Background & History

Cooler Communities

Three Cooler Communities

This Playbook is based on the experiences of three diverse communities in Massachusetts: Concord, the Berkshires and Agawam.


In February 2017, Concord’s Sustainable Energy Committee (CSEC) combined the key actions from the book “Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living” (Union of Concerned Scientists, 2012) with the community-based social marketing concepts from the book “Fostering Sustainable Behavior” (Douglas McKenzie-Mohr, 2011) to put together a unique and effective community event. With support from the town and schools and lots of volunteer time, the Cooler Concord Fair (CCF) proved to be a very popular, fun and productive way to engage residents in reducing their CO2 emissions. The major focus at the fair was ten (10) adult-led energy-saving Action Exhibits staffed by local experts and knowledgeable vendors. Students of all ages helped lead the Action Exhibits and also used STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Math) skills to develop their own exhibits for the fair. The elements that were essential to Concord’s success are outlined here: Essential Elements, Cooler Concord Fair


Overall attendance topped 1,000 at the Cooler Concord Fair and residents of all ages came, largely because students were involved and extensive school outreach was conducted. A Google Sheets-based Carbon Points Estimator system was used to capture attendee actions and associated reductions in CO2. A carbon “point” was equal to one pound of CO2 reduced. In total, attendees committed to 450 actions that reduced CO2 emissions by 700,000 pounds annually. Evaluators confirmed that this level of reduction was underway one year later.

The Berkshires and Agawam

In 2019, some of the CCF concepts and tools were used by the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation’s ener-G-save program staff to host events in the Berkshires and in Agawam. Several new methods were developed by these two communities that have been incorporated into this Playbook. The Berkshire Earth Expo highlighted the value of engaging private schools and volunteers from nearby non-profits and colleges. The Agawam Cooler Community Challenge demonstrated success in a moderate-income and more conservative community. Keys to success included inspirational leadership from the mayor and energy committee, the use of paid staff to register and follow-up with attendees, more in-depth participation by teachers and students, pro-active school leadership, and event management by two extraordinary retired teachers.


Both towns intend to host fairs again within the next year or two. In addition, seven new towns in the region have signed on to do the same in 2020. Here are the combined results across the three locations:
  • A total of 1,650 attendees
  • More than 1,000 actions pledged for a total of 1,200 tons of CO2 reduction and over $115,000 energy dollars saved annually
  • A total of 35 classroom exhibits
This Playbook was developed with funding from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.

The Carbon Saver

At Cooler Community events, participants can see the positive environmental impact of the actions they choose. And organizers can measure the impact of their event. This is accomplished using a carbon estimator. Originally implemented in a Google Sheets application by Brad Hubbard Nelson in Concord, the estimator has evolved to be web-based and has been renamed the Carbon Saver. Phase 1 of the web development was completed by staff from the digital team at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC). MAPC’s Technical Assistance Program funded this work under the leadership of Cameron Peterson, Director of Clean Energy. Phase 2 of the web development is being completed by MassEnergize under the supervision of Brad Hubbard Nelson.  Funding is provided by MassEnergize and ener-G-save. The Carbon Saver serves three main purposes:
  1. Educate – teaching students and residents about the environmental impact of their homes and actions they can take to save energy and money;
  2. Inspire – as actions are chosen by fair attendees, the power of community impact is tallied and displayed. This builds excitement and confidence for further action.
  3. Sustain – provide town/city Energy Committees, MassEnergize, ener-G-save and other community groups with data to help residents follow through on actions.