Wash clothes in cold water. Use reflective window covering. Get a low-flow shower head.
Those were some of the conservation tips suggested at a conference on helping poor families deal with the energy crisis. During the daylong workshop last week in Oxnard, energy providers and social service agencies from throughout California discussed cost-saving programs and brainstormed on how to raise public awareness.
The programs include discounts and rebates on energy-efficient appliances and weatherization services.
"Those will give us the biggest bang for the buck," said Tim Dayonot, director of the California Department of Community Services and Development.
Dayonot said a recent state bill has allotted his department $120 million to distribute throughout the state for energy conservation programs. "But even with the extra money, we are still only making a small dent," he said.
Southern California Edison also offers several conservation programs and discounted rates for low-income residents, according to Jack Parkhill, manager of low-income programs for the company.
Tona Luna, a 37-year-old single mother of four, attended the conference to get some ideas for herself and other low-income families in Ventura County. "There are a lot of us out there," said Luna, who goes to school and works part time. "We do what we can to make ends meet. We have to have light and gas. It's not a choice."
Luna sits on the board of the Commission on Human Concerns, which organized the seminar. The commission is an Oxnard-based nonprofit agency that helps provide food, medical assistance and legal services to poor people in Ventura County.
Commission Executive Director Lee Riggan said she sees community-based organizations as the conduits between the state and customers.
Pat Galliher, an outreach worker at the Salvation Army, said she appreciates all the programs but that she needs help administering them. "The policymakers and the front lines are miles apart," she said. "We are totally overwhelmed."