Division A - Public Relations Programs
Category 2 - Public Service
Change a Light for Daylight Saving
Dr. LaRae M. Donnellan, APR, CPRC; Ariana Marshall; Markita Samuel
Research/Situation Analysis: The FAMU Green Coalition was formed Dec. 11, 2006, with the goal of helping make the greater Florida A&M University community a more sustainable, environmentally responsible, livable space. One project we selected was to help students and other residents in the lower to moderate-income south side of Tallahassee, near FAMU, cut their energy costs while at the same time helping the environment. After research-ing options, we decided to sponsor a light bulb exchange program, where residents trade incandescent bulbs for the more energy-efficient compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). According to the federal government's ENERGY STAR initiative, "CFLs use about 1/4 to 1/3 as much energy as standard incandescent lamps but provide the same amount of light and last up to 13 times longer ... save $30 or more in energy costs over each bulb's lifetime ... [and] give off 1/4 to 1/3 as much heat as standard incandescent lamps." The City of Tallahassee Energy Services Department says the savings on a 75-watt-equivalent CFL is closer to $75 over the bulb's lifetime. We worked with the City to select neighborhoods to visit and community centers that served low- to moderate-income families. Because of Spring Break, religious observations, and other community events, we selected Sunday, March 11, 2007 – the first day of Daylight Saving Time – to host our "Change a Light for Daylight Saving" campaign. While the timing seemed right to generate media attention, it posed significant challenges for finding help because that Sunday was the last day of FAMU's Spring Break. Therefore, we reached out to high schools and others in the community to help us. The City agreed to donate 2,500 free CFLs, and the County Solid Waste Program agreed to collect and dispose of the incandescent bulbs we collected. Collaboration and shared goals were keys to our success.
Objectives: 1) To recruit between 50-100 volunteers to help with our program; 2) To distribute 2,500 CFLs to Tallahassee residents in one day (our initial goal was 1,000, then 2,000, and finally 2,500); 3) To inform residents about the benefits of switching to CFLs; 4) To generate at least three stories in local newspapers and on television; and 5) To establish an identity for the FAMU Green Coalition on campus and in the community.
Implementation: Many details needed to be handled in a short time. We:
- Solicited a $500 grant from the City to purchase T-shirts, which we designed and had printed for volunteers to wear.
- Contacted local neighborhood associations to gain their support and to help publicize the event within their communities.
- Got approval from a large student-populated apartment complex to place a distribution center in its lobby.
- Solicited FAMU volunteers in classes, at assemblies, and through student organizations.
- Recruited volunteers from three area high schools, local government, and service organizations such as the Eastern Star.
- Plotted distribution routes in three neighborhoods and distributed fliers door-to-door the week before our event.
- Placed posters in area businesses and community centers.
- Solicited donations to feed the volunteers.
- Gathered educational materials from the City and County to distribute to residents.
- Secured a site on campus to store the CFLs and then the incandescent bulbs.
- Communicated for weeks with a reporter from the Tallahassee Democrat, who was interested in our event, and with the editor of Capital Outlook, who decided to give one of our students a bylined article.
- Sent a news release to area media; the City sent out its own news release later. As volunteers arrived on campus March 11, we packed large paper bags donated by Wendy's with bulbs, literature, a script, and a route map. After a quick lunch and a training session, T-shirted teams traveled to the exchange centers or to neighborhoods to distribute the bulbs door-to-door. Two and one-half hours later, we returned to campus to count how many CFLs we'd distributed, to bundle up the incandescent bulbs, to enjoy a light supper, and to hold an awards ceremony to thank our volunteers.
Evaluation: 1) We recruited 80 volunteers! 2) We distributed 2,150 CFLs (up to four per household) and collected about 1,800 incandescent bulbs (the City told us not to require bulbs in exchange for the CFLs). We distributed 150 more CFLs that next week, mostly to students attending a lecture and showing of "An Inconvenient Truth". The City reclaimed the other 200. 3) We distributed literature to everyone who received CFLs and explained the benefits of using them; 222 households requested that the City send additional energy-saving information. Some older residents were so excited to get "their" CFLs that they literally followed us down the street or offered to pay to get the bulbs. Prominent media coverage helped tell our story. 4) We received an editorial, calendar notice, and article in the Tallahassee Democrat; an article in Capital Outlook; an article in The Famuan campus newspaper; three packages on WCTV-TV (CBS); and a story on WFSU (NPR). 5) People tell us they heard of the "Change a Light" campaign and know of the FAMU Green Coalition. We were happy to share the limelight with the City of Tallahassee, which provided the CFLs. The State asked us to participate in Earth Day activities at the Capitol, and community groups asked us for guest lecturers. Four student members received Rattler Pride awards, partly for their work with the Coalition. We're working on the statewide sustainability conference being hosted by FSU this fall. And we're actively involved in the Knight Foundation-funded Greenovation Initiative in Tallahassee. Collaboration is key.
Budget: All Coalition members are volunteers. Out-of-pocket expenses totaled about $900 for the T-shirts ($709), food ($150) and supplies ($40). So far, we've received a $25 gift certificate, which we used for food. We're still waiting for the City's check to clear and to receive additional funding from the FAMU Student Government Association for the balance; until then, expenses have been charged to a personal credit card. The City estimates that the potential energy savings to City residents who received the CFLs will be about $173,000.