With the Syracuse teams’ participation in the CNY Energy Challenge winding down, coordinator Sam Gordon is reaching out to two more of the eight communities that signed up for the program earlier this year. Madison County team facilitator training kicks off Saturday, May 5, at 10:30 a.m., while the town of DeWitt group gets going Monday, May 7, at 6:30 p.m.
“This next round will be the same program as happened in Syracuse,” Gordon noted. “We have received some feedback, and made a couple minor changes here and there—nothing major.” The program, funded through a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and meant to show participants the energy drains inside their households and how to mitigate the loss, lasts 12 weeks. Groups tended to meet every other week.
“We wanted to give people enough time to do each of the exercises but they don’t necessarily have to take the two weeks we have built into the program,” Gordon added. “It really depends on how engaged they are in doing the exercises that are covered in the workbooks.”
Syracuse had six teams of about 50 participants total. They are connected in a variety of ways: through their workplace, their faith community, school or neighborhood groups and the like. Team facilitators led the biweekly meetings, guiding their group through the supplied workbook and answering questions that may arise. One current team, set to complete the course on Tuesday, May 8, comprises six librarians and clerks that work at the Onondaga County Public Library. Betsy Burton, a librarian at Central Library, is the team leader.
“The library has a sustainability committee already, which I’m on,” Burton said. “I wanted to see if the staff here was willing to form a team, and six were interested. It’s a great thing to do; we can all individually make a difference cumulatively.”
Burton stressed that the program’s workbook explains the exercises clearly, making them easy to implement. She added that most of her teammates were already practicing energy-efficient methods in their homes.
“We were surprised about the number of light bulbs we have, but most of us have switched to CFLs already,” she said of the compact fluorescent lights available everywhere. “But we’ve been very surprised at the energy usage of some of the appliances we have. If I had the money available, I would look into updating some of my appliances, like the washer and dryer. How much energy they use is a lot more on my mind than before.”
The goal of the CNY Energy Challenge, as described by Gordon, who also works as a senior planner at the Regional Planning and Development Board, is to reveal to residents what their energy consumption is and how to reduce their energy bill. As part of that, participants must agree to have their utility bills turned over to Gordon and his team.
“That way we can track their energy savings,” he noted. “This is a relatively unique aspect of the program. We looked at other programs around the country, and most were based on self-reporting. There was no way of knowing if participants did the action and what the results were. This way, we’re able to do some analysis, and see what has been accomplished.”
Further, Gordon reported expected success in that regard because the
energy challenge initiative has partnered with the New York State Energy
Research and Development Authority. “They have a behavior research
division there, and a consultant on board, who we have worked very
closely with, to design a program to specifically address changing
energy behaviors in the home,” Gordon said. “Even the peer-to-peer
approach we have created is on purpose because
during the course of research, it’s been found that the best way to get people to engage in action and adopt actions that have a long-term impact is to give them a support network.”
As for the next two regions in the Energy Challenge rollout, Madison County and DeWitt just happen to be queued up and ready for the first step: facilitator training. This is a three-year process, so plenty of time remains for Oswego, Skaneateles, Preble, Cortland and Cayuga County to get up and running. The Madison County training takes place at Morrisville Public Library, 83 E. Main St., Morrisville. DeWitt’s will be held at DeWitt Town Hall, 5400 Butternut Drive, East Syracuse. If you are interested in being a facilitator, contact Gordon at 422-8276, Ext. 204.
“The funding we were awarded is for a three-year period,” Gordon
said. “I think there is a chance we could do this again. The motivation
is that it could serve as a regional program for engaging homeowners,
and there is some
discussion about how we can modify the program to address other sectors—the commercial sector, for example. This round is really a pilot for the Energy Challenge Team approach. We will look at what we accomplished and see if we need to tweak anything before we branch out.”