For the New Orleans musician Andreas Hoffmann, a Louisiana transplant originally from Switzerland, Hurricane Katrina sparked a twin call to action. "I wanted to do something for climate change," he says, "but also for the city." Hoffmann saw CFL lightbulbs as a joint solution: They would reduce energy costs for low-income residents while reducing the environmental impact of their houses. In 2006, he launched Green Light New Orleans, an organization that sends volunteers into homes, where they install free CFLs and spread the word about energy efficiency. An entertainer by trade, Hoffmann's method is to give a good show. "It's very important that we change every lightbulb in the house. You're really going to see it in the next month's bill." The idea is to get jaws dropping.
That ploy has worked. The program has been so popular—"we always have about one thousand to two thousand homes on the waiting list," Hoffmann says, and nearly 220,000 bulbs have been installed—that Green Light's biggest problem has been affording all the CFLs. The group is now running through about 10,000 each month, at a cost of $25,000. To match that number, Hoffmann recently started a donation site called "10,000 People for New Orleans." For a $30 yearly commitment, each donor essentially covers one monthly bulb. You can also give just one bulb at giveonebulb.org.
Ultimately, Green Light's focus on CFLs is, to Hoffmann, largely incidental. This is about establishing a model for simple environmentally-focused solutions with measurable impact. "This could be done with aerators or low-flow showerheads," he says, noting that it's also about community engagement. "A lot of elderly people apply, and when they have college students listening to their life stories, and their Katrina stories ... it really goes into community work."