A Role for the Little Guy

“Kick the grocery bag habit, turn the thermostat down, change just one in four bulbs to CFLs, and drive smarter,” that’s my advice in a nutshell as I travel around the country talking to people about saving money and saving energy through the Make an Impact program. Now, a great new study by David Biello in this month’s Scientific American backs this message up: “33 simple actions—ranging from improving the insulation to carpooling—could cut those annual carbon emissions by 123 million metric tons. That savings would more than entirely offset emissions from petroleum refineries, iron and steel works, and aluminum smelters combined.” Those aren’t small numbers and could represent as much as 7 percent of our emissions.  There really is a role for the little guy in tackling the challenges of climate change.

For the last year we’ve been holding workshops and talking with communities about simple steps we can each take to save money, save energy, and save the planet along the way as part of The Make an Impact program (www.alcoa.com/makeanimpact or www.entergy.com/makeanimpact). Make an Impact is an education and action partnership between the Center and two thought-leader companies, Alcoa and Entergy.  The program’s cornerstone is a website that anyone can visit, filled with non-biased, science based tools and information about reducing personal energy consumption. Those who try its carbon calculator will even get customized tips for improving their energy use choices.  Originally designed to help employees, the website, tools and workshops have grown to include communities where partners have operations and their customers.

What we have learned consistently is that people are ready, willing and able to make changes especially when they can save some money along the way. But they need good, locally-focused information because we aren’t all going to change in the same ways.  Folks in Beaumont, Texas and Mount Holly, South Carolina can’t easily hop on a bus or subway, but they can be a lot smarter about how they drive, when they drive, which car they take and how many trips they make.  Knowing where to take recycling if you can’t get it curbside, or who offers energy audits in your community makes it easier to make better choices.  

We can all replace burned-out bulbs with CFLs
(start with the hallway, exterior and garage lighting).

   Henk Van Der Meyden and daughter, Mt Holly, SC


We can all give up those plastic grocery bags that waste 12 million barrels of oil a year.

 Family of Andy Duncan, Mt Holly, SC

We can all look for a carpool for at least one trip per week.



We can all solve the climate change problem,
one thermostat degree at a time.


Jenny Denney is Program Manager for the Make an Impact program.