Energy Education, Savings, Community Support

by Penni McLean-Conner, NSTAR

Utilities are increasingly in the business of educating consumers about saving energy. Educating customers on energy efficiency (EE) is an accepted market strategy to drive demand for energy-efficient products and motivate energy-saving behaviors.

Educational outreach programs, though, are often difficult to link directly to energy savings; they might be considered as marketing or hard to measure from an EE program perspective. An educational program that can be linked directly to energy savings is unique. In the case of NSTAR’s Change a Light, Change the World fundraiser program, the educational outreach results in direct energy savings and contributes funding directly to the local community.

Change a Light, Change the World

The Change a Light, Change the World fundraiser program has three objectives. First, the program drives kilowatt-hour savings from the sale of compact fluorescent lighting. Second, the program educates students, their friends and families on the benefits of compact fluorescent lighting. Third, the program contributes funds to the local community or community organization. The components of the program involve marketing, enrollment, collateral, education and fulfillment.

Marketing. Change a Light, Change the World primarily targets middle schools via mailers to all schools in the NSTAR service territory. Local newspapers feature articles about the results of successful campaigns and run advertisements. The Internet is also used to market and inform communities about the program.

Enrollment. Schools interested in Change a Light, Change the World work with the program manager to review program requirements. Schools must be in towns or cities serviced by NSTAR. If a school wants to proceed after reviewing the requirements, it must complete a commitment form with the contact information, number of students and potential date of the educational event. NSTAR then coordinates the event logistics and provides fundraiser collateral to the school.

Collateral. For a fundraiser program designed to be marketed and sold by middle school youth, collateral is needed to support door-to-door sales. The sales sheet model for the Change a Light, Change the World fundraiser took ideas from other successful youth door-to-door sales collateral, such as the selling of Girl Scouts cookies. In addition, the program materials explain the prizes associated with varying sales levels.

Education. The target market for the program is 8- to 13-yearolds. The education is geared to audiences of that age. A third-party partner with expertise in youth outreach and engagement delivers the education. A “Men in Black” theme adds entertainment value to the following important messages:

  • Environmental benefits of saving electricity,
  • Compact fluorescent-specific impact on the environment,
  • Facts about compact fluorescent lighting, and
  • What is a compact fluorescent?

The goal after training is to use students who are prepared with education and marketing collateral to sell fluorescent lighting door-to-door to friends and family.

Fulfillment. Schools typically run the campaign for two weeks. Earth Day is a popular kickoff day because the Change a Light, Change the World fundraiser ties nicely with the theme. As students complete their sales, schools gather all the orders and send NSTAR a copy of the order sheets with a spreadsheet noting each student’s total order. This enables NSTAR to determine individual student awards for sales achievements. These awards are then provided to schools for distribution.

NSTAR partners with a third-party vendor that maintains lighting stock. This partner ships the lights directly to the schools for distribution. The lighting packages are sorted and labeled with each student’s name for easy distribution by schools.


NSTAR has offered this program six years, during which many enhancements have occurred, most significantly in the educational and collateral components.

More than 179 schools have participated and sold more than 145,000 bulbs with lifetime energy savings of 34,000 MWh and generating an average of $3,000 per organization. For every dollar spent on the program, more than $3 in energy savings has been achieved. This program does what few EE educational programs can do: It generates direct energy savings.


Penni McLean-Conner is the vice president of customer care at NSTAR, the largest investor-owned electric and gas utility in Massachusetts. McLean-Conner, a registered professional engineer, serves on several industry boards of directors, including the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and CS Week. Her latest book, “Energy Efficiency: Principles and Practices,” is available at


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