If you happened to spend Earth Day inside watching TV, you might have seen Baltimore showcased in the new episode of PBS’s Earth: The Operator’s Manual. The episode, “Energy Quest USA,” shone a spotlight on innovative ways that various communities are reducing energy consumption — and it was a very welcome spot of encouraging news amid the general gloominess that’s out there.
The program focused on BNEC, the Baltimore Neighborhood Energy Challenge, a grassroots effort that tried to bring energy-saving tips directly to city residents, using a neighbor-to-neighbor communication network. In other words, BNEC neighborhood captains not only set up booths at block parties, they also went door-to-door, handing out energy-efficient light bulbs and even inviting themselves inside homes to give hands-on demonstrations of energy-saving tips. The program capitalizes on the idea that “knowledge about energy savings is contagious,” in the words of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
Taking a cue from other cities, BNEC also made saving energy into a competition between neighborhoods — and were surprised to see who ended up winning.