Nonprofits team up to help public reduce its gas usage

WASHINGTON: The nonprofit Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) and The Wal-Mart Foundation (WMF) will launch a consumer education effort May 20, offering tips on reducing gas usage through fuel-efficient driving and maintenance.

WASHINGTON: The nonprofit Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) and The Wal-Mart Foundation (WMF) will launch a consumer education effort May 20, offering tips on reducing gas usage through fuel-efficient driving and maintenance.

WMF provided $675,000 in initial funding for the effort, which will center on a Web site, www.drivesmarterchallenge.org. To encourage consumers to accept the "challenge," the site will maintain a running tally of gasoline savings - dollar amount, number of gallons, and reduction in CO2 emissions - pledged by visitors to the site.

Research conducted by the Alliance found that the working poor and lower middle class are hardest hit by high gas costs and are more likely to take steps to reduce consumption when given actual dollar amounts they can realize in savings.

"Consumers were telling us they had already made changes, such as combining trips to run errands or [not] going to Sea World because of gas expenses," said Rozanne Weisman, the ASE's director of communications and marketing. "But a lot of things are just not doable for people, such as taking public transportation. I think people will be very receptive to small steps they can take that will save them hundreds of dollars."

Web site visitors can, for example, enter their type of car into a database on the site to find out specific dollar amounts they can save on gas costs by keeping tires properly inflated, using the manufacturer's recommended brand of oil, “eliminating jackrabbit starts, speeding, and rapid braking at highway speeds,” removing excess items from the trunk, and turning down the air conditioning, among other things.

Part of the campaign's media outreach includes broadcast-ready b-roll, an SMT, and radio PSAs and ANRs in English and Spanish.

The effort will also include gas-saving tip sheets given to state DMVs, auto dealers, vehicle repair shops, and other affiliates.

Sixteen other partners of the effort will further amplify awareness, among them the American Petroleum Institute, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, and the National Association of State Energy Officials.

Kelly Zonderwyk, senior associate with National Association of Counties (NACo), another campaign partner, says members of her group are likely to employ promotional efforts similar to those used to support the US government-sponsored “Change a Light, Change the World” campaign to encourage the use of CFLs. These include PSAs in movie theaters; presentations at state fairs, libraries and other locales; and pamphlets included with utility bills.

With the CFL campaign, small, midsized, and large counties competed for a prize donated by Office Depot of 1,000 CFLs (and bragging rights). With this new competition, counties in each category will compete for 1,000 bottles of fuel additive donated by Autozone.

“We've been seeing a strong increase among counties in trying to do ‘green' things,” Zonderwyck said. “When the Alliance approached us about the Drive Smarter Challenge, it seemed like a logical, good fit for the kind of outreach and education programs we do.”

The ASE said it was selected as WMF's partner following an RFP for a national consumer transportation campaign to be backed by the foundation.

WMF declined to comment for this story ahead of the May 20 campaign launch.

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