Cooper-Young still competing with Evergreen as the Smallest User

By Jim Brock

Okay, Cooper-Young. It’s our turn to shine. But keep those bright lights off when you’re not using them! This year our neighborhood is involved in the Smallest User competition with the Evergreen neighborhood. The purpose of this contest is to see which community can reduce its energy usage in 2010, and the benefits are two-fold: using less energy and allowing residents from both neighborhoods to spread their competitive wings.

According to a statement from the competition’s website, “We are monitoring the energy use of residents in each neighborhood in the hopes of reducing our city’s carbon footprint, helping residents save a few dollars and showing people how gratifying it can be to go green.” The competition, which is sponsored by a Strengthening Communities Grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, MLGW, the University of Memphis journalism department, the Cooper-Young Community Association and the Evergreen Historic District Association, will compare this year’s energy usage from both neighborhoods with the numbers from 2008.

While CY representatives involved with the program are happy to have strong community support, some feel there has been little emphasis on getting the word out about the competition. “It wasn’t promoted well the first half of the year,” said contest chairperson Debbie Sowell. “There was a University of Memphis journalism class doing research and working on a marketing plan for the competition but their findings were not presented to us until last month. I don’t think that most of the neighborhood knows that this is a competition. I think if Cooper-Young residents knew the numbers would be better.”

In hopes of better informing the neighborhood, the next CYCA meeting on Tuesday, July 13th, will be devoted almost entirely to the contest. Tom Chamberlin from MLGW will be there to report on the progress of the competition. He will also be there to explain some of MLGW’s programs that are available to CY residents to help them conserve energy. Lots of prizes will be given away as well as a host of simple, energy-saving tips for around the house. There might even be an appearance from the locally famous Zombie Boys (click here for a photo and article on the Zombie Boys).

For those interested in an update on the competition, Evergreen is in the lead. At the end of April, Evergreen had shaved 8.4 percent off of their energy usage compared to 2008, while CY had saved 1.5 percent. Evergreen households have saved an average of $70 on their energy bills while CY has saved $12, but the total percentage of savings determines the winner not the dollar amount.

As the old saying goes, however, “It ain’t over yet!” Sowell agrees, “We are very competitive in Midtown. I hate to lose and I know many of my neighbors feel the same. But if we can conserve even a small amount of energy and form better habits, we are all winners.”

After the contest ends on December 31st, the winning neighborhood will receive a small cash prize and an original piece of artwork created especially for the competition. Colin Kidder, the artist who has been commissioned for the work, has a unique design and concept in mind. Kidder will create a sculpture that will absorb the sun’s rays by day and glow at night. He is very excited to be working on this project, but since it is still unclear whether Cooper-Young or Evergreen will emerge victorious, Kidder is waiting to see if his design will need to be modified to fit the space before he begins his work.

The contest is limited to residences in both communities. Businesses are not included. For more information about the contest, including helpful tips to survive the summer months and ways to save on energy costs, visit or become a follower on the Smallest User Facebook page.


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