Greening your life--the reality show

Eco-consumerism collides with reality TV. <i>Energy Smackdown</i> is a competition between Boston-area households to save energy.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
2 min read

You could call it grass-roots green.

The second season of Energy Smackdown, a TV show that challenges homeowners in the Boston area to "green" their lives, kicked off Sunday.

Cities in New Hampshire are also competing to lower their carbon footprint. Click on the image to see how different towns are faring. New Hampshire Carbon Challenge

Households, including my own, have signed up to take up several challenges to lower their carbon footprint and compete against families in other nearby cities--in this case between Medford, Cambridge, and Arlington, Mass.

There are a number of challenges, such as coming up with an energy-efficiency plan, reducing travel, and eating local food.

You'd be amazed at what people can do. One of the families that participated in last year's pilot show lowered its carbon footprint by 63 percent per person.

Echoing my Green Retrofits article from Earth Day, last year's participants from Medford said the changes are pretty simple and focused on energy efficiency.

But energy efficiency is getting serious attention from policymakers, not just frugal consumers.

Ian Bowles, the Massachusetts secretary of energy and environment, spoke at the Energy Smackdown kick-off where he called energy efficiency the "cheapest fuel." The state is trying to avoid building new power plants by aggressively adopting energy efficiency plans.

When I mentioned solar electric panels to one of the remodeling experts who is advising Energy Smackdown, he said that replacing a refrigerator, adding insulation, and using infrared scans to test for air sealing leaks are far more sensible economically.

Ian Bowles, Massachusetts' secretary of energy and environment, speaks at a Medford school during the 'Energy Smackdown' kick-off. Martin LaMonica/CNET News.com

One family has installed an in-home display of its energy usage and has made a game out of how significantly family members can decrease their consumption.

The show will give families a year to see how well they can do. In the meantime, the Energy Smackdown is a fun way to act on carbon footprints and sustainability--kind of like a reality TV version of "green" social networking sites.

So when anyone wonders whether there are consumers for green tech products, think of Energy Smackdown.

Update on May 4: The Boston Globe reports on efforts across the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gases at the community level.