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How to implement an energy challenge that inspires everyone

Image of Maple Ridge Fire Hall No. 3's staff
Firefighters at Maple Ridge Fire Hall No. 3, where there was an 18 per cent decrease in energy consumption, and a savings of nearly 5,000 kWh/yr, in the month of July 2014.

Staff already saving energy? Here's a way to motivate them to save even more

In July 2014, when the City of Maple Ridge's Green Team decided to start an energy challenge at Fire Hall No. 3, they were in for a surprise. The Fire Hall No. 3 crew were already implementing stellar energy saving practices.

"When we did a walkthrough to identify opportunities, everything had been done," says Alexandra Tudose, former energy manager for the City of Maple Ridge. "The lights were off, monitors were off, and all the appliances in the kitchen were unplugged."

It turns out that a year earlier, their sister Fire Hall No. 1 had implemented a hugely successful energy challenge. Inspired by their work, Fire Hall No. 3 carried over many of the same behaviours, and were still doing so a year later.

"We were amazed at the extent of the improved behaviour, particularly since it had been almost a year since the initial challenge at Fire Hall No. 1," says Diane Bentley, protective services clerk with the City of Maple Ridge, and co-chair of the City of Maple Ridge Green Team.

So how did they raise the bar even higher? The Green Team, with the help of TurnLeaf Consulting, got creative. "We had to expand our thinking," explains Bentley. "For example, instead of just lights, we extended it to tilting the blinds to keep the room cooler, and operating the washer and dryer at low peak times. The front apron lights were on 24 hours a day, so those went on timers."

"It's wonderful to inspire a captive audience to see what else they can achieve," adds Tudose. "There's always something extra that people could be doing."

After the bar is raised, results are posted regularly to maintain momentum

Tudose and Bentley credit Fire Hall No. 3's lieutenant Kevin Harwood for setting the standard [PDF, 828 KB].

"It was Kevin's watch that set the bar so high," says Bentley. "They were on top of it from day one. Throughout the month, I posted results about whose watch was doing better than others, and that would always result in a flood of emails from people asking how they could increase their scores."

"Because we're a fire hall, we're all living together," says Harwood. "So I believe you need to treat your fire house like it's your home — it's just like looking after your appliances and barbecues. We even made sure the janitor turned off the lights after he had finished."

Tudose adds that having champions [PDF, 593 KB] and leaders is critical to the success of a challenge. "One of the best things people can do is find a champion in the area," says Tudose. "You want people who are interested in energy conservation, but even more importantly, people who have good relationships with their peers, and good communication skills. If you start with that, then 90 per cent of your work is done."

As a result of the team's diligence, the challenge was a rousing success. In the month of July 2014, there was an 18 per cent decrease in energy consumption, and a savings of nearly 5,000 kWh/yr.

Tudose, who's now the manager of energy and environmental sustainability with School District 42, says that Maple Ridge Green Team meetings she attended were inspired by Fire Hall No. 3.

"At our regular Green Team meetings, whenever someone talked about Fire Hall No. 3 [PDF, 1.1 MB], it felt like the whole room came alive," she says. "It created a real culture around energy conservation, and that encouraged lots of other departments to get on board. That's the sign of true success."