New Orleans, LA – Community IMPACT Series: Global Green, August 3, 2010
It's common to hear oohs and aahs from people touring Global Green's visitor center in the Lower Ninth Ward. The center is a model house and it's part of Global Green's Holy Cross Project, a large-scale showcase for the energy savings potential in both new construction and historic homes. But Beth Galante, the New Orleans director for Global Green, says sometimes the center makes a much deeper impression on visitors.
"I've had people come into that house and literally cry," says Galante. "They didn't realize what was possible. I think it's inspired a lot of people. And that's what Global Green is here for. We're trying to inspire people to realize it is possible. Anybody can do this stuff, and we're here to help them do that."
Global Green is part of an international nonprofit that works on global issues from weapons control to clean water access. After Hurricane Katrina, the group set up an office in New Orleans expressly to help residents here adopt energy-efficient, environmentally-friendly household systems as they repaired historic homes and built new ones. In addition to its Holy Cross Project, the group also operates its Green Building Resource Center at 841 Carondelet St. in downtown New Orleans.
Here, residents can get free, one-on-one consultations on how to get started. While some believe going green will be too expensive or just inconvenient, Galante says even the doubters are quickly impressed by the simplicity of the basics, like installing energy-efficient light bulbs, cleaning air conditioning filters and tacking up radiant barriers in attics to lower home temperatures.
"Your typical New Orleans house could lower its utility bills by 30 percent without a really large investment, and frankly start paying themselves back every month instead of paying the utility company every month," Galante says. "It's not just about new construction, it's certainly not about modern. The greenest building in New Orleans is an historic house that you can renovate or improve to seal up some of the leaks in the house and put in more efficient systems. We certainly have tens of thousands of beautiful homes in New Orleans that could really be super energy efficient."
Galante says a feeling of empowerment often comes by making lasting changes to the way a home impacts the environment, and the way energy prices impact our wallets. And that's a message that resonates with Global Green's larger advocacy role in the region. In addition fostering do-it-yourself household energy efficiency, the group campaigns for greater investments to develop solar, wind and river power in Louisiana. Galante says these renewable resources hold the promise of new jobs and clean energy, and they are more important than ever as Louisianans grapple with the impact of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf.
"We just feel such a sense of helplessness, and I know I speak for a lot of people who have struggled with these emotions," says Galante. "We want to do something. There is something we can do. Not today, and maybe not even tomorrow. But next week and next month and next year, we could all get behind renewable energy in Louisiana. If we learn nothing else from this catastrophe, I am very hopeful that Louisianans will finally demand that kind of investment, so we can have a healthy economy, healthy families and healthy jobs that are sustainable."