Volunteer Diaries: Agathe Laure

What would you say to a business owner leaving his or her door open, while the A/C is running? Human Impacts Institute crew says “Shut It”!

On these hot summer days in NYC, it almost seems normal to walk on Broadway in SoHo and other busy streets feeling a cold breeze blasting out of stores and businesses. Yes, it might feel refreshing, but the fact of the matter is it actually represents a huge amount of energy and financial waste. This habit of leaving doors open is now targeted by law, but the minuscule fines and control systems implemented are not a strong enough action to prevent the practice.

To raise awareness to businesses and consumers across the city, and tackle this inefficient habit, HII developed the Cool Biz program. Cool Biz is part of the 12-steps EcoPreneurs program promoting communities across the city to adopt greener practices. The program aims to link public and private incentives and retrofits with communities, and provide practical and easy ways to live and work in a more sustainable manner. Vice versa, the program works on building community movements around environmental practices, bringing them to a higher level and influencing decision-making. Cool Biz is part of these movements.

Cool Biz aims to build a coalition around this simple, but emblematic gesture, to progressively alter mentalities on how we use energy. If we think about it, Cool Biz is not just about an opened door, but really about why people don’t have the habit or thought to close it. In fact, this practice reveals a lot about our mentality with energy use. It seems that, as long as we pay up, energy is unlimited. But is it really? Is the energy coming to our buildings (produced from natural resources) really ours? Do we have the luxury to waste it or not? Maybe. Beyond such debates, HII is looking for actions- Actions that can be performed by everybody, in their everyday life to prevent wasteful habits that increase energy use.

To engage the community on this matter, HII is reaching out to local businesses, major corporations, and consumers. The HII crew has visited dozens of them, talking to owners, managers and business employees. It has actually been surprising to see how much support we have from store employees. Unfortunately, we have found, it is more difficult to reach out to business owners with the business’s decision making power. More than signatures, the HII crew has had a number of very interesting discussions. The signatures are indeed a way to build the coalition, but what is the most rewarding in these outreach sessions are the discussions we have with people.

Empowered by businesses signatures, HII volunteers have gone into the streets to talk to consumers, engaging them to sign the Cool Consumer Pledge in which they pledge to not enter in stores that keep their door open while the A/C is on. We all know how hard it is to get individual’s attention on the streets of New York, but the team was pretty successful and got some signatures.

In order to support the Cool Biz program HII also launched a new video campaign called “Shut It”. The team filmed volunteers to tell us what they would say to a business owner keeping its door open while using A/C. The team recorded some pretty great responses from interviewees. It was actually impressive to realize how many “Cool Biz activists” are out there, already writing and blogging about such practices, and in need for recognition.

Are you tired of feeling this cold air on your beautiful summer dress? Do you love it, but still think we would be fine without it? Are you one of these sneaky extremists closing the doors anyway when you leave a store? Whatever your reasons, join our Cool Biz coalition for greener communities !

Contact us at ecopreneurs@humanimpactsinstitute.org or sign the Cool Biz pledge here. You will be advertised as such on our Ecopreneurs webpage.

Have some free time during the summer? Fine with us! You can join us for our weekly summer outreach on Thursdays. Check out the location on our event calendar, and just show up at 2pm! After a short training, you’ll be ready to hit the street for a few hours with the HII crew and help prevent energy waste. Hope to see you there!

Agathe Laure, Human Impacts Institute Environmental Services Specialist

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