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Home energy use gets a 'smackdown' on reality TV

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"We chose three families that live different lifestyles so viewers could relate to at least one of the families and realize that anyone can do something without completely changing everything about their house or life," says Donald Kelley, producer of "Energy Smackdown" for TV3 Medford.

The initial reason for developing a television show about families saving energy was to encourage community awareness about ecofriendly options in their own homes, Mr. Kelley says.

While a TV show about how to cut your carbon footprint could have taken many forms, Kelley and his production team wanted to capitalize on the popularity of reality TV. He also tapped into the most recent research on the role peer pressure plays in making ecological choices.

According to a recent American Psychological Asso­­ciation study, people are more likely to make green choices if they think others are, too. And according to Karen Ehrhardt-Martinez of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, competitions "can be very effective" in inspiring change because "social incentives are often more effective than economic incentives in spurring people to change their behavior."

The competition began in March with a baseline assessment of each family's energy use. They plugged their lifestyle numbers (electricity use, travel, gas use, garbage generation) into a CO2 emissions calculator (www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/ind_calculator.html).

At the start, Team van der Nou was in the lead: It produced 10,216 pounds of CO2 per person per year, followed by Team Eco-Cluggi (18,692 pounds) and Moot Roosa at 26,733. The national average is 15,000 pounds per person.

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