Action Exhibits & Events

Action Exhibits focus on areas with high potential to reduce carbon pollution
Volunteers welcome guests and help them Check In and Out so their actions are recorded
Eye-catching signage shows the potential impact of community action

Key Concepts

Action Exhibits are focused, as much as possible, on areas shown as having the greatest potential to reduce energy use and cost for families. Action Exhibits are the core of the Fair and the focus of the Cooler Communities Website and Student Exhibits. Action Exhibits are where action choices are made and captured in customized pledge forms.These forms are created in collaboration between teachers and town representatives and should reflect some the town’s carbon climate goals as well as the students’ interests.

The purpose of every Action Exhibit is to help everyone who visits to understand and choose one or more actions. What’s in an Action Exhibit?

  1. A few short and simple handouts that tell why and how to take action
  2. Images, artwork or displays that please the eye and inspire action
  3. Signs that show the potential positive impact of actions by individuals and the community
  4. Local experts who are role models and resources for community members
  5. Vendors who provide services to support action
  6. An easy way for people to commit to actions (e.g., sign-up sheets or pledge forms)

The key is clean, easy, simple, helpful, positive, fun and, of course, compelling action!

Which Action Exhibits should you offer in your community? Sample exhibit materials have been provided below for ten key carbon-saving areas. You may decide to offer some or all of these exhibits at your Fair.  Students and teachers might want to offer additional actions. The more you offer, the more your community can attract a broad audience and reduce energy use in a one-stop-shopping experience. But you’ll want to offer only the exhibits that you believe you can deliver well and that meet the needs of your community. 

The 5 areas with the biggest carbon-saving potential include Transportation, Home Heating and Cooling, Water Heating, LED Lighting and Eat Less Meat. Solar Power on homes or in community solar farms is also very “powerful”, replacing dirty fossil-fuel energy with clean energy from the sun!

Although it can be a challenge to get people to change their energy habits, success is more likely if you use the concepts of Community-Based Social Marketing (CBSM). Developed by Douglas McKenzie-Mohr and Associates, Inc., CBSM is a proven strategy for changing behavior. The exhibit templates were designed with these CBSM concepts in mind.

  • Benefits and Barriers: It’s important to promote the benefits of and reduce the barriers to a desired behavior. For each of the desired actions, we identified benefits, analyzed barriers, and reduced the barriers to the extent possible (e.g., $ rebate to reduce the cost of insulating a home).
  • Social Norms/Role Models: The biggest influence on human behavior is what other respected people in our peer group are doing. We suggest that you staff your exhibits with people who have already taken action so they can be a resource and role model for others. And feel free to tell the community about the people who have already taken action (e.g., 50 homeowners have already gone solar) to create that compelling “I need to go solar too!” feeling.
  • Public Commitment:  Research also shows that people who make commitments in public are more likely to follow through on them.

BEST PRACTICE:  In Concord, we captured all committed actions and displayed the results in real-time publicly (without identifying names) during the Fair. During the checkout process, children were encouraged to add paper trees to a landscape to further support family commitment to follow through on actions.

Suggested Steps

The Fair Leadership Team organizes and leads all activity on the day of the fair. 

Slides from Transportation Exhibit, Cooler Concord

Transportation Exhibit Captain, Cooler Concord

Role of Action Exhibit “Captains”

Action Exhibit Captains play a key role in maximizing the success of the fair. Ideally, there is one captain or two co-captains for each Action Exhibit. Action Exhibit Captains perform the following:

  • Review and adapt existing Cooler Communities exhibit materials (e.g., signage, one-pagers).
  • Assemble other relevant materials and create new materials as needed. Simplify all handouts.
  • Identify state or local rebates for key actions and ensure that this information is available on the one-pager.
  • Create fun ways to inspire people at the exhibit (e.g., seed packets for meadows, electric bikes for riding).
  • Determine exhibit layout and equipment needs (e.g., tables, laptop, electrical outlet).
  • Choose a highly-qualified vendor who can staff the exhibit, communicate well and follow up on all leads. The vendor should have good references, and ideally, local experience.
  • Identify, gather and train friendly “neighborhood experts” who can staff the exhibit and answer questions based on their experience.
  • Manage the Exhibit on the day of the Fair to help maximize attendee commitments to action.
  • Attend a post-Fair review session to make recommendations on Fair followup and future community programs.
Banner from heating exhibit

Banner from Home Heating and Cooling Exhibit

BEST PRACTICE: Everyday life is complicated for community members, especially parents of school-aged children. Our goal was to make it super-easy for fairgoers to take action. To avoid visual “noise” and complexity, we built exhibits with consistent elements that were simple, clear and visually pleasing.


HUGE TIME SAVER: Cooler Community Exhibit Materials to Adapt

We recommend that you review and adapt the following materials to meet your needs and the needs of your community.

Key Actions – Each exhibit focuses on key actions that will help residents reduce their energy use. These actions appear on the pledge form. 
One-pagers provide an overall description, key recommended actions, applicable rebates, relevant key statistics, FAQs and responses, and additional resources for further info. Provided here are the print files as well as the website content that is a simplified and summarized version of the print materials. Feel free to use what works best for your community.Ways to save
Banners – A large, appealing sign will draw attention to your exhibit. Choose a title and tagline that is positive and evokes “can do” feelings in Fair attendees.Banners
A few key messages that you believe will convey the potential for action and inspire people.Key Messages by Exhibit
A clear event map from the Berkshires

A clear event map from the Berkshires

The following logistical components are key to making your event go smoothly:

  • Identify the location.
  • Communicate with the facility owner.
  • Exhibit floor plan – Pair student exhibits with the corresponding exhibit for adults to inspire both groups.BEST PRACTICE
  • Facility regulations – there may be rules, such as restricting tape on the walls, parking restrictions, or having a police officer at all large events. Explore these early on so you have time to plan accordingly.
  • Booth design – decide on the size of each booth, and any standard materials you want in each exhibit.
  • Attendee routing –Checking in and checking out are critical to capture the pledge visitors make. So be sure that guests are directed past these stations. BEST PRACTICE
Enticing Vegan Snacks

Enticing Vegan Snacks

  • Food – the fair offers a great opportunity to expose people to delicious vegan and vegetarian snacks and light meals.

“In Agawam and the Berkshires, the fairs were held at meal time. Local vendors sold healthy meals, and a nearby culinary school provided vegan desserts. This was both convenient for families and offered the chance to see how yummy vegetarian/vegan food is. Plus, we raised money to offer a $2 discount for food purchases, which was a nice perk for attendees.”

Team Leader

  • Announcements/noise level – the crowds will be noisy, so plan on having a microphone and a loudspeaker at your event.
  • Equipment – Plan ahead to determine who needs what equipment and what you can borrow vs rent.
  • Signage – plan for signs that recognize sponsors, provide directions, and announce event times and locations.
  • Sponsor recognition – Acknowledge sponsors on both the program brochure and on a prominently displayed poster.
  • Event map and program – This helps ensure that guests know the full range of offerings at your event.
  • Schedule for setting up and taking down exhibits.
Tem Blessed, talented Climate Rapper featured in Agawam.

Tem Blessed, talented Climate Rapper featured in Agawam.

Some residents may be more inclined to attend the fair if it includes in-depth workshops on topics of interest, such as climate change and health, heat pumps, local legislative issues, and sustainable landscaping. Expert speakers can also be a draw. In addition, entertainment, such as poetry slams and musical performances, can increase attendance. And some communities may want to invite political organizations and/or invite students to make presentations.

To decide whether or not to include these types of features. You will need to revisit the definition of success, which is to persuade households to reduce their carbon emissions. Will these events attract more members of your desired audience? Will they distract people from the real focus of this event, or increase their likelihood of energy-saving action?

BEST PRACTICE If you do decide to include additional workshops or presentations, they need to take place in a separate room because of the noise level in the exhibit areas. Set up your space so that participants move through the Action Exhibits before and after other events. This helps ensure that fair-goers focus on saving energy above all else.

Kids (Wild things) crawl through tunnels to get to activities like building wind turbines

Kids (Wild things) crawl through tunnels to get to activities like building wind turbines

Attract children to your fair, and their parents will follow. Arrange activities for children in spaces that are connected or near the main exhibit areas so that parents can safely drop off their kids, easily check on them, and still have time to focus on the fair. Children aged 11 and up can be recruited to volunteer, and can help take care of younger children.

High energy games in the gym are a hit for kids that like to run around. And arts and crafts activities are loved by many children.

Organizations that can help with children’s activities include the recreation department, as well as nearby colleges, art centers, and interested community members.

“I continue to use several of the ideas/games/wonderings in our Sunday School. Thanks for involving me in this important event! And for giving me the freedom to be creative.”

– Arts Educator and Creator of Wild Things Exhibit


Attractive sandwich board at the entrance and exit reminds guests to complete their Estimator form

Attractive sandwich board at the entrance and exit reminds guests to complete their Estimator form

At the check-in/registration table, the Carbon Points Saver (formerly called Carbon Tracker)  is distributed and explained. It is important that these Carbon Savers are collected before guests leave the event.

The Harold Grinspoon Foundation donated $5 to local charity Berkshire Children and Families for each carbon tracker returned . This was an attempt to get attendees to complete the tracker.

Keys to a successful check-in process

Carbon Saver Training Outline

Town leaders welcome guests and steer them to the registration table

Town leaders welcome guests and steer them to the registration table

Volunteer from Climate Action Group, Mothers Out Front

Volunteer from Climate Action Group, Mothers Out Front

Make sure that everyone working at the fair is clear about their role. This is essential to achieving a focused and successful event. Written instructions and scripts are recommended, as well as practice sessions for those responsible for registration and collection of the Carbon Savers at the check-out station.

This document spells out the essential roles that you’ll need people for including greeters, action exhibit hosts, children’s activities, check in-check out and others.. Environmental organizations, the schools, and the town are often willing to help. And don’t forget middle school and high school students, who can receive community service credits.

High School Students trained to help out at exhibits

High School Students trained to help out at exhibits

Fair Volunteer Descriptions