An organization that highlights African-American arts and culture in Iowa is launching a statewide initiative to conserve energy. Betty Andrews, executive director of I’ll Make Me a World in Iowa (IMMAWII), discussed the details of the “Empower Energy Conservation Challenge” at a gathering today in Des Moines.

“The project’s goal is to educate and mobilize Iowans, with particular emphasis on the African-American community, about simple changes and easy steps that will reduce energy consumption, improve energy efficiency and save money,” Andrews said. The effort is backed by MidAmerican Energy and funded through a state grant.

Andrews invites all Iowans to participate, but especially African-Americans. She says a recent study found a “disconnect” that’s preventing African-Americans from learning about ways to improve energy efficiency in their homes. The energy conservation challenge is designed to address that situation in Iowa. IMMAWII president Kevin Officer says the challenge will begin on October 1.

Participants will start by filling out an online survey about their energy consumption habits. They’ll then follow steps to reduce their energy consumption – such as installing fluorescent light bulbs, sealing air leaks in their homes and using a programmable thermostat.

“We hope, by this time next year when they take a follow up survey, we’ll be able to see people took the challenge and saved money,” Officer said. Part of the initiative will involve a large “Green House” exhibit at the I’ll Make Me a World in Iowa’s annual celebration day, scheduled for January 28, 2012 at the Polk County Convention Complex. The festival is expected to draw 20,000 people.