Photo: Gina Mathias, Takoma Park’s sustainability manager.
BY NAOMI EIDE
Takoma Park is going even more green, urging residents to compete as neighborhoods to reduce their energy use.
Takoma Park made the Neighborhood Energy Challenge to build excitement for the Green Home Certification Program. The energy challenge offers a $2000 prize for the neighborhood, and a separate $2000 prize for the apartment or condo building with the most participation, the most certified green homes and the greatest reduction in energy use.
Gina Mathias, Takoma Park’s sustainability manager, said she will work with the winning neighborhood and multi-family building to use the prize money on something that benefits all residents, such as a neighborhood garden or new park benches.
Existing neighborhood associations or adjoining streets can form a neighborhood team to compete in the energy challenge. The neighborhood energy challenge began on March 1, 2015 and will run through March 2016, supporting Takoma Park’s efforts to win the Georgetown Energy Prize.
The Green Homes Certification Program will reduce Takoma Park’s energy use.
“There’s three levels for Green Home Certification so that we can encourage people who are just starting out and also encourage people who are already energy savvy to do even more and to go the extra mile,” said Mathias.
With the three different Green Home Certification levels: light, medium and dark green, Mathias said, “we hope that makes it fun for people and keeps it challenging for everyone, no matter if they’re just starting out in saving energy or if they already have solar panels and think they’re doing it all.”
Map showing competitors for the Georgetown Energy Prize.
Along with her sustainability interns, Mathias will offer free efficiency coaching, help residents apply for PEPCO efficiency rebates and provide a preferred contractor list to the city for those looking to make their homes more energy efficient.
“Largely for the renters its a behavior campaign,” Mathias said. “It’s developing new energy efficient habits, such as turning down your thermostat every day, changing your light bulbs, turning things off, unplugging things when they’re not used.”
Before joining Takoma Park as the sustainability manager in June 2014, Mathias worked with environmental non-profits and on energy efficiency projects in multi-family homes. As the sustainability manager, Mathias began applying Takoma Park’s sustainable energy action plan, which looked for ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the city.
Takoma Park’s Sustainability webpage has information, including how to get “Green Home Certified” and how to join the Neighborhood Energy Challenge. The city offers an “energy coaching” service. Contact Gina Mathias, Sustainability Manager.
Mathias said she used best practices from similar programs around the country to combine a Green Home Certification program and a Neighborhood Energy Challenge in a unique way for Takoma Park.
Takoma Park is one of 50 semifinalists for the Georgetown University Energy Prize, a national, two-year energy efficiency competition. According to the website, the semifinalist performance competition, running from Jan. 2015 through Dec. 2016, has cities competing to reduce the gas and electric utility supply to their residents and city customers.
Along with residents, the city will work to reduce their energy use, starting with converting to LED city streetlights and completing energy audits on city buildings. This year, Mathias said, she plans to work on reducing energy use in residential areas, but next year she will focus on energy use in the schools.