Finding the Silver Buckshot: Change that Sticks

Andrew Willens | July 20, 2012

 A good idea taken to scale can be surprisingly powerful, and EDF Climate Corps fellows are bursting with good ideas. Making sure these ideas are brought to fruition, however, can be tough.

"One common theme for all of us is the need to make change sustainable after we leave our organizations," Patrick Murphy, EDF Climate Corps fellow at Commonwealth Financial Network, said.

EDF Climate Corps fellows' solutions for this tend to fall into two categories: cultivate culture or appoint an advocate.

Cultivate Culture
A strong culture of sustainability at an organization can start a virtuous cycle of continuous energy efficiency improvements.

At National Geographic (Nat Geo), EDF Climate Corps fellow Katie DeWitt's charge is to incorporate environmental sustainability into the organization’s overall mission. Though she's found many ways to strengthen Nat Geo's  robust culture of environmentalism, she's also had to figure out how to get buy in from stakeholders across several departments.

"I'm learning the importance of telling a cohesive story about sustainability in a language tailored to the person or department to which I’m presenting," said DeWitt. "That seems to be the only way to make a sustainability story stick."

Though getting a culture of sustainability off the ground is a different challenge altogether, there are no shortage of options to do so.  Our fellows have utilized energy efficiency treasure hunts, education programs, competitions and even plastic sea creatures.

Appoint an Advocate
Our fellows have also found that without a staff person regularly seeking out and advocating for new energy efficiency opportunities, they are not likely to happen.

"If you don’t have an energy officer, you’re probably wasting energy…and money," Graham Brown, 2010 fellow at the JBG Companies, said.

Consistency is equally important. Meredith Rowland, 2012 fellow at Lane College, found that many energy efficiency project were started but left incomplete when a new manager stepped in.

"Lane College had performed two energy audits," said Rowland. "But even if you have audits, you need someone to pursue these projects all the way through, or they'll just get left behind when people leave."

Lane College's current EHS manager has been a tireless champion of energy efficiency, said Rowland, negotiating with all the right stakeholders to resurrect projects such as a lighting retrofit of Lane's gymnasium, which was completed just weeks into Rowland’s fellowship.

Hire an EDF Climate Corps Fellow
In just one summer, 2009 SunGard fellow Ryan Whisnant developed an energy management plan that could save SunGard over $5 million every year through lighting and ventilation upgrades. SunGard was so impressed that they hired Whisnant as a full-time director of sustainability.

The following year, SunGard brought in another EDF Climate Corps fellow. Under Whisnant's guidance, he identified efficiency projects worth an additional $750,000, and the following year's fellow found even more energy efficiency opportunities through engaging employees.

Similar chains have happened at QTS and Cummins. Hiring an EDF Climate Corps fellow can be the first step in a landslide of energy efficiency, and the savings that come with it.

Turning profits from energy efficiency can be tricky. As energy guru Amory Lovins puts it, "there's obviously no silver bullet – but there's a lot of silver buckshot." This blog post is part of a series we will run throughout the summer, highlighting the pieces of silver buckshot identified by EDF Climate Corps fellows.