How many entrepreneurs does it take to screw in 343,829 energy efficient lightbulbs?
Just one: Andreas Hoffman, Executive Director and founder of Green Light New Orleans. Well, with help from his team of committed volunteers.
Green Light New Orleans, a local non-profit organization and SENO Accelerator Associate, installs free energy efficient lightbulbs into homes throughout the city to show the effects that an individual’s efforts can not only have on a personal, financial level, but the contribution it can make to a mass movement’s effort to make a positive impact on the environment. Since its inception in 2006, the movement has gone beyond changing lightbulbs to teaching residents about the benefits of creating a more sustainable lifestyle in their homes and their community.
With new initiatives like Citizens for Light, Tip the Block, and Buy Green Give Green, Green Light’s mission is quickly spreading throughout the community by connecting community members to one another and to sustainable opportunities.
Green Light New Orleans was founded shortly after Hurricane Katrina when Hoffman saw a need to help New Orleans recover through sustainable resources. As a touring musician, he began installing CFL lightbulbs in his community as a way to offset the pollution he and his band were creating.
“I understood there were three factors hindering the broader distribution of the compact fluorescent lightbulb: high expense, lack of knowledge about the use of CFLs, and that changing all the light bulbs in our homes is not something we usually do,” Hoffman said of the reasons for starting Green Light New Orleans.
While touring in Europe, Hoffman managed to raise enough seed money to start Green Light New Orleans. He became so passionate and fascinated with his work, he eventually gave up touring to focus on his organization full time.
“It was not my intention to install a quarter million light bulbs, but Green Light became popular very quickly, and, out of my passion for energy efficiency and CO2 reduction, grew a strong non-profit.”
Almost six years later, Hoffman’s goal is to install 343,829 lightbulbs by May 2012 through the organization’s newest initiative, Citizens for Light. That’s one compact fluorescent lightbulb for every citizen in New Orleans.
Each CFL lightbulb is 75 percent more efficient than standard bulbs, drastically lowering one’s electric bill, as well as New Orleans’ carbon footprint. Now that the organization has acquired a large inventory of CFLs and enough volunteers to follow through with the commitment, Green Light has set the goal to expand the movement and demonstrate the effects that sustainable living can have on a community.
Green Light has already made headway, having worked with schools such as Ben Franklin and KIPP, and, most recently, made a 3,000 bulb commitment with Academy of the Sacred Heart. The hope is to create similar programs with other schools as well, to teach the students about the importance of caring for our environment and community.
Visiting strangers homes has led to new opportunities for Green Light New Orleans. “When people let us into their homes, they are opening their hearts to us,” explained Hoffman.
One opportunity was the creation of another initiative, Tip the Block.
This program aims to help residents in New Orleans create a more sustainable lifestyle within their homes, beyond the usage of CFL bulbs, by focusing on a nine-block radius at a time. The team targets one neighborhood, evaluates what each participating home needs in regard to sustainable living, and connects the residents to local partners who may be able to fill these needs. Some of the needs that will be addressed include aerators, back yard vegetable gardens, composting, solar installation, and recycling, just to name a few.
“These lightbulbs have saved me so much money on my monthly bills,” said Ms. Minnie, a recipient of CFL bulbs and resident of Tip the Block’s pilot neighborhood. “I think that what [Green Light New Orleans] is doing is so wonderful and I really appreciate how they are helping out.”
Ms. Minnie has recently been approved through Tip the Block to fulfill more home needs, such as the new vegetable garden that was built for her in her back yard by students from Ben Franklin High School.
Another aspect of Tip the Block is community-building. Through the program, Hoffman hopes to bring together members of the nine-block target neighborhoods by connecting them through their new sustainable lifestyles. By giving one of the younger residents in the neighborhood their own vegetable gardens as well, they can help Ms. Minnie and other older neighbors care for their gardens.
By holiday time, Green Light New Orleans will launch its own branded CFL bulbs with packaging that can be unfolded into a piece of art. The bulbs will be sold at local retailers as part of the Buy Green Give Green initiative, where each energy efficient bulb purchased will provide a CFL lightbulb for a low-income household.
As one of the social entrepreneurs in the city who has built successful, sustainable businesses out of the need to fulfill a social issue for the community, Hoffman hopes that Green Light will evolve with a more holistic approach, and show residents in New Orleans the connection between energy efficiency, healthy food access, health care access, neighborhood beautification, and community-building.
Through initiatives like Tip the Block, Green Light New Orleans aims to give more low-income families the opportunity to have a more sustainable lifestyle — one that can eventually keep their costs low while helping the environment.