On Wednesday 14 June, BUILD UP attended the International Social Housing Festival in Amsterdam. There we had the chance to meet the Energy Ambassadors, volunteers supporting other residents to save energy and money. The concept is simple: the Energy Ambassadors, through training and a toolkit, show their neighbours how to save energy and encourage them to engage with others to achieve replicability.
BUILD UP interviewed Oddy Folgerts, Energy Ambassador of the TRIME project.
How long have you been an energy ambassador for?
I started with the training for Energy coach at Eigen Haard housing association in November 2015. After I finished the training in January 2016 I started as an Energy ambassador for the TRIME project. TRIME helps residents in social housing to save money on their energy bills by using the Energy Ambassador model (a community led energy saving initiative based on volunteers who support other residents). Volunteers challenge participants and help measuring their energy savings.
How have you been prepared for this mission?
Energy Ambassadors in the Netherlands are provided with trainings and a toolkit. This training consists of multiple days. During these [training] days, we learned more about the technical side of energy savings – for instance - the impact of certain devices and user friendly energy savings products. I also learned how to interact with the participants of the TRIME project, for instance effective ways to communicate. The trainings provided really enabled me to show others how to change their behavior and save energy.
How many people have you trained?
During the TRIME project I trained/coached 10 households. What I enjoyed the most was the diversity among the households and getting to know my neighbors a bit better.
What have you learned from this experience?
Three lessons really stand out for me. Firstly, a lot of people knew already a lot about this subject. Therefore, you can achieve the biggest impact when you focus on lower social economic target groups. Secondly, when you use technology you have to make sure that it works properly. During the project, we used an app to monitor energy savings. However, peopled tended to get less engaged when the app didn’t work as planned. Thirdly, it’s fun and important to stay in contact with other Energy ambassadors to share experiences and learn from each other. Therefore, I started a Facebook group and shared experiences during the Energy café (a meetup for energy ambassadors organized by Eigen Haard).
What was the major challenge you faced as energy ambassador?
Through the projects that I have done for my start up The Green Switch I already knew how difficult it is to change people’s behavior. I would also consider that the main challenge as energy ambassador. It really involves a lot of efforts to convince people to save energy, even when the advantages (for instance reduced energy bills) are so obvious.
Do you have any advice for the future generation of energy ambassadors?
Tell a positive story, make it a fun challenge to save energy and keep it simple. I really believe that you inspire more people and raise more awareness about this subject when you stick to these three things.
By Alice Paone (PRACSIS)