Click photo to enlarge

Arcata is asking its residents, businesses and schools to think twice about driving cars to the store, putting laundry in the dryer and taking long showers.

The city is participating in the CoolCalifornia City Challenge, a statewide competition sponsored by the Energy Upgrade California, an organization that strives to give people the resources they need to protect the state's climate.

”I think the whole concept is they want people talking about how they can make the world around them greener,” Arcata Environmental Services Deputy Director Karen Diemer said. “That communication is what's going to really start to make a difference in our overall emissions.”

Arcata is one of nine other cities, including Burlingame, Long Beach and Riverside, participating in the challenge that allows people to sign up online and track their energy usage to earn points, according to the city. The winning city will receive prize money based on the how many people sign up and how many points are earned when the contest is over at the end of August.

As of Friday, Arcata City Councilman Michael Winkler was the city's top point earner, according to Diemer.

”I try hard to make my home and personal habits as energy efficient as possible,” Winkler said, admitting he's a competitive person.

About 10 years ago, Winkler said he shifted from using natural gas for space and water heating to using very high efficiency electric heat pumps. He also had solar panels installed, made sure his house is well insulated, conducted tests to detect any leaks and is considering a lower flow shower head.

In terms of transportation, Winkler said he mostly takes the bus, walks, or cycles.

”I want to set a good example for everybody in Arcata to make us more energy efficient and in the long run, to use local energy,” Winkler said. “This competition is just an opportunity to make people aware of this and to give people goals to shoot for in their own lives.”

Diemer said the city decided to participate because it fits in with the Energy Committee's objectives.

”One of their primary goals this year was to further engage the committee in active greenhouse emissions reductions,” Diemer said. “So when this came up, it seemed like a natural fit for us to look at a natural platform that somebody had created to help the community learn and engage in this way.”

After people register and enter three months of energy data, they can track their natural gas, energy and transportation habits to make them more aware of their impacts and what they can do to make improvements, committee member Jim Zoellick said. To lower emissions, people can do the basics -- turning off lights, changing light bulbs to compact fluorescent or LEDs -- or make bigger changes such as purchasing more energy efficient vehicles if they are more enthusiastic and have the means to do so.

”This was an opportunity for the city to participate in the statewide program,” Zoellick said. “It was really an opportunity also to hopefully better engage the members of our community and just get people rallied around coming together as a community to address some of these issues.”

Lorna Rodriguez can be reached at 441-0506 or lrodriguez@times-standard.com. Follow her on Twitter @LornaARodriguez.

How to sign up:

People can register for the CoolCalifornia City Challenge at http://coolcalifornia.org/community-challenge