Guest Author | June 20, 2011
By Dominique Browning is a writer, editor and consultant in the newspaper and magazine fields.
Recently, I attended the kickoff for an EDF Climate Corps training session in Boston. Sitting in a classroom full of disconcertingly young and bright MBA students, we were presented with this question:
Do you know the difference between energy conservation and energy efficiency?
Here's a test: Which actions have to do with efficiency?
EDF's Climate Corps fellows: They make things better
- Installing solar panels
- Using different bulbs for the same amount of light
- Wearing sweaters
- Using the best technology [check]
- Making fewer copies of documents
- Properly using existing equipment
- Installing sensors for lights
There was a buzz as the students responded. Hands went tentatively up and down. But within 15 minutes, they (and I) were getting it — the key to one of EDF's most innovative projects is helping companies maximize energy efficiency.
"You are creating a movement," Victoria Mills, EDF's managing director for corporate partnerships told the 57 new Climate Corps fellows. "Business is an important force for change, especially at a time when legislative activity around climate change is stalled." (Read Victoria Mills' reflections on three years of EDF Climate Corps results.)
Her message fell on receptive ears. "We need change," said Esra Kucukciftci, who was looking forward to evaluating the energy efficiency of Facebook's new headquarters in Menlo Park, CA, this summer. "We need to reach a tipping point on energy use. We need social momentum. What better place to get that conversation going?"
Being a change agent is a high-flown ambition. But at Climate Corps, that means getting down to the nitty-gritty. The summer program embeds MBA students, called Climate Corps fellows, at major corporations, where they ferret out opportunities for increasing energy efficiency.
As soon as they arrive at their sponsoring companies, the fellows dive into the daily, even hourly, details of heating and cooling systems, when and what lights are on or off, what sort of automated controls govern computer terminals.
They must find mentors, partners and guides on the inside, who will help them understand the infrastructures they are dealing with, and champion their cause with other employees. They are expected, at the end of their ten-week stint, to submit a formal report to their superiors, with a list of energy-efficiency recommendations and estimates for how much money and carbon pollution will be saved if they are adopted.
Continue reading on Personal Nature.