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'Energy Challenge' Will Help Community Groups Earn Cash

Bedford 2020 is inviting community groups to participate in its energy contest, earning points redeemable for cash prizes.

As part of its ongoing efforts to reduce residential energy use, Bedford 2020 is offering cash incentives to community groups who help market the town’s home energy assessment and upgrade program, known as Energize Bedford.

Prizes will be awarded via a point system that assigns values to various projects that get the word out and result in participation in the energy pilot program.

“This whole program is based on partnership—the core of community-based marketing and outreach is to connect with local, trusted sources,” said Tom Bregman, director of Energize Bedford. “And these community groups are those sources.”

Bedford 2020 representatives convened a community meeting about the challenge Wednesday morning at town hall with such groups as the Marsh Sanctuary, Pound Ridge Land Conservancy, Riverkeeper, Bedford Central School District's sustainability committee and the Bedford Hill Lions Club, among others.

Bregman explained that an organization like a local library might hold an information workshop on the energy program, which is worth ten points. A resident who attended that workshop might elect to have a home energy assessment, worth two points, followed by an energy upgrade, worth another five points. Individuals may designate any participating organization to receive the points.

There are a few reasons why community groups would want to get involved, said Bregman.

"For one, it's a way to fulfill their mission if the organization has an environmental purpose, like Riverkeeper, a sustainability committee or a land conservancy," he said.

Energize Bedford and Bedford 2020 will also showcase the groups on their websites as potential recipients of prize money, and encourage the non-profits to do the same, which assures mutual growth, added Christopher Roberts, of Really Social Strategies, which provides consulting services to the energy pilot.

“And when small non-profits pool their resources for a shared project that might be awarded prize money, they have gone from competitors for that money to becoming partners,” he said. “They have also created a rising tide that lifts all boats in the local environmental and non-profit arena—instead of competition, it becomes a “co-opetition.”

And then there’s the money, of course.

Prize allocations are still being finalized, but awards range from $500 for creative efforts to $4,000 to the organization that has raised the most points, according to Mark Thielking, Bedford's director of energy resources.

"During the meeting, we brainstormed on how the program will work and how the prizes should be awarded—for example, will it be more effective to award larger prizes, or smaller cash awards of $1,000?" he said. “We’ll also have a leader board so groups can compare their progress.”

Follow up from the meeting includes identifying ways to engage the community's youth in the challenge, said Patrice Hauptman, who works in the Energize Bedford program.

"The whole idea of energy conservation lends itself well to teaching opportunities, of course—about science, physics, energy efficiency," she said. Organizers plan to reach out to young people through schools and clubs and the community organizations.

The challenge program is not yet officially launched, but anyone having their home assessed or upgraded now or since Energize launched will be able to retroactively assign their points to participating organizations, said Bregman.

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