Keeping a Community Energy Diary

When it comes to any kind of community-based project, keeping track of what’s going on can very quickly become virtually impossible – unless you write things down. Good record keeping plays a big part in making sure everything runs smoothly, and it’s almost guaranteed to be a requirement for any grant aid your project gets, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be an exclusively dull and impersonal historical document. Many communities have found that keeping energy diaries can not only make sure all the important events get properly noted, but allow enough space for a little more light-hearted fun to creep in!

What to Record

One of the first – and most important – things to decide is what you’re going to record in your energy diary, so it is a good idea to spend some time at the outset on deciding what should appear. Whether you choose to be very selective and include only a few well-defined topics, or allow a more broad approach to what counts as noteworthy energy saving, an idea of structure, however, simple, will make the diary more user-friendly in the long run.

Much of what you choose will obviously depend on the type of energy saving initiatives that your community is undertaking, but as a general idea, you might like to think about including things such as:

  • Energy Usage – either on an individual household/street basis, or for particular community buildings or projects. Having a clear record of how much energy you have actually been using is the only sure-fire way of being able to quantify how well you’ve really done when it comes to saving it!
  • Energy Saving Initiatives – time slips by, and it can be all too easy to forget exactly when those light bulbs were replaced, the new PV panels were installed or the village hall switched to a high-efficiency boiler. Keeping tabs on how your energy saving initiatives are going can be invaluable when it comes to looking back to see how successful they have been.
  • Travel/Food Mile Reductions – if your community is running a car sharing scheme, local mini-bus, making use of supermarket deliveries en masse or running a “buy local” campaign, the energy diary can also be used to record how well the whole thing is doing.
  • Grant and Funding Progress – apart from keeping everyone up to speed with how well things are progressing with attempts to fund the community’s upcoming projects, recording grant applications in your energy diary can help make sure important dates aren’t missed. Most grant awarding bodies have deadlines of one sort or another, and meeting them is obviously vital.
  • Project Milestones – the energy diary is also a good place to note any major achievements in the community’s efforts, whether that’s the successful completion of a whole initiative, or marking a particular stage along the way. Especially with big projects, having a number of milestones to measure your progress can be a big morale boost and does a lot to keep up everyone’s enthusiasm when things appear to be dragging.
  • Plans and New Ideas – the diary doesn’t have to be an entirely historical record; there’s much to be said for making it forward-looking too. Adding a section where new ideas or developing plans can be noted keeps everyone informed about the general direction the project is going in and could also encourage other people to make their own suggestions.

How Will it Be Kept?

Another clear issue to address at the start is how you intend to keep the diary and that in itself will probably throw up a whole barrage of questions for everyone involved to consider. Will there be a single person acting as diarist – and if so, who? Will different projects or interest groups, or even individual households or streets, keep their own? How will the records be kept and in what format?

In many ways keeping an energy diary makes the ideal starter project for a community beginning to tackle energy saving as a group. Examining these questions and seeing how everyone works together to find the right solution can set the blueprint for future initiatives – and one thing’s for sure, it certainly gets people talking! Some groups have embraced project websites, social networking and blogs to open their experiences up inter-actively to the world, while others have simply opted for a single archivist writing in a real paper diary.

It doesn’t actually matter how you decide to do it; all that’s really important is that whatever format your group eventually settles on, it makes a good record of your achievements – and, of course, it should be fun to do too!