Research shows that inter-city competition and shared learning are successful strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and saving money
For immediate release
SACRAMENTO - California's first statewide carbon footprint reduction competition between cities provides solid evidence that a combination of community organizing and friendly competition can motivate thousands of California residents to lessen their impact on climate change.
CARB is hosting a research seminar and webcast open to the public at 1:30 p.m. January 8. For more information, click here. The webinar will be archived on CARB’s website.
The CoolCalifornia City Challenge is part of an Air Resources Board-funded research project by the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Lab at UC Berkeley. The multi-year study, which concluded last month, developed, implemented and evaluated the pilot competition. Nearly 3,000 people in eight cities participated in the 13-month pilot competition, conducted in 2013. Data entry by participants demonstrated that they used 14 percent less electricity than a control group.
A second competition conducted in 2014 achieved 60 percent more total savings in half the time (six months) with 40 percent more participating households, nearly 4,000 in total. The 10 participating cities shared $100,000 in incentive and prize money that was provided by Energy Upgrade California™, a statewide initiative to educate Californians about how to manage energy in their homes and businesses.
In the Challenge, cities connect with citizens both directly and through community-based groups to take simple, everyday actions to cut their carbon footprint such as riding a bicycle instead of driving or hanging clothes on a laundry line instead of powering up the dryer. During the pilot contest, more than 900 participants manually entered more than 10,000 monthly electricity, natural gas and motor vehicle odometer readings in the online software, which calculated how many points those actions generated for each household and municipality. The city with the most points at the end of the competition is named the “Coolest California City.”
Besides a decrease in energy use among participants, other results of the pilot project included:
- The primary reported motivations of participants were similar across demographic population segments, with altruistic motives greatly outranking financial savings or other external motives, such as rewards or recognition.
- Households with older participants far outperformed those with younger participants.
- Income, political identity and attitudes toward climate change affected participation levels, but not performance, or points.
“Participants reported very altruistic motivations for joining the program, including improving where they live, protecting the environment and helping local organizations,” said Professor Daniel Kammen, director of UC Berkeley’s Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory, which led the program and manages the data on an open access website. “This type of community-based competition can help California in its efforts to transition to a sustainable, clean energy economy.”
Researchers concluded there is a high level of interest across California cities for successful community engagement programs. In order to realize the greatest benefits of a statewide inter-city competition, future programs should increase motivation for all cities, and programs should be designed to meet a wide range of needs from communities with differing resource levels and diverse populations.
The CoolCalifornia City Challenge was created to encourage voluntary carbon footprint reductions throughout the state. Because voluntary actions are an essential component of California’s greenhouse gas reduction portfolio, ARB has developed a variety of tools and resources to support these non-regulatory efforts.
The Challenge serves as a living laboratory to test new approaches to engage California residents and communities in climate action, and helps to inform future efforts to promote and quantify carbon footprint reductions and help establish best practices for citizen engagement.
For press releases announcing the City Challenge winners, click here (2013) and click here (2014).