Is There a "Hints from Heloise" for Energy Saving Tips?

As our nation gets caught up in the frenzy surrounding the two political conventions, I can’t help but think about the role of the individual in all this political machinery. Both conventions will talk a lot about energy policy, for instance. But will they have suggestions for what American can do in their own lives to save energy?

What a Former President and Secretary of State Want to Know

A few weeks ago, I was on a ship in the Arctic Ocean witnessing the impacts of global warming first hand. Madeleine Albright was also on the trip. It’s no surprise that as President Clinton’s former Secretary of State, she approaches the issue of climate change as a geopolitical concern. But she also looks at is as a citizen.

During one of the ship’s panel sessions, she turned to me and asked, “What can I do myself to help stop global warming? What can I go home and tell my friends to do?”

“There are a lot of things you can do to cut down on your energy use,” I replied. “You can start by unplugging your cell phone charger when you are not using it. At NRDC, we call those power vampires because they suck so much energy.”

President Carter, also on the trip, emphasized throughout the need to communicate effectively to the broader American audience, well beyond our own members or the converted.

Doing a Better Job of Sharing Simple Steps for Saving Energy

These discussions raised a question for me: How do clean energy advocates do a better job of letting people know about the simple ways they can reduce energy use in their own lives?

The question seems especially pertinent right now. Everyone knows gas prices are soaring. But how familiar are most Americans with common-sense solutions that can save them money at the pump?

NRDC has scores of helpful online tips available. But you still have to go looking for them. How do we reach people who aren’t already seeking this information?

How do we inspire people to start seeing themselves as part of the global warming solution?

Sharing Real Information, Not False Arguments

I am an avowed policy wonk. I believe deeply that sweeping federal and international policies are essential in the fight against global warming. But this is America, after all, the home of the proud individual. I know personal actions are a powerful tool for creating change.

But people have to know which changes to make. They have to know which washing machines are the most energy efficient, which furnaces have better insulation, which cars get the best gas mileage, and which neighborhoods have good access to public transit.

We need a major commitment to a broad education campaign, so every American, not just those who are looking for it, has information and access to the best energy choices.

Rather than arguing over whether more drilling will relieve the price pain, let’s tell people what their choices are today to reduce their daily energy cost, at the pump, and in their homes.