a university student who took part in the first conference in 2008. This year’s meeting is scheduled for November.
The city government also takes student on a two-night camping trip at a national park to learn about biodiversity and energy saving. The participants get the opportunity to volunteer to promote the importance of environmental protection with their knowledge learned during the camp.
Environmental education is also conducted at home. Children can learn firsthand how to be energy efficient through a program called “Eco Mileage,” in which a household’s energy use is automatically recorded and can be checked online.
“The program is very educational since children can get firsthand experience in energy saving while checking energy use with their parents together and discuss the ways to go green at home,” said Kim Hyon-sik, a director of climate change and air quality in the city government.
Small gifts including an LED desk lamp or smart card for public transportation are awarded to families that use 10 percent less energy compared to the previous month. It is the main area of activity for the young “energy guardians.”
With an aim to nurture experts in green technology Seoul City gives financial support of around 300 million won ($273,000) to five vocational high schools specialized in the renewable energy and green car sectors.
“Students especially like the lectures by researchers from the green car businesses including Hyundai and Kia,” said Park Dong-soon, a teacher at Shinjin Automobile High School, adding “such programs provide momentum for the future leaders of the green industry of the nation.”
Buses powered by CNG or solar energy, become educational venues for alternative energy, with audio visual and hands-on materials inside the buses.
During the past two years the buses, which the Ministry of Environment started running in 2004, visited 1,780 schools, and 240,000 students have learned about and experienced photovoltaic energy generation and piezoelectricity, a type of power generated by pressure.
“As the saying goes old habits die hard, environmental education from an early age is important. The city will work in tandem with other organizations to raise the environmental consciousness of the young generation,” Kim said.
By Kim Young-won (email@example.com