Lara D’Antuono is looking to recruit an army to drive down the consumption of energy and put the money saved in our pockets.
The executive director of the Warwick Boys and Girls Clubs had about a dozen of the crusaders at Tuesday’s announcement that the city of Warwick has signed on to the Rhode Island Energy Challenge: Find Your Four. D’Antuono’s recruits were pre-schoolers and they were ready to talk about how they could save energy.
“Ride a bike,” offered one boy.
Another suggested using a fan instead of the air conditioning. A third recommendation had everyone stumped.
“Sit down,” the boy said.
The suggestion evoked a few laughs, but people were listening and that was D’Antuono’s point.
“If we teach the youth, they’ll teach us,” she said following a press conference held at the club’s Norwood branch.
She said families are finding it difficult to pay the bills and saving energy is one way of stretching a paycheck.
“If their parents can save $50, that’s a tank of gas to get to work; it’s a pair of sneakers; it’s real money for them to see,” she said.
Already, the Boys and Girls Clubs face the prospect of substantial savings – $10,000 a year – as a result of steps to reduce its consumption of energy.
That’s the kind of news Brian Keane, president of SmartPower, based in Washington, D.C., aims to spread. SmartPower, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency, is in the second year of a contract with National Grid, which is behind the competition to get 5 percent of a municipality to sign onto the challenge. As the first Rhode Island community to meet the challenge, North Smithfield received $7,500 from National Grid to invest in further energy reductions.
The four actions of the challenge are to: Log onto the website, sign the challenge, find four energy actions and start saving.
“We want to get Rhode Islanders to start talking to each other about savings,” said Keane.
He calls it a behavior change that starts with the easy things, like turning off the lights, and moves up to actions like improving home insulation and buying energy-efficient appliances.
“You’re more likely to save energy when a friend or neighbor saves energy,” Keane said of the power of personal testimony. He also believes changes in patterns and spreading the news is a matter of tying into communities where people share their experiences whether it is at work, church or fraternal and civic organizations.
“What we’re looking to do is to get people to take actions,” he said.
As an example, he cited microwave ovens. He noted most microwaves have a clock that uses more energy over a year than the oven. His suggestion is to unplug the microwave.
Savings makes sense to Peter Arpin, a partner in the Arpin International Group. He said Arpin Van Lines is committed to energy savings and he called on Warwick to find an “evangelist” to get residents to sign the challenge.
“This future is rushing at us,” he said. “This should be a Mecca of sustainability.”
While he doesn’t think of himself as an evangelist, Mayor Scott Avedisian said the city is committed to reducing energy costs. He said wasting energy hurts the economy and the environment.
D’Antuono looks at the club’s potential savings as possibly allowing an added part-time staff member to work with kids.
Soon after the club applied for a Champlin Foundations grant to make energy improvements, National Grid offered to make cost-saving improvements. D’Antuono thanked Champlin, and National Grid made an estimated $70,000 to $80,000 in upgrades to both club branches. The work was finished in November.
Residents interested in participating in the challenge can sign up at www.findYourFour.com or, as D’Antuono hopes; they can start learning how to save energy from their kids.