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10_challenge

10% Challenge How To Kit

The Greenfield 10% Challenge

What We Did It – How You Can Do It

The Greenfield 10% Challenge has been a huge success, and many people have asked us what we did. Following is a simple step by step guide to our success.

BACKGROUND

The Greenfield 10% Challenge is a community-based awareness campaign designed to encourage people to think critically about their use of energy and how and where they can conserve energy within their lives. We launched the program in the spring of 2009 with the goal of getting 10% of the households in Greenfield to reduce their energy use by 10% by the end of 2010. For us, that meant we needed to sign up 800 households in 18 months. We not only exceeded our goal, but the free lawn signs that we gave to each person that joined has raised awareness about the campaign, and a new positive “can-do” attitude has spread throughout the town! We are now expanding our effort to sign up the next 10%, so that by the end of 2012, 20% of the households in Greenfield will be involved. The 10% Challenge is a program of our broader Greening Greenfield campaign which aims to use ‘greening’ as the economic and inspirational engine to build a sustainable Greenfield so current and future generations can enjoy life in this beautiful abundant valley.

Our goals were fairly simple:

  • To encourage residents of our town to think about how each of them uses energy and ways that they might conserve
  • To make the process of saving energy a “normal” part of life that “everyone” does

What we were not:

We were not the energy police. We provided citizens with ideas about how they could save energy, but we were not going to check up on them to see if they were actually doing energy saving activities.

The approach:

Because Greenfield is an old mill town with a median income is substantially lower than the state average, and because the price of oil has spiked several times, we decided to use the motto “Save Energy=Save $$$”. A marketing survey done by college students in a Marketing and Business class substantiated that this pitch would strike a chord with many people in our community of 18,666.

We asked residents to make a pledge to do small no-cost, low-cost things – things they could easily do. We then gave them a gift, which marketing studies show increase the likelihood that they will follow-through with their pledge by creating a sense of obligation. We are now working on deepening that relationship and asking them to consider actions that are more difficult, time consuming and/or more expensive.

The result:

Over the course of 18 months, more than 1000 households in our town and those surrounding it, made a commitment to cut energy use by at least 10%.

4-STEP PROCESS

  1. Planning: Create the campaign pieces
    • Set goals (# of households, amount of energy reduced)
    • Decide on marketing messages for your community
    • Create a pledge form (paper, on web etc.)
    • Design and purchase lawn signs
  2. Outreach to your community – the sky is the limit!
  3. Assess your progress and celebrate your successes!
  4. Update your campaign and set new goals etc.

 

  • Marketing Messages for your Community: When creating your own campaign, think about your town. What marketing messages are likely to be most compelling? And think about your committee – what skills do you have on your committee? For example, in Williamstown, because they had lots of mothers with young children, they held family-oriented events. In Greenfield, we have a large low income population and a significant population of retirees, so our message regarding saving money was sure to be of interest. Our organizational membership includes a number of retirees who have expertise in psychology, research (librarian), numbers (math/physics teacher), community organizing, public relations, and fundraising. Build on your strengths! We had help for this step from students in the Marketing and Business class at our local Community College. Their insights were really helpful! And it was a fun connection.
  • Pledge Form: The 10% Challenge commitment “Easy Things To Do” pledge form (see attached) outlined clear, energy-saving actions that residents could do to shrink their carbon footprint and adopt energy saving lifestyle changes. Signing this pledge form made their commitment real and gave us a way to measure our outreach effectiveness. We asked people to make this commitment to themselves, their families and the community. We would not and did not check up on them. We made that very clear to folks when they signed up. Our effort was to encourage them to think strategically about their use of energy and to understand that small changes can make a difference. Our overall strategy regarding this pledge was to encourage people to be more conscious of their energy use and learn what they would save financially if they did so. Our assumption has been that once a pattern of thinking about energy use and a pattern of actions in regard to its use are developed, those patterns will lead to other ways to save. While we have not been able to test this hypothesis scientifically, our conversations with people when we had tables at public events seem to suggest that this approach works, at least to some extent. It was not unusual for people to say that they were doing several things to save energy already and, as they looked at the list, to note that there were some other things that they might do. If they thought they had “done everything,” we encouraged them to sign up, be a leader, and share what they have done with others.
  • Lawn sign: The most effective part of the campaign was our beautiful lawn sign! People wanted it! And it created visibility throughout our community. The large, easy-to-read “10% Challenge” lawn sign broadcast their commitment to the program to their neighbors. This helped to create peer pressure and normalized the value of sustainable living throughout the town’s residential and business districts. Often, especially in the early days of the campaign, people would come to one of our tables and say that they had noticed the signs and were curious about what the signs meant. This usually led to a signature on our “Easy Things” pledge form and a sign going home.
  • Post card: We printed a post card that had the lawn sign image on one side, and simple three points on what the 10% Challenge is, and how to sign up. This was helpful if people just wanted something simple and quick.
  • Outreach to Residents: To reach residents (homeowners and renters alike) we tabled at grocery stores, the post office and town events such as our local Green Fair and Home Show. This required gathering and strategizing with volunteers about the best location and timing of tabling efforts. Although the campaign was designed for residents of the Town of Greenfield, we quickly learned that residents of surrounding towns were also interested. We reconfigured our goal to encourage as many households as possible to become part of the challenge regardless of their location. Our only limitation was that the signs were for Greenfield residents only.
  • Outreach through Events: We reached out to families and schools through a series of events and workshops. For example, we held several large scale events such as the Turtle Island Medicine Show, a giant puppet show about the environment (600 attendees) and a 350.org Fair (300 attendees) at our High School. We held a 10% party for signees with food and music. We brought a free program offered by the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) to our High School a resulting in the formation of an environmental club, which is planning a Green Fair at the High School in the spring. At many of these events we had exhibitors offering a variety of products and programs to help people live more sustainably. Through working with a local charter school that was developing a Green Fair, we learned ways to market our efforts more broadly. For example, we created a Roulette Wheel game, giving the public a chance to guess the answer to several energy-related questions and rewarding them with Compact Fluorescent light bulbs, GGEC buttons, and candy. We partnered with local and regional green businesses to gather “prizes”. They were pleased to be part of our efforts.
  • Outreach through Workshops: We also held a series of workshops for homeowners and renters that talked about home energy upgrades – how a house works, how to get a free audit, and how to find the money to make the upgrades that contributed to the program's overall success. We held these at Greenfield’s local cable TV station as well as at other public places such as our Library, churches etc. The local cable station has played these programs regularly, especially as heating season nears. We have received feedback that they are seen and have been useful. We have also held other workshops on such topics as the pros and cons of using biomass, how to build a rain garden, and workshops that foster discussion and aim to help our community create a vision of a more sustainable way of doing things.
  • Outreach to Faith Communities: We reached out to faith communities by sponsoring a training called STEM (Savings Through Energy Management), led by Connecticut team, Wilson Educational Services, Inc. It’s an interactive program that teaches the fundamentals of energy usage through a comprehensive audit of their worshiping facility. It also aims to engage the individuals in that community.
  • Outreach to Businesses: We developed a special 10% Challenge sign-up sheet for businesses, formed a partnership with our local business association, and we offered to list all the businesses that signed up on our web site with a link, and write a news release about their energy reduction successes. We also incorporated a “buy local” message into the project. To date we have signed up over 40 businesses, most notably the two largest energy users in town (Franklin County Medical Center and Greenfield Community College), as well as a landlord that operates several large apartment complexes.
  • Measuring Energy Savings: Measuring savings is not easy! One of our rules of thumb is to choose something that is easy to measure, and is attainable. The easiest thing we measured was the number of households that signed on, and as noted above we were very successful! Measuring energy savings was much more challenging. We started by encouraging members to use an on-line carbon calculator, the Personal Energy Planner, of the New England Carbon Challenge, www.myenergyplan.net, designed by the University of new Hampshire. Early in the campaign, we called some 10% members to encourage them to use one of the carbon calculators, but this was a hard sell. Through some grant funding, we were able to get utility company information about how people hear about Mass Save energy audits, the number of people who sign up for an audit, and how many follow through with air sealing and insulating. Over 75% of the people took action because of hearing about Mass Save through word of mouth or an event (vs. 2-4% from a bill stuffer!). 50% of Greenfield residents who get an audit follow through with the insulating. Most important to our 10% campaign, Greenfield residents ask for audits and insulating almost 4x as often as the state average! Still seeking a solution to this measuring challenge, we asked our key energy suppliers if they could give us information on average annual energy use per household, and we created the Greenfield Energy Report Card (see attached), which captured the trends in town if not the specific energy usage of each 10% Challenge member, and enabled us to deliver an encouraging message to the community that our efforts were being successful!
  • Working with the Media: The media is your friend and partner. Send them press releases about every event, and every success. Send them opinion pieces and letters to the editor. Our goal was to establish our citizens group as the source of “green” activity and expertise in town. We also created a monthly Green Hero program to honor those who are taking action, put a face onto the campaign, and maintain a regular presence in our local newspaper. Our goal is to have the Greening Greenfield campaign in the newspaper 1-2 times each month. We are very fortunate to have a daily local paper that is supportive. The print what we send them, and they have offered free ad space on occasion! Last year, they even launched a new free quarterly publication called Going Green! In fact, we created events in order to keep our name in the news, thus succeeding in “branding”
  • Green Hero of the Month: Through our monthly Green Hero in the local newspaper, Greenfield citizens learned about neighbors who were raising worms and backyard chickens, composing their food, creating gardens and insulating homes. Residents were encouraged to ride bikes and walk more often, install solar hot water systems, insulate and weatherize their homes. They learned about compact fluorescent light bulbs, energy strips, how to prevent “phantom loads”. The Green Hero column was developed as a joint effort with our local paper. The paper sold ads to businesses interested in green concerns. We provided an article for the “masthead” of this ad section. This has allowed us to celebrate the accomplishments of citizens while supporting the local newspaper’s interest in green projects. (see attached for example of Green Hero)
  • Web presence: A web presence is not necessary, but it is helpful. It is particularly helpful if you can set it up so people can sign up for the 10% challenge on-line and capture their contact information. The web can also helpful to your committee, because it is a great way to get all the elements of your campaign in one place – and you can advertise events! We have a rather elaborate web site, but yours could be much simpler. Here is our web site. www.GreeningGreenfield.org We also created a Facebook page. We are still learning how to use this and are seeking suggestions about how to make that part of our efforts more useful.
  • Monthly e-letter: We sent an email newsletter with a green tip-of-the-month to all 10% challenge participants that had email addresses. While not necessary, it is a great reminder, and it gives them a new idea to work on as well as workshop announcements and updates on the success of the campaign.

 

THE TOOLS

 

FINAL THOUGHTS ON WHAT CONTRIBUTED TO OUR SUCCESS

We seemed to be “everywhere”. The signs that popped up throughout town like mushrooms, consistent presence in the local newspaper, our tabling at key sites, and workshops, everybody now is aware of the 10% Challenge.

We created a schedule of events throughout the year which publicized the 10% challenge and regularly offered people the opportunity to sign on. We focused all our Greening Greenfield activities to point to our 10% challenge goal, creating a movement in town. We considered how each activity might further our goal. We considered where people were most likely to go and would be willing to stop for a quick talk, concentrating our efforts on supermarkets, the post office, and a variety of community events. We found that events where there were other significant activities did not work as well as our storefront tabling efforts.

We looked at other programs and shamelessly copied them! We were inspired by a 10% challenge offered in Vermont for businesses. We adapted it to residents in our town. We continually talk to and learn from communities that are trying to do the same thing. For example, we regularly attend events offered by the Massachusetts Climate Action Network (MCAN), and we recently we launched a Transition Towns effort in our town. To engage your town government we used resources from ICLEI- Local Governments for Sustainability, USA (www.icleiusa.org), and programs offered by Massachusetts, such as the Green Communities program. EPA New England has also developed lots of very useful tools.

Finding Money: You don’t need a lot of money. But you do need some. We were fortunate to get started when MTC offered its Clean Energy Choice matching grant. Since then we have applied for, and received several mini-grants ($1000-$1500) from the New England Grassroots Environmental Fund, MCAN, and through the Center for Ecological Technology, and held some fun local fundraisers. We also have found free meeting space, and companies that offer free copying etc. People can also donate through our secure web site (this is new, and we don’t know how successful it will be.)

Have FUN! People will be drawn to your efforts and everyone is having fun – organizers and everyone in town! One interesting and important outcome of our efforts was a feeling of empowerment, camaraderie, and accomplishment among members of the Greening Greenfield Energy Committee, and a growing feeling of community pride, ownership, and participation in defining our future destiny – as a community!

Links to

Easy things for homeowners to document.

Resources:

Robert B. Cialdini is Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University. He has several books out that are very helpful in creating your marketing messages and your campaign! Most well-know: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. Influence

Driving Demand for Home Energy Improvements by Merrian Fuller, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, 2009. An analysis of the “what worked” and “what did not work” of 14 programs that aimed to sell home energy improvements around the USA over the past 30 years. Downloadable from the web.

MA Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020. Downloadable from the web. Released in December 2010, this is a nationally ground-breaking plan to cut climate change emissions by 25% below 1990 levels by 2010.

Massachusetts Climate Action Network – Networking in Massachusetts with like-minded communities through their web site and annual conference; resources; and mini-grants.

Want to know more or talk about the 10% Challenge? We would love to talk with you. Call us at 413-773-7004 or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and explore other parts of our website www.greeninggreenfield.org. We look forward to talking with you.