Read blog postings from Environmental Protection Agency staff traveling with the bus and view photos taken along the way!
Hello from California! The ENERGY STAR Change a Light Bus is currently cruising up toward San Francisco after our launch event outside of Disneyland Resort today. Our team is fired up after our 1st day on the road, now that the tour we've been planning for so many months has been set into motion. The event today went well overall. EPA Administrator Johnson paid the inaugural visit to our bus' Education Center, together with a large group of local elementary school students who were eager to jump on the center's Energy Comparison Bike to see if they could pedal hard enough to turn on the incandescent or ENERGY STAR light bulbs — definitely the most popular part of our center this morning. They couldn't believe how hard they had to pedal to get the 2 incandescent lights to get bright; none of them could do it! The kids were also interested in spinning the light wheel at our "How to Choose ENERGY STAR lighting" game, where the Administrator would point out on a chart the places in their home where they could use the type of CFL that the wheel stopped on.
The Walt Disney Company and Sylvania, our local event sponsors, also welcomed us with a fun event for the school kids and park guests passing by, and Sylvania generously handed out certificates toward free ENERGY STAR qualified light bulbs after visitors to the education center took the Change a Light pledge. It was great to see people making a public commitment, not only to save energy, but also to help save the environment with a simple step. The highlight of the event for the kids was, of course, when Mickey and Minnie Mouse appeared and showed us all just how easy it is to "change a light."
I'd say our biggest challenge today was getting park guests who were preparing to hop on the Tram into Disneyland, to stop and take a few moments to walk through our Center. Perhaps, though, this is a metaphor for our difficult task here with the tour and our task in our jobs everyday working to protect our planet�figuring out how to "interrupt" people — busy in their daily lives — and inspire them to act now to reduce their carbon footprint!
Well, our team is up for the challenge, and believe this tour will be an impetus for many thousands of Americans to, as a good starting place, switch to energy-efficient lighting. More updates to come...wish us luck tomorrow in San Francisco!
Hello from just outside San Francisco! We packed up our traveling Education Center about 2 hours ago and loaded it onto the bus after a half-day event at Safeway with ENERGY STAR utility partner PG&E in downtown San Francisco. Our time went quickly between the mid-day press event and Safeway shoppers stopping by. The draw for most people today seemed to be the Change a Light pledge and the free ENERGY STAR light bulbs PG&E was giving away to those who took it. PG&E aims to give away 1 million ENERGY STAR light bulbs by the end of October, at more than 300 events! And, they are providing CFL recycling bins as they do their promotions to help people 'change a light and then dispose it right' (my newly crafted slogan, not a PG&E one!).
We also received a warm welcome from several local TV stations who, like the families from yesterday's event, seemed especially drawn to the Energy Comparison Bike that Efficiency Vermont provided us for the tour. It seemed perplexing and (dare I say it?) enlightening for people when they had to pedal so hard to make the 2 incandescent light bulbs reach full brightness, especially if they had started first with the ENERGY STAR CFLs which are so much easier to light up. One highlight today was when we witnessed an Education Center visitor who was able to get the 2 incandescent light bulbs up to their full 120 volts — the 1st since the tour started.
Similar to yesterday, our #1 challenge was compelling people to stop in their tracks — in this case, before or after they were grocery shopping — and visit our Education Center. However, we were impressed with the people who did stop by, and found many of them already knew of or used CFLs in their homes. For these people, it seemed really helpful to introduce them to the variety of CFLs out there today; many were using only the simple spiral bulbs at home and didn't know there were specialty CFLs out there now.
One particularly moving moment for me was when a boy of about 11 hopped on the energy bike and a media cameraman captured him pedaling it. The cameraman asked him what he knew about CFLs, and one of the first things he said was, "They help fight global warming."
Back to the media event: We had a full line-up of speakers — representatives from PG&E, Safeway, Lights Out San Francisco, the local Chamber of Commerce, the City of San Francisco, and me. Most inspiring for me personally was the strong emphasis in everyone's talking points on the environmental purpose driving our effort and their parallel local efforts. After starting the ENERGY STAR Change a Light, Change the World Campaign nearly 8 years ago, I learned quickly how important it was to emphasize how much money and time individuals can save by switching to ENERGY STAR lighting, whether speaking with consumers or the media. I'd have to "sneak" in a tidbit here and there about preventing greenhouse gas emissions when we use energy efficiently, almost as an afterthought. Today, it's still important of course to highlight individual benefits of using energy-efficient products but, but I'm finding that consumers and media alike are asking many more questions about the environmental benefits and really want to do the 'right thing' to protect our climate.
In fact, a number of people thanked members of our team today for being there, helping people see what they can do personally to help fight global warming. It's rewarding to hear this of course, and we're looking forward to seeing how it goes in Colorado.
A former Coloradan myself, I knew we could count on the people we encountered in Denver to be open and friendly, and we weren't disappointed. Throngs of Colorado sports fans went by our bus and education center today as they entered the stadiums for the Broncos football and Avalanche hockey games. With the outcome of the Broncos game, we were thankful that we saw everyone before the game and not after.
Because of the crowds, our goal today was to simply stop people long enough to remind them to save energy at home and look for the ENERGY STAR label. We handed out thousands of 'reminders' in the form of an ENERGY STAR refrigerator magnet or LED nightlight (nightlights courtesy of local event sponsor Xcel Energy). Perhaps it comes as no surprise that this happened in Colorado, but a good number of people yelled out as they went by that they're already trying to save energy at home or that they already have ENERGY STAR qualified products in their home. I talked briefly with one young guy who had switched to all CFLs in his home and later, when he moved, took every last one of them with him!
We estimate that between our ENERGY STAR and Xcel Energy teams, we interacted directly with about 4,000 people. We hope that, even if much of this interaction was brief, our cries to save energy will be remembered long after the games ended yesterday and prompt many Colorado families to look to ENERGY STAR for more ways to use energy efficiently in their daily lives.
A special thank you to Xcel Energy for going the distance to welcome the bus to Denver with not one, but two, excellent high-traffic events!
After yesterday's almost manic tenor, today was a refreshing walk in the, uh, park...ing lot. The bus and our team of 5 spent the day in the parking lot in front of a brand new JCPenney store, located on the old Stapleton Airport grounds (it's now a planned community). Point of interest: every single home built in this community has been built to be ENERGY STAR qualified!
Today's event was fun and professionally satisfying for all of us. JCPenney, the national sponsor of our traveling Education Center, arranged for a local radio station to come out for a live radio feed and invited people via the airwaves to come and visit our national bus. Manufacturer Sylvania together with JCPenney provided 2 free ENERGY STAR qualified bulbs to everyone who took the Change a Light Pledge. The radio station's music in the background gave the event a festival atmosphere, and seemed to encourage people to visit and linger at our center.
We were amazed by the depth of questions people posed to our team today. That's where it seemed so useful that we were there today, personally, to talk with people. Most of those we talked to didn't know how many new kinds of CFLs are available today and that there are now a growing number of recycling options for CFLs, too. Many had been 'early adopters' and had tried the spiral-shaped CFLs over the years, either with great success or with some disappointment. The disappointment invariably seemed to stem from issues from the past (thankfully!), such as the old CFLs being too big, too ugly color-wise, not good for recessed fixtures, and not good on dimmers or in 3-way fixtures. It was a relief to be able to share with them that the market has finally changed. We were thanked again and again today by people who said they'd learned a lot and were really glad they'd taken the time to stop by.
One highlight today was meeting a woman who lives in a high rise building with 200 units. She has personally tried to get every family in the building to change their lights by writing about it in her community newsletter and even offering to go out and buy the CFLs for them. She was excited to learn more about ENERGY STAR and CFLs today and felt she left with more fodder to make some good change happen in her community. I wish we had more people like that out there!
Tomorrow is our 1st EPA-hosted media event, and my last day on the tour until I meet up with the bus again in Boston. My EPA colleague extraordinaire, Hewan, will be picking up from here through New Jersey and making things happen across the Midwest, South, and Mid-Atlantic (thank you, Hewan!).
Hello from the road! Today was my first day on the ENERGY STAR Change a Light bus tour, picking up the baton from Wendy Reed. I am looking forward to the trip across country!
This morning we held the first EPA-sponsored media event of the tour at Shadow Ridge Middle School in Thornton CO, just outside the Denver city limits. The district superintendent and state leadership were in attendance, along with regional HUD and EPA representatives. The students (including members of the National Junior Honor Society) toured the ENERGY STAR Education Center. Wendy, on behalf of EPA, presented about twenty five members of the school's GTECH club with ENERGY STAR Environmental Leadership awards for their outstanding commitment and leadership in promoting energy efficiency and fighting global climate change. Their principal Susie Wickham, and teacher Jon Moore were recognized as well. Representatives from local press and Univision were there to cover the event.
We heard a compelling story of what the students at Shadow Ridge Middle School have been doing to promote energy efficiency and fight global warming — starting with getting people to sign the ENERGY STAR Change a Light Pledge. As of late yesterday afternoon, the students had gotten 272 people to take the pledge, delivering energy bill savings of about $100,000 and a reduction of 1.5 million pounds in greenhouse gases!
The students haven't stopped at the pledge: they do energy patrols every day after school turning off lights and appliances that are not in use. When the students first started this campaign, they had to turn off 34 lights in the nearly 150 rooms in their school. After only a month, they've found that their message about conservation is catching on: after their last patrol, they only had to turn off seven lights. Imagine if we all followed their lead, and did energy patrols in our homes!
The school district itself is an ENERGY STAR partner, so they are "walking the talk" by committing to improving the energy efficiency of their school buildings. One way they are doing this is by using ENERGY STAR's online tools to track and measure the energy efficiency of their buildings.
I was struck by the critical thinking and open minds these students displayed. I met a girl who told me that her father had installed CFLs in his basement 2 years ago and they did not like the quality of the light. She was very clearly disappointed by the experience and not sure what to do next. I looked for her a while later after she and her class had walked through the education center and asked her how she felt now? Ready to give the new ENERGY STAR bulbs another try? Absolutely! She was excited to try again, now that she knew more about the different designs and where to use them, and what the energy and environmental benefits were of switching to ENERGY STAR qualified lighting. She was going to look for the ENERGY STAR and give it a whirl again.
Before the event was through, the GTECH club members asked if they could use the ENERGY STAR laptops in the Education Center to see how they were doing against their pledge goal. They were excited to see that their efforts have already paid off: Shadow Ridge is already at 28% of goal, just since October 3rd!
We stay overnight in Omaha, NE and then leave bright and early tomorrow morning for Des Moines, IA. We will be visiting local event sponsors MidAmerican Energy Company and Hy-Vee at Gateway Park. If you are a local of the area, come out and visit. And stay tuned for more news from the road!
Hello from the road!
Today the ENERGY STAR Change a Light bus visited downtown Des Moines as a guest of our local event sponsor MidAmerican Energy Company. MidAmerican partnered with Hy-Vee, the city of Des Moines, and the State of Iowa to put on an energy education event featuring a bulb sale for MidAmerican customers and the ENERGY STAR Change a Light Bus and Education Center.
The Mayor of Des Moines opened the event, accompanied by executives from MidAmerican and Hy-Vee, EPA's Regional Administrator for Region 7, and the head of the Iowa's Office of Energy Independence.
Unfortunately, it was a cold and very windy day and we did not have as many visitors as we all had hoped for due to the weather. But less is often more, as they say: some very interesting and inspiring people braved the elements to visit with us, share their stories, and learn more about ENERGY STAR and how through ENERGY STAR they could make an impact on the fight against global warming.
One such visitor was a carpenter who was so full of optimism and energy it was contagious. He reported to our team that he had changed out most of the lights in his house to ENERGY STAR already, but after touring the Education Center, was moved to pledge to change even more of his lights to ENERGY STAR, enthusiastically supporting the efforts of ENERGY STAR and its partners. He was particularly supportive of the staff and volunteers involved with today's event.
Another visitor was inspired to learn more about ENERGY STAR so he could talk with his congregation about how they could join the large and growing community of individuals who are fighting global warming through simple steps to make their homes and workplaces more energy efficient. We are looking forward to hearing more about his efforts.
Tonight and tomorrow we travel to Chicago, and on Friday morning we will hold the 2nd EPA-sponsored media event of the tour. On Saturday, we will be at Chicago's Navy Pier to participate in the Hallowgreen event, sponsored by the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, GE, and the State of Illinois. Stay tuned for more news from the road as we make our way East!
Hello from the road!
Today the ENERGY STAR Change a Light bus visited NBC at their downtown Chicago office, where it, along with the ever-popular Energy Comparison Bike, was taped for a segment on the morning news.
From there we went to Waters Elementary School for what turned out to be an incredibly inspirational day. Titia Brands-Kipp, the Principal of the school opened the event with her colleague Pete Leki, the ecology teacher who was pivotal in organizing this event in coordination with EPA Region 7. Representatives of the City of Chicago's school system, EPA's Region 7, the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, the local alderman, and last but not least, Motor Coach Industries, who supplied the ENERGY STAR Change a Light bus, driver, and fuel for the tour. To capture the day, Fox News sent a cameraman to join us as well — did the kids ever love to see him!
We talked to the entire school about energy efficiency and the important they are playing helping fight against global warming. EPA presented ENERGY STAR Environmental Leadership awards to teachers for their creativity and commitment to teaching about energy efficiency and the environment. As part of this ceremony, Pete Leki read excerpts from the students' fabulous essays on energy efficiency and protecting the environment, and we were treated to several songs, including "This Little Light of Mine" replete with modified lyrics about ENERGY STAR CFLs, costumes, and lighting props. Waters is a true example of a community of individuals "talking the talk" and "walking the walk!"
I came away with a sense that these students' environmental education is woven into every activity they undertake. A long, low building on one end of the schoolyard is painted from top to bottom in murals, and you can see the children's organic vegetable and flower gardens spilling out from behind. There are more gardens on the other side of the yard, with playground equipment just in front of them. The school building itself is undergoing improvements as tight municipal budgets allow, and the lighting is one of the first measures to be addressed. The kids are involved, too: they have been empowered to remind their teachers to turn off lights when not in use, wrote essays about ENERGY STAR and protecting the environment, and have been engaged in an ENERGY STAR Change a Light pledge contest. They set a goal of 200 pledges, and by this afternoon they'd exceeded that goal by over 40 pledges. After nine days on the road, our team was fully reenergized by the time we spent with Waters Elementary!
If you're in Chicago this weekend, come down tomorrow to the Navy Pier and visit us at the Hallowgreen event, sponsored by the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, GE, and the State of Illinois. And stay tuned for more updates!
Hello from the road!
The ENERGY STAR Change a Light bus spent the day today at the Navy Pier, located on Lake Michigan in downtown Chicago. We were there courtesy of local sponsors GE, the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, and the State of Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
It was quite an experience! The event was called Hallowgreen and thanks to the phenomenal work of our local sponsors a great number of people came out to see the displays. The ENERGY STAR Change a Light Bus and Education Center were set up on one side of the main walkway of the park, with the GE/MEEA/IL DCEO Hallowgreen tent set up opposite it, so we could catch people entering and leaving the Navy Pier. It was a spectacular setting — the beautiful skyline of Chicago served as a backdrop for our interlocking displays, with fountains and gardens flanking, and the Navy Pier straight ahead looking out onto Lake Michigan.
Five hundred people joined the ENERGY STAR community by pledging to Change a Light through GE's Hallowgreen site, and were able to take that first step immediately by receiving a free ENERGY STAR bulb on-site. We estimate that members of the ENERGY STAR team spoke with over 3,000 people as they walked through the exhibit. Some people walking by recognized the Energy Comparison Bike from this morning's local news!
One of the exciting things about today was that people from many walks of life came out for the event. Today, ENERGY STAR personally touched children, parents, and grandparents. We spoke to people from many countries and backgrounds, and the messages about saving money, saving energy, and fighting global warming resonated throughout the day. This event gave us a strong sense of what individuals can do with small actions taken collectively.
I write this as we drive south to Indianapolis for our Sunday event at the Indianapolis Zoo. We're looking forward to it. Stay posted for more news from the road!
Hello from the road!
The ENERGY STAR Change a Light Bus spent most of today at the Indianapolis Zoo. Indianapolis Power & Light, Wabash Valley Power Authority, and the Indiana Office of Energy and Defense hosted ENERGY STAR at their event today. Representatives of the City of Indianapolis' Department of Public Works were on hand as well.
The event was a success: Indianapolis Power & Light gathered 1,000 pledges in return for the entire stock of ENERGY STAR bulbs that they had brought to give away in return, and we estimate that we talked with around 3,000 people over the course of the day. Two TV stations visited the event, and I had the opportunity to do a live radio interview as well.
It was a beautiful fall day, and the local sponsors brought popcorn and mulled cider, which, along with the ENERGY STAR bulb giveaway, drew in the crowd. But the star of today's consumer event was the ENERGY STAR "Where to Use" wheel and display, which had a constant stream of kids and their parents. As we have experienced at our other events, many people told us they had already changed out their lights to ENERGY STAR, and were excited to see the broad range of bulbs that now carry the ENERGY STAR mark. And in Indianapolis, as in the other cities where we have stopped, the message about protecting the environment through reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions rang loud and clear. It was wonderful to see on the ground how people in the Indianapolis community were thinking about ways to adapt the ENERGY STAR message their local needs. One example of this is the Indianapolis Zoo itself, which is always looking for ways to further connect with their community schools, non-governmental organizations, and other environmental advocates to make their contribution to the fight against global warming as effective as possible.
In addition to talking with the families visiting the Zoo today, we got to meet a beautiful yellow and green parrot named Ozark who had a good deal to say (and sing about) on a variety of topics. We learned that the Indianapolis Zoo is the only zoo in the nation currently recognized as a zoo, an aquarium, and a botanical garden all in one location!
We are now headed toward Atlanta, GA, for the third EPA-sponsored media event of the tour at Durham Middle School, and then we head to the consumer event hosted by Georgia Power, the Home Depot, and TCP at the NFL Monday Night Football Game at the Georgia Dome.
Stay posted for more news from the road!
Hello from the road!
The ENERGY STAR Change a Light Bus had a very busy day today! We started early with a morning visit to Durham Middle School, the third EPA-sponsored media event of the tour.
Led by Principal Georganne Young, Durham Middle School held an internal ENERGY STAR Change a Light pledge competition among the grades — as I write, they are at 202% of goal, securing over 2,000 pledges to Change almost 6,000 bulbs to ENERGY STAR! They are currently ranked at 3rd place in the nation for pledges, and 1st in their category in the entire country!! These kids are fantastic, and they have set a great example for all of us to follow.
About 250 students came through the ENERGY STAR Education Center, and EPA's Administrator for Region 4 presented awards to the pledge drive, essay, and art contest winners. Free ENERGY STAR CFLs were supplied to teachers and students for the ENERGY STAR pledge drive by TCP and Georgia Power, who were at the event along with representatives from the Home Depot. Several regional representatives from EPA and HUD participated, as well as local leaders from the school district and the local community. The local Fox affiliate was there to capture the event and interview the Administrator.
Then it was on to the Georgia Dome for the Monday Night Football Game consumer event hosted by Georgia Power, the Home Depot, and TCP. Centered immediately in front of the Georgia Dome, the Change a Light bus served as a backdrop for the Education Center, which sat in the midst of the pre-game exhibits, with banners flying in the breeze and music coming from every direction! Our local hosts joined the EPA and DOE and our ENERGY STAR Change a Light team to distribute educational information and coupons for ENERGY STAR qualified n:vision CFLs as people walked into the Dome.
As the sun set and game time drew near, we were engulfed in a sea of people. As with past games, we often had just enough time to pass out reminders about ENERGY STAR (magnets and tattoos) and coupons. When someone slowed down, we would jog along beside them as they walked along our green footsteps, and tell them about the links between energy efficiency, ENERGY STAR, and the contributions they could make in the fight against global warming by taking simple steps like changing to ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs. Many people told us they already had made the switch!
One of the many highlights of the evening was the Altanta Falcons' mascot, Freddie the Falcon, who jumped on the Energy Comparison bike, and after vigorously powering the incandescent bulbs threw himself down on the grass to catch his breath! And, although we were not inside to see it, our hosts delivered a promotional segment to run inside on the Jumbotron welcoming the bus to Atlanta, Georgia.
The team estimates that around 70,000 people in the stadium and many more watching at home will learn about ENERGY STAR through this event.
The ENERGY STAR Change a Light Bus will be driving North for the next 2 days en route to Maplewood New Jersey for an event sponsored by the New Jersey Clean Energy Program on October 18th.
Wendy Reed is coming back to the bus for the final leg of the tour, so I am handing the pen back to her — stay tuned for more updates from the road from Wendy!
Hewan has passed the baton back to me (thank you for everything, Hewan!), and I'm on the road again for our last week of the tour. It's great to rejoin the tour team and get back out here, connecting with new people and with our ENERGY STAR event partners.
We arrived before sunrise today at the Maplewood Train Station in New Jersey to set up for our first and only small town event of the tour. We were there to meet the morning rush and had some great interactions with people as they waited to catch their trains in to work.
Once rush hour ended, we were visited by several elementary school classes, whom we led through the center, asking them loads of questions about how they're already saving energy at home, and gauging their understanding of the connection between energy use and our climate. The students seemed really engaged and offered up a lot of their own ideas about ways to save energy at home, and reasons why it's so important. Once again, being in the presence of kids who truly seem to 'get it' lifted the spirits of our team...if only it was so easy to get adults on board!
After the students left, our gracious local event sponsor the New Jersey Clean Energy Program (NJCEP) conducted a press event. Jeanne Fox, the President of the NJ Board of Public Utilities, under which NJCEP falls, introduced a series of speakers and made a few announcements of her own. There was a nice round of applause when she proudly declared that her program had met their ambitious year-end Change a Light pledge goal today, 2 months early! The program had set a goal to encourage Jersey residents to pledge to collectively change at least 20,000 lights across the state. As of today, the New Jersey Clean Energy Program is among the Top 5 organizations leading the pledge in the country — an impressive feat considering that there are now more than 850 organizations involved!
The other speakers today included Maplewood's Mayor Fred Profeta, a representative from the Governor's office, our EPA Regional Administrator Alan Steinberg, and me. I found myself inspired in particular by the Mayor's words. He spoke about how imperative it is that every one of us take actions to help stave off global warming...about the need to do everything in our power to avoid leaving our children and our children's children with a disaster on their hands. He shared with us just one small example of how he knows that global warming is already happening in Maplewood — how he'd been able to ice skate in the town as a kid when water the town would pour into a natural local depression in the ground would freeze over during the winter. He said there hasn't been ice-skating there for several years now, as the water will no longer freeze. I can't do his words justice here, but it was clear that the Mayor and his town of Maplewood is doing everything it can to be part of the solution to this global challenge. In fact, their town was just given the 2007 Climate Champion Award by regional group "Clean Air — Cool Planet."
We were impressed by not only the Mayor of Maplewood but also by the people who came by. It turns out that the town is a bastion of social cause do-gooders — the adults and the kids, too. I met 3 young ladies, no more than 12 years old, who were founders of a group called the Youth Social Action Club. Among a variety of other social activities such as raising money to support Darfur, they have been selling CFLs to their neighbors and giving a portion of the profits to an environmental non-profit organization while also raising money for their school.
The five of us who make up the national team supporting the last series of events are now on the road to Boston. It's nearing 8:00 p.m., and no sign of Boston yet! We're really looking forward to our 2 events in the city, the 1st of which — the media event — will take place tomorrow night at Old North Church where Paul Revere first "saw the light" and will see it once again in a NEW light.
I've never been into the concept of historical re-enactments until today when I was able to witness the Freedom Trail Foundation's "Paul Revere" receive a new signal via lights from where he was standing at Boston's Navy Shipyard this evening. Against the sound of cannons booming from the USS Constitution, the Old North Church's steeple was suddenly alight from within — not with candles this time, but with Osram Sylvania's ENERGY STAR CFLs. Mr. Revere, famous for warning that the British were coming after he saw the lighted signal from the steeple, helped herald in a different kind of revolution today, 200 years later — a revolution in how Americans use energy. All of us standing there were amazed at how brightly the CFLs shone from the steeple, as it was raining and we were standing on the other side of the wide Charles River!
The intent of this media event was to welcome the ENERGY STAR Change a Light Bus to Boston in a way that illustrates the need for change — almost literally for a revolution in how we use energy — if we are to do what it takes to fight global warming. While a wholly different kind of fight from 200 years ago, it will take that level of unity and determination to overcome it.
I was really inspired by the whole experience tonight. It made me realize that we need more "Paul Reveres" out there...people calling out to their neighbors, to the companies they work for, to any whom they can get to listen, that it's time to "take arms" against global warming, and to act today as if we truly were under attack!
The event tonight and the one for tomorrow were put together by a variety of organizations, groups that hadn't all worked together before but who are all connected to this issue in some way (who isn't?!). This collaboration well-illustrates what it's going to take for us to overcome our climate challenge...every organization — every individual — understanding that they're connected to our climate and acting as part of the solution to protecting it.
Here are the organizations we have to thank for making our Boston events possible (in no priority order): The National Park Service, Freedom Trail Foundation, City of Boston, National Grid, NStar, Osram Sylvania, the sponsors of myenergystar.com, EPA Region 1 Office, the US Postal Service, EPA Headquarters Office of Solid Waste, and (of course!) our own ENERGY STAR teams from EPA and DOE.
Tomorrow's event promises to be a great follow-on to tonight's event. Osram Sylvania is giving away 1776 free ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs at Faneuil Hall Marketplace to people who take the Change a Light Pledge — to get Bostonians to 'join the revolution!' And it's rumored that Paul Revere and others from the Freedom Trail Foundation may ride in for it...
Beautiful weather, perfect location, great music from a local radio station, the afterglow of a Red Sox win, and thousands of people with time on their hands to learn a few things about lights and energy efficiency. Our event at Boston's popular Faneuil Hall Marketplace couldn't have been any better! Our team set up the bus and education center in the morning just outside a main entrance to Quincy Market. Set-up took longer than usual, as curious people kept stopping by, to talk with us and ask questions about what we were doing there.
Our bus was set in the midst of a line of our local event sponsors' tents. On one end was Osram Sylvania's tent, where people took the pledge and received one of 1776 free ENERGY STAR qualified CFLs (those bulbs went fast!). Next to them, ENERGY STAR utility partners National Grid and NStar handed out bags containing information about ENERGY STAR qualified lighting and a storybook for kids about protecting our environment. The US Postal Service set up a table as part of our CFL recycling information area, as they are now doing a pilot in Cambridge, MA with Sylvania and recycling company Veolia to see if consumers will return their spent CFLs via the mail or post office for recycling. On our other side was Whole Foods, who is stepping up locally to help raise awareness about saving energy with their customers, and is also exploring collecting CFLs for recycling. Whole Foods gave away free bananas and apples to everyone who came by.
I think I speak for our entire team when I say that we were bowled over (in a good way!) by the people we encountered — many who were from Boston, but others from all over the country. Lots of good questions were lobbed our way. Many people thanked us for being there. Everyone I encountered had at least one CFL in his or her home. The theme was the same as at our earlier events: people are using mostly spiral-shaped CFLs in their homes, but don't know that there are many new kinds out there...and don't know some of the nuances of using CFLs.
So, for those taking the time to read this blog, I'll share with you some of the pointers we've been telling everyone else and, even better, SHOWING people so they can see it with their own eyes:
I've been writing this update from the road. Our bus is now pulling into Manhattan where we will have our tour's final event. I can't believe it's nearly over. Our team is exhausted, but revved up at the same time. There's a good chance that you'll get a live glimpse of our bus on Tuesday morning on the Today Show, somewhere around 8:30 if we're lucky! We'll also be in Manhattan's Union Square together with our partner NYSERDA, for a good part of the day. We're looking forward to our last hurrah!
I'm loath to acknowledge that this is the last blog entry�the ENERGY STAR Change a Light Bus has seen its last event and driven off into the sunset! We closed up shop on Tuesday after one of our best events of the entire trip. It has taken me several days to reunite with my desk and get this last blog written!
Before telling you about the event in Manhattan's Union Square, I have to mention that before we arrived at the event, our bus and half of our tour team were on site in front of NBC's Today Show studios. If you're curious about the behind-the-scenes of this kind of appearance, I'll let you in on a little of it. We had to arrive at 5:00 a.m. to set up for a 1 1/2 minute Change a Light Bus Tour segment with Al Roker , taped live at 8:33 a.m. Once you've viewed it, stand up and clap for Trevor Rasmussen from our national tour team who can be seen vigorously pedaling Efficiency Vermont's energy comparison bike. Not only did Trevor have to be out of the hotel at 4:00 a.m. that morning with our awesome Motor Coach Industries driver Emery, but he'd also been on the tour for the entire 20 days! Oh, and that's me playing "Vanna White" in the background. Finally, though you can't see her standing on the sidelines, Jessica Steiner from our tour staff was there cheering us on. Jessica was also on the tour for the entire time, working tirelessly with Trevor to pull off all 16 events.
As for the Today Show staff who made our mini-segment possible, they were terrific — from the producer who met our bus on his day off Sunday to make sure it could make the left-hand turn out of the Today Show's plaza, to the people who helped us do staging on site and made sure we had enough coffee to keep us going�they were a real class act.
The Union Square event: NYSERDA was the local event sponsor who arranged for us to be in this prime location. Their team was on site with us, encouraging New Yorkers to take the pledge and handing out free ENERGY STAR qualified lights in return. They'd planned to give away 500 bulbs, but were so overrun with interest that they went out and got more lights — they ended up giving away 2,700 bulbs, with people left begging for more!
Even though the bus was delayed arriving at Union Square because of the Today Show opportunity, the 2nd half of our team set up a parallel education center on site and was there to receive local Good Day New York meteorologist Mike Woods, who called out to New Yorkers from Union Square to stop by and visit us. (Thanks, Mike — it helped!). A special thank you to Janet Fox and Taylor Jantz-Sell, representing the Department of Energy on our tour team for the last week of the tour. They led the charge while the bus was way-laid that morning, and had seen more than 500 people before we even arrived!
I don't know upon what I'd based my expectations for our Manhattan event, but I'd anticipated we'd have a really hard time enticing New Yorkers to stop for a moment or two at our education center. I figured that the home of the incessant blinking lights and ads in Times Square would be filled with jaded people who'd seen enough marketing for a lifetime and lost their curiosity about why some random group had a bus parked on a busy corner of the city. I WAS WRONG. Ours and NYSERDA's team was bombarded by interest from thousands upon thousands of people on their way to...somewhere. The candor, the curiosity, the interest in saving energy and helping the environment...it would have been overwhelming if it wasn't so invigorating.
By the end of our 8-hour event timeframe, I found myself talking with up to 10 people at a time while my tour team broke down the education center for the last time around me. I was standing there with a couple of 'light bars' that showed the different kind of energy-efficient lights, a few ENERGY STAR magnets, and the remaining tiny pile of brochures, and people just didn't stop coming up to see what the "excitement" was all about. I'm planning to get myself an 'I love New York' T-shirt now.
Not only was the number of people who visited our bus and education center impressive, but the range of questions we received were fascinating. If this were an open blog, I'd pose these questions to others, as I don't actually have ready answers to the following 3 questions I heard for the 1st time:
Another question we heard, which I don't believe has been discussed in the other updates from the road is about CFLs and lamps that have a maximum wattage (i.e., a 60 Watt maximum lamp). A common misperception we've encountered is that Watts equal an amount of light. Watts actually equal the amount of energy the light bulb needs to produce light...it's lumens that are the measurement of light. In fact, because so few people know that Watts are NOT an indication of how much light you can expect to see, manufacturers have had to label the packaging of energy-efficient light bulbs that range from only 9W to 52W with terms like "60W equivalent." So, it's only natural that people aren't clear about whether they can use a "100W equivalent" CFL in a 60W maximum lamp. The answer is YES. The 100W equivalent CFL, for example, only requires an average of 26W to produce the same amount of light, or lumens.
An interior designer came by who was amazed by the variety of energy-efficient lights we were showing, and the variety of CFL colors, too. He shared that he thinks that most designers don't realize how much the technology has progressed, so they're not designing with CFLs in mind (and the opportunity their range of colors present). He suggested we work with a few of the big influencers like the American Institute of Architects and American Society of Interior Designers and present a workshop on energy-efficient lighting. Good idea!
Finally, we talked with a very nice, environmentally-minded couple at the end of the event about CFLs and mercury (71KB). This discussion took place after the education center had been broken down and our CFLs and mercury materials had been exhausted. EPA's Office of Solid Waste volunteer Denise Roy had run out of thousands of "Change a Light, Dispose it Right" magnets that day, guiding people to the new EPA CFL recycling program finder (epa.gov/bulbrecycling). Because I didn't have any information on mercury in front of me when I spoke with them, the couple leapt to the assumption that we were "hiding" this information from the public, and indicated that they believe CFLs are going to become a mercury nightmare as they become more popular. I'd like to address this issue a little bit here, as it's been a personal trial over my last year here at EPA.
I've worked for the EPA for 8+ years now, trying to get more Americans to adopt ENERGY STAR lighting in their home, as a starting place to save energy and help fight global warming. For the 1st 5 of these years, the price of CFLs was prohibitive ($16–$23 each when I first started my job!). CFLs were big and bulky and often didn't fit in the average lamp, and their color quality was inconsistent at best. During those years, it was all we could do to get people to try a CFL at all. Only in the last 2 years, I'd say, have CFLs become a mainstream product. The quality of the new generation of CFLs and the reduction in price ($2–$5 for a regular bulb) has made it very attractive to everyday people.
So, why did we try to advance this technology back then, if we knew that CFLs contain a small amount of mercury and there wasn't a national infrastructure in place for recycling? Isn't it hypocritical, or single-minded? No! We did it because lighting accounts for 20% of our country's residential electricity use and ENERGY STAR lights are extremely efficient — they use 1/4 the electricity of incandescent lighting. We did it because CFLs actually REDUCE the amount of mercury and other pollutants that are being released right now into our environment (vs. being land filled or recycled). CFLs are the single most effective, accessible, and economically feasible way for Americans to cut their electric use, starting today. And Americans must do this — we still lead the way in the world with regard to per capita energy use. The single largest human-based contributor to global warming is coal-fired power plants. Coal-fired power plants are also the largest source of domestic mercury emissions.
While it would be terrific if homes were simply all built to be ENERGY STAR homes and every American would retrofit their older homes to make them energy-efficient, this is a timely overhaul. We're trying that, too, of course, both at EPA and DOE. We're trying everything!
So, what are we to do? Anthropogenic global warming is no longer in dispute, and it looms large. Do we sit on our hands, waiting for years until LED lighting is ready for prime-time to get people to start cutting down on such a large chunk of residential electricity use? Do we wait until there's a national, convenient infrastructure in place to recycle all CFLs? This is the nature of environmental actions — we have to make choices everyday that present a trade-off. The good news is, of course, that many organizations, including EPA, are focused on BOTH right now...promoting CFLs AND facilitating more recycling options. However, if it's a choice between doing everything in our power today to stave off global warming even a little while also reducing other pollutants including mercury in our air vs. facing the possibility that some percentage of CFLs will not be recycled at their end of life and end up in a landfill, I know what my choice is.
This brings us back to the bus tour and its purpose. Hopefully, our tour helped light a fire under the many thousands of people we encountered along the way, and the millions we reached through media coverage, to start saving energy today. And, if they're changing lights, to try to dispose of their CFLs responsibly at end-of-life.
I'll close with a call-out of appreciation to those who supported this massive endeavor, without whom we could never have made this tour happen:
It takes a village! Hopefully, this collaborative effort helped more people recognize that all of us are uniquely positioned to be part of the fight against global warming, and inspired more than a few to take action!