The Brahms Energy Saving Team (BEST) engages 800 tenants in 2 north-east Toronto apartment buildings (2 and 5 Brahms Avenue) to educate them about the need to save energy and to create a culture of conservation in the neighbourhood. The project is a partnership between the Toronto Environmental Alliance, Public Interest (a community development organization) and Toronto Community Housing, one of North America's largest social housing providers.
One of the keys to success for the project is Toronto Community Housing's significant investment into the buildings to improve overall energy use. This not only reduces energy consumption, but also demonstrates the commitment to save energy. Toronto Community Housing installed new appliances, including 400 new energy efficient fridges and stoves in apartments with older appliances and to clean, test and upgrade (by installing energy reflectors) all of the in-suite radiators.
To promote a culture of conservation amongst tenants, BEST has hired and trained six tenants from the buildings as community education and outreach workers (or Animators). The Animators help design and deliver an energy education program that engages their fellow tenants in their primary language (working in the four most commonly spoken languages English, Farsi, Somali, and Tamil) and in culturally appropriate ways. They have been going door-to-door in the buildings to raise awareness and distribute education materials such as pamphlets and fridge magnets (in the four main languages) that focus on seven simple things tenants can do to save energy. Animators have also been staffing display tables in the lobby, organizing events and giving away energy saving 'goodies' (compact fluorescent light bulbs and powerbars) as well as canvass tote bags and door stickers with the BEST logo to those who sign up for the Brahms Energy Saving Team.
The program has been very positively received by tenants, and as of early August 2005, over 75 percent of households were participating in BEST. As a community reward for achieving this high participation rate, BEST will be organizing a children's field trip to the Kortright Centre in August and a community barbecue/fun day in the Fall.