Nanaimo family tops first energy challenge

With their faces streaked with yellow paint, the Belbin family of Nanaimo entered the first head-to-head competition in the national Energy Diet Challenge’s first Urban Energy Challenge determined to best the other four families who had all flown to Calgary on the weekend.

With their faces streaked with yellow paint, the Belbin family of Nanaimo entered the first head-to-head competition in the national Energy Diet Challenge’s first Urban Energy Challenge determined to best the other four families who had all flown to Calgary on the weekend.

At the end of a long day, they came out on top, taking home $4,000 in energy-efficient kitchen appliances.

“We came to Calgary prepared to have fun, to compete and to reconnect with the other families,” said Alison, who, with her husband Grant, entered the family in the contest in the spring with the plan to introduce their three children, Drew, Kai and Mara, to the concept of reducing their energy use.

Sponsored by Shell Canada and Canadian Geographic, the competition puts six families from across Canada on a three-month journey not only to reduce their individual energy use, but to also spread the message that every family can have an impact by making some simple changes. The families are blogging and using social media to share their experiences.

On Saturday, the families faced multiple challenges in an Amazing Race meets The Apprentice style competition.

In the first, they travelled to Rona using only foot power and public transit where they had to survey two room mock-ups, a living room and a bathroom, and determine what energy-saving devices were missing and then find them in the store. Points were also awarded for finding additional products to reduce energy in each room.

In the timed event, the Belbins quickly scoured the store and brought the items back to the rooms.

“It was a madhouse trying to include all three kids in the foot race around the store,” said Alison. “But more than once our kids found an item before we did.”

The second part of the challenge was a quiz on energy-saving matters that tested the families’ knowledge of recycling, composting, transportation and household energy use.

After they were finished at Rona, the families moved to a shopping mall where they had an hour to sell a number of energy-saving devices, including LED bulbs, insulators, dual-flush converter units and even a composting toilet.

“All of the money we raised went to our chosen charity, the ChariTREE Foundation. We’re extremely proud of how much we were able to raise in one hour.”

At the end of the afternoon, the Belbins accumulated more points than the other families by a substantial margin.

“It was a lot of work and there were so many different components of this challenge,” said Alison, “But the kids were great and were a big part of our win. We also got to celebrate Kai’s eighth birthday in a way that she’ll remember for a long time because after they announced the winners, the MC had everyone at the mall sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to her.”

Next month, the families will travel to Toronto to take part in a second group challenge to see how far one family member can drive on one litre of gas.

The contest ends in December when the overall winning family will be announced.

For details of the contest and to vote for your favourite family, please go to


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