The following is an interview with Nancy Hazard of World Sustain, in Greenfield, MA. Nancy, a veteran seeker of climate change solutions, is a multi-talented woman who began her career as a potter (15 yrs), then spent another 15 as a builder before joining NESEA staff. In her time at NESEA, she became the head of the Tour De Sol effort, which she ran for 18 yrs. This interview took place at the NESEA Building Energy Conference in Boston, MA, March, 2011.
Note: This interview is almost entirely paraphrased. Everything is as close to direct quote as I could manage while typing, live in the middle of an aisle on the show floor.
Nancy Hazard is now retired from NESEA, and says that her retirement means she “can think about sustainability more broadly now – food and other areas in addition to energy.”
She recently gave a “Greening Greenfield” presentation at NESEA, describing the experience of the folks in Greenfield, MA working to improve energy awareness and reduce energy use in the city.
One of her goals is to persuade NESEA professionals to get involved in their energy committees at the community level. There’s so much they can do on the community level. They’re already doing so much, but on a community level you can help the town decide how to move forward, and can help the general public understand what’s possible – what kinds of resources are out there, the roles they can play, and the metrics and community organizing. There’s a lot of due diligence – you need the metrics and you need to describe that metrics in a way the general public can understand.
In Greenfield, we’re below average median income. Keeping money in your pocket is the selling point for energy efficiency. MA has fabulous programs, and hopefully people will move forward [everywhere] and do that work.
What did we do in the Greening Greenfield project?
Step 1, energy audit of our town. Most useful #: how much money we were spending on energy. We found that in FY 2008, the people of Greenfield spent $86 million on energy – heating and lighting homes, driving cars, running businesses,
Then we asked how much of that money stayed in the community, and how much left: $67 mil left the community immediately (to pay for the gasoline imports), etc. What sticks in the community? The costs of billing and delivery (40% stays with those companies). With gasoline, the only money that sticks in the attendant’s pay.
That’s what got the community to take action.
Launched 10% challenge: get 10% of households (800) to commit to cut energy 10% BY 2010. We got 900 households to make the commitment.
Reasons for success:
- No cost, low cost list of things anyone could do. Made it easy to do.
- Lawn signs, given away for free, to be displayed on project participant’s lawns. Giving them away for free caused recipient to feel obligated to follow through. The lawn signs are now all over the community. The signs also got people to talk about the project, and led to additional participation by people who might not otherwise known about the project.
Looking at BTUs per sq/ft:
- Wanted to get people thinking about that, understanding what the numbers mean.
For example, my neighbor and I have the same house, same age, same construction, same design. So out of curiosity, I asked her for her utility bills.
I’d been working on my own house for 30 years, slowly reducing its energy needs. My neighbor’s electric bill is $127/mo, mine is $33. In 2008, my neighbor spent $5k to heat their house, I spent about $1k. We’re talking about real money from our own pockets, here! If you can keep it in your pocket, you’re likely to spend it in the community, increasing the viability of your community.
I encourage people to get involved in their communities. I got to meet all sorts of people I’d never have gotten to know – having lots of fun, bringing people together, having meetings, and SUCCESSES … and it’s FUN!
You need to know your community and the kinds of messages that will be successful when you undertake a project.
What you end up doing as a group depends on who shows up. In Williamstown, they have younger people with young kids. They’ve done all sorts of family events, which we haven’t been able to do in Greenfield, because most of the people involved are retired. Build on the strengths of the people who are raising their hands.
The power of positive visioning.
A lot of community organizing is focused on the fighting against the thing you don’t want. If you focus on the negative, your movement will probably die. What really motivates people is when they are working toward something they want in their lives.
If they do something and it’s not that successful, then it’s just a bump in the road. They keep the vision and keep plugging away at it.