Clean Energy Durham’s core program is to work neighborhood by neighborhood, building neighborhood learning organizations that help neighbors help each other save energy. Our cyclical approach can be described as follows:
Clean Energy Durham developed an inspiring presentation about the significant impact we can have if we work together to reduce fossil fuel use. Neighbors form an important network of support for each other, and Clean Energy Durham inspires neighbors to work together – neighbor to neighbor – to learn how to save energy in their households.
We provide neighbors with a variety of ideas for fun and educational activities to do together in their neighborhoods.
Over a dozen neighborhoods in Durham have started neighborhood energy communities with Clean Energy Durham’s help.
Neighborhood energy communities help their neighborhoods
- identify neighbors with skills and knowledge to share, and match these people with neighbors who want to learn;
- train neighbors in new skills and knowledge;
- measure energy use and share results; and
- have fun and build community while doing this!
Clean Energy Durham develops educational programs designed for neighbors working together. For example, we designed training kits for living room learning sessions, outdoor walking tours to identify solar-appropriate rooftops, and hands-on weatherization training sessions.
We train volunteers to train other volunteers in a “pay it forward” program called Clean Energy Forward™, where neighbors learn hands-on, do-it-yourself weatherization techniques and commit to being resources within their neighborhood. Our most experienced volunteer trainers, called “Super Trainers,” start the chain and train neighborhood leaders who immediately train others.
Clean Energy Durham developed a more basic training where neighbors learn where energy is typically wasted in homes, how to understand utility bills, and no-cost and low-cost ways to save energy. In one low-wealth neighborhood where this two-hour training occurred, the five trainees trained an additional 38 of their neighbors within two months!
We create new materials as needed for our training. We've created over 30 templates and forms for neighborhoods. We also create training equipment as needed. For example, one of our volunteers designed and built a lightweight, portable tabletop box with numerous sockets and switches for demonstrating a variety of compact fluorescent lightbulbs. This has become a popular tool in our trainings.
Clean Energy Durham does more than teach people how to save energy. We help neighbors sustain a neighborhood learning organization to support continuous neighborhood improvement in energy savings.
We convene workshops and networking sessions for neighborhood energy community leaders to help them sustain their organizations. For example, we have had workshops on such topics as maintaining a core group, surveying, and using block captains.
Clean Energy Durham measures the results of neighborhood-level engagement. We developed an attractive home energy use tracking form for households to keep track of their monthly energy use. It comes with a refrigerator magnet to hang it in a prominent place so that the whole family can easily stay engaged in reducing the monthly numbers.
We gather monthly energy use data and produce case studies organized by neighborhood so that households can compare their energy use in a particular month to that of their neighbors. To view our case studies, click here.
We also offer loans of equipment for measuring home electricity use. There are simple hand-held devices to test various appliances and equipment, and there are more complicated devices that can be installed and used for a week or so to provide time-of-day data on energy use. Borrowers are expected to share their lessons with their neighbors, and we have designed fun neighborhood competitions using this equipment.
With some of our activities, neighbors commit to sharing their online data from utility companies in order to document energy savings.
The Clean Energy Durham model involves sharing information neighbor to neighbor and also neighborhood to neighborhood.
Lessons learned in one neighborhood are shared with other neighborhoods. For example, one neighborhood sponsored an energy fair in the neighborhood park, with neighborhood experts on such topics as clotheslines, push mowers, and lightbulbs sitting at booths to share their knowledge. The neighborhood energy community designed and built attractive, lightweight, portable signs on poles to go over each booth, and these are now available for other neighborhoods to use.
Does the Clean Energy Durham model work? Yes!
Neighborhood energy community members in two Durham neighborhoods conducted door-to-door surveys in their neighborhoods as one of their first activities. They completed 183 surveys during June and July 2007. One of the questions was the following:
“On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most likely, how likely would it be that your household would participate in a two-hour energy reduction workshop on a Saturday or weekday evening if it were
(a) a neighborhood workshop sponsored by the neighborhood association;
(b) a city-wide workshop sponsored by the City or County;
(c) a city-wide workshop sponsored by Cooperative Extension;
(d) a city-wide workshop sponsored by Duke Power?”
The average of all the responses were as follows:
(a) neighborhood – 3.55;
(b) City or County – 2.51;
(c) Cooperative Extension – 2.64;
(d) Duke Power – 2.42.
People reported that they are far more likely to participate in learning how to save energy if the learning activity is sponsored at the neighborhood level, thus validating the Clean Energy Durham model.
Another question on the survey was the following:
“We have a simple form you can use to keep track of your household energy use. Would you be willing to track your household energy use and share the results with us?”
Survey respondents were asked to fill out a pledge with their names, addresses and contact information. A surprising 81% of respondents filled out this pledge with their contact information.
The two neighborhoods where the foregoing door-to-door surveys took place were middle income neighborhoods. During the spring and summer of 2008, Clean Energy Durham conducted door-to-door surveys in two low-wealth neighborhoods, completing 196 surveys. In response to the question about tracking and sharing energy use, 56% filled out the pledge with their contact information. Although this was a lower percentage than in the other two neighborhoods, it was nevertheless a very high participation rate.
These survey results underscore the research on social marketing that shows that people respond to face-to-face contact from peers, in this case neighbors and/or people working with the blessing of the neighborhood organization.