Oswego Mayor Thomas Gillen and Cortland Mayor Brian Tobin are taking part in a six-week energy reduction challenge, developed by the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board and NYSERDA.
Energy Challenge Coordinator Samuel Gordon says the idea is to reduce wasted energy.
"It's really not about competing against one another to reduce energy consumption," Gordon said. "We're really competing against ourselves, because about 30 percent of the energy that we use in our homes is wasted."
Gordon says much of that wasted energy is caused by phantom load, energy drawn from appliances even when they are turned off. Among the biggest culprits is the cable television box.
He says participants are asked to make small changes around the house to reduce energy consumption, like unplugging appliances and using compact fluorescent light bulbs.
"Most of us don't pay much attention to how much energy we use on a daily basis," Gordon said. "We get our bill once a month, we pay the bill, and we forget about it. So what we're really trying to do is educate people and give them the tools they need to help them reduce their monthly budget."
Tobin says the city of Cortland faces a unique energy challenge because a majority of its homes were built before 1960.
"There's some really nice old Victorian homes and they're very attractive," Tobin said. "But what they used to do regarding construction and insulation 100 years ago does not compare to what we can do nowadays. The opportunity for people to keep these lovely old homes, and do so in an energy efficient manner, I think is attractive to all."
In Oswego, Gillen is calling on his city department heads to participate and for the community to show its support.
"These are tough times, and energy costs keep going up," Gillen said. "People are starting to feel the pain. So this is a way of helping them save energy and save money."
The mayors also have an incentive for their city to perform well in the challenge. The mayor with the least amount of participation has to drive to the other mayor's city and pick up the tab for dinner. Both say although they'd like to win the challenge, the more important goal is to have people make more common sense decisions when using energy in their homes.
The cities are recruiting teams now. Gordon says the challenge will be completed around Thanksgiving, and results will be published soon after.