By Racquel Palmese
When city, state and federal officials and representatives from local utilities gathered August 9 in Gardena, California, to “Flip the Switch” on energy waste, they were celebrating the launch of a unique new approach to energy efficiency and conservation, the Only You…Can Save Energy CD video magazine. (For a video from the event, click here.)
The “Only You” video magazine was mailed to every home, business and school in Gardena in July, and an independent tracking service has already estimated that at least 70 percent of the 21,000 video magazines mailed out have been used by those who received them. In fact, people are spending an average of 20 minutes reviewing the contents.
It’s an approach that will soon be replicated in communities throughout California and the nation. The switch that was flipped may have been symbolic, but the message was clear: Gardena is all about saving energy and saving money.
A Grassroots ARRA-Funded Project
“I don’t know of any other city that has taken this initiative and moved forward with the conservation of energy like Gardena has,” said Congresswoman Waters. “I’m pleased to report that it’s from federal stimulus money that we can launch this innovative program, and I’ve been a proud supporter of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
“I like the idea that this is grass roots, that everyone can be involved, even children,” she added. “Once you educate the children about conservation, they will remind the adults when they see them doing things they shouldn’t do, or will remind them of things they can be doing to save energy.”
The stimulus funds, which also covered energy efficiency upgrades in city facilities, came from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants Program (EECBG). Representing DOE at the launch event was Ted Donat who leads the program.
A few examples of what EECBG funds have accomplished to date are energy upgrades in 16,800 buildings representing 158M square feet - the equivalent of about 80,000 homes; support of building code changes in 182,000 new or existing buildings; synchronized traffic signals on 1,200 street lane miles of road and energy upgrades of 11,000 homes.
“Working together, we can create jobs and increase economic growth by developing and using clean energy technologies,” said Donat. “We can save businesses, local governments and households real money by cutting down on energy waste. And we can diversify our energy portfolio to cut pollution and enhance our national energy security.”
California Assemblyman Steven Bradford emphasized the importance of the behavior change that the magazine promotes. “As an individual in the California legislature and someone who chairs the Utilities and Commerce Committee, most of what we do in California when it comes to energy arrives in my office on a daily basis. I’ve had an opportunity to work with Southern California Edison, Golden State Water Company, PG & E, you name it. They all want to know what they can do about ways to save our environment, ways to save energy.
“We just passed a bill to raise the Renewable Portfolio Standard in California from 20 percent to 33 percent, but that’s not where we will solve the problem,” he said. “We will solve it through energy efficiency. It’s been demonstrated through projects such as this. We have been able to avoid building five new power plants in the last 20 years because of energy efficiency. It’s important to flip the switch to not only turn off lights, but to have energy efficient lights when we do turn them on.”
Gardena, with some 61,000 residents, has a city budget of about $111 million. Much of its income, according to City Manager Mitch Lansdell, comes from its gaming industry – Gardena has the oldest casino in the state, and also the newest one.
These casinos are large buildings that operate 24-hours a day, and according to Lansdell, they are ripe for energy efficiency but are onboard with the city’s conservation programs. But he says it’s the general population base, people who live and work in Gardena, that have the best chance of impacting energy usage.
“At the end of the day,” said Lansdell, who emceed the launch event, “the 61,000 people living here have a much better chance of impacting energy usage than we do at City Hall. But we can all say that we’ve done a good thing - I’m looking forward to seeing City Hall’s Edison [electric] bill go down.”
A New Kind of Outreach
Utilizing an array of digital media, the Only You Can Save Energy CD video magazine is a powerful platform filled with layers of information and links to myriad online resources. This matrix creates an entertaining and engaging adventure into the world of local green. Video clips of dozens of celebrities singing, dancing, orating versions of the “Only You Can Save Energy” message in several languages provide lead-ins to the various sections and links to resources.
Opening the CD is President Obama’s inspiring March 2011 speech on energy security at Georgetown University where he said in part: “…our best opportunities to enhance our energy security can be found in our own backyard -- because we boast one critical, renewable resource that the rest of the world can’t match: American ingenuity.”
Among the resources included in the magazine is a link to Energy Upgrade California, a collaboration between the California Energy Commission, the Public Utilities Commission, utilities, local governments, various organizations and the private sector to promote and finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. Video narrative explains the program’s details and links to the Energy Upgrade California website where users can enter a zip code to retrieve up-to-date information on financing, incentives and special programs available to them.
A link in the Engage 360 section leads to the website for this California Public Utilities Commission-Investor Owned Utilities program that provides access to over 1,300 rebates and incentives, searchable by zip code and type of equipment.
A special rebate section links to utility and county rebates and Gardena’s cash rebates, with an additional list of other money-saving energy tips. For example, a meter that costs under $30 can attach to any appliance and track its energy usage over time.
In addition to money savings, energy efficiency can create green jobs, and a special section describes what are green jobs, how to find them and how to get trained for them. Phil Angelides, national chairman of the Apollo Alliance, a coalition of environmental and labor leaders, discusses green jobs in a video, and there are links to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Education and Workforce Development and other green jobs information.
A section on the recently released Education and the Environment Initiative (EEI) curriculum resource is also included in the magazine. This rich, standards-based K-12 science and social science curriculum produced by the California Environmental Protection Agency is available free to teachers.
Keeping the Program Moving
According to Michael Huls, who along with David MacEachern, heads up Green Technology Smart Media, the Direct Marketing Association has found mailings that have digitally-based components are more likely to be opened and viewed by those receiving them. Besides the one-time mailing, Huls says the idea is to build on the initial platform annually with additional outreach through the online mechanisms and social media. “There is a built-in opportunity for people in the community to share with one another,” he said.
One of the things embedded into the CD is a metric-generating system which will produce surveys based on the various topics covered. This will allow valuable data collection that can be used for enhancements and future projects.
Deryl Lloyd, a superintendent with the Recreation and Human Services Department in Gardena who will ultimately be in charge of the City’s Only You program, is enthusiastic about its potential.
Lloyd says that the key is continuing follow up. “We’re looking at what we can do as a city, what residents can do, to really put more money into the economy. After all, if it were not for those fixed costs of utilities that we all have to pay, we’d have a lot more disposable income for other discretionary purchases.”
Additionally, he explains, when the City itself implements many of the measures outlined in the video magazine, it will also save money – and those dollars go back into Gardena’s general fund. “That means we can provide a higher level of service.
“We’re doing retrofits on our windows and air-conditioning systems in our government buildings,” says Lloyd. “If that saves me $100,000, that’s more capital projects I can do in the community that will impact our quality of life. So we’re looking at the rate of return in this first phase and thinking of ways that we can keep the momentum going. The website, the disk, are all very, very impressive. I think that the follow up is what will make it grow.”
Lloyd feels the community will be excited about what they can access and the money they can save with the information provided in the video magazine. “Everybody out there wants to save money in some manner, and this is going to be an avenue to go across the board with utilities. I think we’re going to be hearing a lot about it.”
Leading the Way
The sentiment of the launch celebration was probably best captured by Marjorie Hamilton, manager of Local Government Partnerships for Southern California Edison’s Customer Energy Efficiency and Solar Division.
“Energy efficiency gets more important in challenging times,” she said, “because it’s a way to save money, and Gardena has demonstrated this. Gardena is leading the way in their community. Something like this [magazine] really does build that energy efficiency ethic, where people can understand how they, too, can take energy efficient measures and create more economic prosperity in their community. We are proud of this work. We are proud of Gardena.”For more information on the Gardena Only You Event and on the Only You…Can Save Energy program go to http://onlyyoucansaveenergy.org/gardena/flip-the-switch-event
Copyright © 2008, Green Technology. All rights reserved.