Great Energy Racer

doer david and family

Back in March, David was in the race for the Doer of the Month with his cycling 30 miles to work challenge. Now he’s hoping to win the Great Energy Race and we are right behind him. Will his challenge on The DoNation help clinch the deal?

What inspired you to use The DoNation?

I studied architecture at the University of Sheffield and during my course I became particularly aware of the impacts our lifestyle has on the environment and how much energy is wasted without thought.  Since then I have been looking for ways to make my life more sustainable and to encourage others.

My wife and I set about refurbishing our Sheffield home in 2009 and looked to make it more sustainable at the same time. 

Through this we were able to nominate ourselves for The Observer Ethical Awards Great Energy Race which looked to 20 households to reduce their energy use throughout April 2014.  I saw the opportunity to spread the word about saving energy and thought that The DoNation would be a great way to get my friends and colleagues to save energy too.

Deciding what my challenge would be was the most difficult part. I didn’t really think waxing my legs would be in the interest of saving energy – just imagine the heating bills rising as the hair gets removed. Grow a beard? – was poo-pooed by my wife.  So I decided to cycle the 30 miles to work.  I normally commute by bike-train-bike (using my Brompton) so it was going to be a significant change to my usual routine and an early start.  I hoped it would be enough to get people to sponsor me.  I even threw in potential for wearing a onesie to do it if I reached the target as extra incentive.

How was the overall experience?

It was really easy to set up the challenge on The DoNation site but without any reference to how much energy different activities save I was a bit in the dark about my target.  I think in hindsight I went in a bit high at 10,000kgCO2 but it did set the bar.  I also mis-read the small print and thought the Doer of the Month was all about amount of CO2 saved not the number of pledges – for which I lost out on the Ben and Jerry’s by 3 pledges!

The challenge itself wasn’t as difficult as it could have been.  I was expecting it to be awful but actually on the morning I found that setting off in the dark and dealing with all the hills between Sheffield and Wakefield were the worst parts.  It was only at the end of the 30 mile ride I started to feel my legs going weak but by then the end was in sight.  There was something quite pleasing about knowing I’d done the ride before most people were getting up.

Do you think our lifestyle has changed as a result of this challenge?

I have made a huge number of lifestyle changes as part of the Great Energy Race which have all helped to reduce our energy use.

The biggest benefit I see is from the other people I have been able to encourage to save energy through The DoNation.  Just by doing the challenge it has encouraged others to think about how the use energy in their lives; this will have a bigger impact than anything we could do alone.

How did your friends react to your sponsorship request?

My friends and colleagues really stepped up to support me in my challenge. I found the best technique for getting pledges was just plain harassment via facebook and email.  I think people really liked the idea of saving energy, and the ability to sponsor me without having to pay anything. I was never quite sure whether people would stick to their pledges, I’d be really interested to see whether they managed to last the two months, and maybe beyond!

Would you use The DoNation again?

It’s always difficult to ask people repeatedly for sponsorship and I do wonder whether the novelty of pledging would have worn off so I doubt I would use it again, but I would encourage others to use the site.  I think I may have already persuaded a friend to take up a challenge and ask for pledges through The DoNation.

What advice would you give to people who’d like to make the change toward a more sustainable lifestyle?

Making your lifestyle more sustainable isn’t necessarily about big gestures. Even the smallest things can add up to save a lot of energy. If everyone stops to think about the energy they are using every day, together we could make a big saving – cash as well as carbon.

You can still sponsor David for his challenge here, and check out his progress with the Great Energy race here

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