Green gadget giveaway aims to spur public into action
By Carl Prine
Published: Sunday, May 20, 2012, 8:34 p.m.
Updated: Monday, May 21, 2012
Utilities want customers to conserve energy so they don't have to build expensive new power plants. Environmentalists want utilities to burn less coal.
On Sunday, they combined forces to persuade residents in the Oakcliffe section of South Oakland to cut their energy use. It was not a tough sell because the 16 volunteers fanning out from the Community Human Services building on Lawn Street had the easiest pitch possible.
"Would you like $50 worth of free stuff?" asked Zaheen Hussain, 24, a green energy guru at Larimer's GTECH Strategies, as he strolled door to door handing out gift bags.
Inside reusable sacks donated by the East End Food Co-op and Whole Foods Market were "smart" surge protectors provided by Duquesne Light Co. designed to kill "vampire energy," the watts lost when televisions and other appliances run, even when they're not being used, plus light bulbs designed to last up to a decade. Along for the ride to 200 families were recycling bags, low-energy nightlights, a pamphlet with power-saving tips, sink aerators and plastic "toilet tummies" that can be plopped in the tank to reduce water flow.
Coordinated by the nonprofit Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future with a grant from the Heinz Endowment, the "Black and Gold City Goes Green" outing followed similar blitzes in Mt. Washington and Bloomfield. The goal of the coordinators is to encourage residents to take action -- usually at no cost and without noticing a difference in their lives -- while reducing pollution and utility bills.
Upcoming giveaways are slated for Regent Square and Dormont. Because both labor and the goodies in the bags are donated, costs for the neighborhood outreach remain low -- usually about $150 per event -- with lunch for everyone who shows up to help. Because Chipotle Mexican Grill chipped in with meals yesterday, however, Pennfuture did not need to spring for that.
"We're only limited by the number of volunteers we get," said coordinator Evan Endres, 31, of Bloomfield.
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