NorthShore, Evanston Township High School win citywide energy-saving competition

Ina Yang and Ina Yang

NorthShore University HealthSystem and Evanston Township High School are the winners of a citywide energy-saving competition, Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl announced at a news conference Wednesday.

The Big 7 Savers Challenge, co-hosted by Evanston and the Citizens Utility Board, first launched in March 2011 and pitted the city’s seven largest employers against each other to recruit the most participants and save the most energy in home electricity waste using CUB Energy Saver, the group’s free online bill-cutting service.

“Evanston has a special energy – and I’m not talking about the kind that makes our electric bills go up. This energy has made power bills go down,” Tisdahl said at the Evanston Ecology Center, 2024 McCormick Blvd.

Northwestern, ETHS, NorthShore, the City of Evanston, Rotary International, Saint Francis Hospital and Evanston/Skokie School District 65 all participated in the competition.

“This contest has been very successful and it is a prefect example of the good things that happen when people from every corner of the community – government, business, schools, hospitals, and households – come together under a common goal,” Tisdahl said. “It shows us what’s possible when technology and a devoted, active community meet.”

Led by the “big seven” local employers, the total amount saved for all participants was more than 292,495 kilowatt-hours, or $39,487 in energy savings and more than 475,000 pounds of carbon pollution eliminated. That figure is about equal to three decades of electric bills for a typical Illinois consumer, or enough to power 740 fridges for one year, said Jim Chilsen, CUB’s director of communications.

“Evanston is one of the strongest communities in the state in terms of activism and education about energy efficiency,” Chilsen said. “We wanted to partner with them to achieve something good.”

Chilsen said residents might not realize that focusing on energy conservation issues can help save money. Families struggling to make ends meet during an economic downturn can help both the environment and their personal finances.

“It’s good for the planet and for your pocketbook,” Chilsen said. “We’re trying to come up with new challenges, to keep the momentum going.”

As part of the prize, one family from each winning team was randomly awarded free electricity for one year.

ETHS saw the largest per-person savings, slashing electric bills by an average of 3 percent for a total saving of about $2,400. David Chan, the ETHS Green Team advisor, attended the event on behalf of the high school.

“We were constantly reminding people of tips and following up, focusing on recruiting new members,” Chan said. “We really promoted this, big boards, PTA membership drives, whenever we can find time, Earth Week, high percentage of people we could target.”

Chicago resident Amber Knopp, a NorthShore patient care technician, was the health care system’s winning participant. Tisdahl presented her a check for $982, the cost of her energy bill from last year.

“I signed up to figure out how much energy I was saving at home,” Knopp said. “Then I started going up on the website and found out things I could do, such as unplugging my microwave and taking cold showers.”

Knopp said the CUB Energy Saver was an easy and simple way to keep track of her energy usage, and added that it encourages people be mindful of the small details to energy.

“You realize that a little bit can make a difference.” Knopp said.

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