Fun And Games With Energy Conservation
December 18, 2008 7:28 AM   Subscribe

I'm giving a 20 minute energy conservation workshop for adults twice a day from now until spring. Any ideas you all may have to that will add variety and humor to this will be much appreciated.

This is the education aspect of the federal low income energy assistance program (LIEAP) we administer here in rural, coastal Oregon. Each morning and afternoon, 15-20 people are scheduled for these workshops, which precede an interview and award of assistance for heating bills (electric, fuel oil, natural gas, propane, firewood, and pellets). I have a Powerpoint presentation with statistics and information on how to save money on home energy use. My time is limited for this presentation. We give everyone who participates some energy saving products, like CFL light bulbs, low-flow shower heads, refrigerator thermometers, etc. It is good work.

How about some jokes, anecdotes, or amazing stories related to energy usage in the home? Extra credit will be awarded for simple fun activities that don't require that people leave their seat. Thanks!
posted by partner to Education (8 answers total)
How about making some life-size cutouts of appliances (TV, refrigerator, table lamp). Give three volunteers some play money and get them to guess the weekly or annual cost of each appliance by sticking that amount of paper money on the appliance. Kind of a 'price is right' gameshow idea.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 7:47 AM on December 18, 2008

Put the energy with different activities in terms of something interesting, like lowering their thermostat one degree for the winter would save enough energy to push a car x feet up mt everest.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 7:48 AM on December 18, 2008

That first sentence should read: put the energy savings associated with different activities...
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 8:06 AM on December 18, 2008

I saw a sample board that had 2 light fixtures - both cheap ceiling lights with white glass covers. One had a curly bulb; one had an incandescent. Viewers were asked which light was more pleasing. Results were random, and the CFL won. It convinced me to convert my bulbs.
posted by theora55 at 9:44 AM on December 18, 2008

do a talk in the dark
posted by rux at 11:22 AM on December 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do not bore them with statistics and powerpoint....I think you need hands on sort of things. I love the idea of figuring out the cost for each appliance for the week. Also you could get one of the plug in energy meters and try it out on different things like a lamp with regular bulb vs one with a cfl, a fan, a tv etc....

You will find what works pretty fast if you are doing it twice a day. Just don't sit there and read off the powerpoint please.....I attended a workshop on rain barrels for our neighborhood that was trying to give away free barrels to protect a local stream and it was the most boring thing I have ever been to - and I was interested before she started talking.

I will think about some more ideas.....I think economics is the game to play here more than save the environment.
posted by rvrlvr at 12:51 PM on December 18, 2008

This may be too much work for your program, but one of the most effective demonstrations of power/energy I've ever seen was at the Exploratorium in SF. They had the base of an old pedal-powered lathe (you could use a bicycle instead) hooked up to some light bulbs. When the bulbs were switched off, the pedals spun quite easily. When a single 100 W bulb was switched on, the pedals got dramatically harder to crank. Harder still with more bulbs turned on. (100 watts isn't that much power on our usual scale of things, but when you have to provide the energy with your own muscles, you really appreciate what the power company pipes into your home at the flick of a fingertip.)

You could wire something up to let people compare the work required to light up a 100 W vs a 60 W incandescent bulb, vs compact fluorescents.

But I agree with rvrlvr - people are probably going to be more interested in ways to save money than ways to save the planet. Fortunately, in some cases you can do both simultaneously.
posted by Quietgal at 3:15 PM on December 18, 2008

We just did some similar training a few weeks ago. How to reach people and really engage them...working the analogy that a house is it's own kind of organism, like a person, we tried a few things with hats and the cold: Take a bunch of hats, sun hats, rain hats, a really warm hat. Okay, people at the table, which hat would you wear in the cold weather? That one? Why? Your house works in a similar way. If insulation up top is good... What i wanted to do was to put an ice pack on each person's head (each wearing a different hat) to see who would feel the cold the fastest. That part didn't work very well because people being people, some people just never feel the cold... but i still think there is a germ of a good fun activity in there. will think some more. i'd love to know how the training goes. Rural coastal Oregon - electric heat, people who don't have money for roof insulation. So their cheapest resource is going to be blankets and towels on the windows, aside from turning the thermostat down. Lots of mobile homes. There was a man who was paying huge energy bills because his cat had decided to use the ductwork under his home as a private kitty door, so he was of course heating the entire outside. There was a woman using a woodstove who didn't turn her 10 baseboard heaters off at the breaker. when she finally did, she dropped hr $600 powerbills by 70%...
posted by midenka at 5:42 AM on December 19, 2008

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