Block parties will challenge neighbors to reduce energy use

A series of block parties this fall will focus not only on getting to know your neighbors, but getting to know how much energy they use.

The goal of the Energy Challenge block parties is to get neighbors together to share ideas about ways to save energy and the environment. The parties will encourage neighborhoods to track their yearly energy use and pledge to take certain actions to reduce that use. The block club with the highest number of participating households will be personally recognized with a visit by Mayor R.T. Rybak and be featured on the WCCO evening news.

The Alliance for Sustainability and the Center for Energy and Environment are sponsoring the parties using a Climate Change Innovation Grant from the city. Participating neighborhoods will receive an Energy Challenge block event kit that includes conservation checklists. Energy auditors will also be available to do an in-home energy audit as part of block events.

Southwest neighborhoods participating include Lynnhurst, Linden Hills, Tangletown, Kenny, Lowry Hill, Lowry Hill East, Windom, CARAG and Whittier.

While Minneapolis only controls about 4 percent of energy used in the city, the Minnesota Energy Challenge, supported by the Alliance for Sustainability and the Center for Energy and Environment, is promoting activities to slow global warming. Having saved more than 14 million pounds of CO2 since the challenge kick-off in October 2006, Minneapolis is leading the state in energy savings.

"There are a wide variety of actions that can be taken by teams and it can be as simple as turning off the lights," said Neely Crane Smith, a representative with the Center for Energy and Environment.

Individuals are able to sign up for the Energy Challenge on the Minnesota Energy Challenge website. A household can choose from a list of 29 actions that will help reduce CO2 emissions and save money, such as switching to fluorescent light bulbs, washing clothes in cold water and driving the speed limit. The Alliance for Sustainability website allows a household to join a block club party within the neighborhood or community.

At the beginning of September, there were about 2,000 block clubs organized and 75 signed up to host block party events.

For more information, visit www.afors.org or www.mnenergychallenge.org/challenge.