Community Diets to Curb Global Warming

Northwest Illinois Audubon Society (Freeport, IL)

Many of us are concerned about global warming and its threat to birds, habitat and our existence as we know it. But what does it take to move from a state of concern to one of commitment? Keith Blackmore, Conservation Chair for Northwest Illinois Audubon Society (NIAS), spent years educating people about global warming, but struggled to engage them to action. Then, at a renewable energy fair several years ago, a fellow participant gave him a copy of David Gershon's book, Low-Carbon Diet--A 30-Day Program to Lose 5,000 Pounds (2006). Keith paged through it during the conference, was inspired to purchase additional copies for his Chapter, and then worked with his Board to launch the Low-Carbon Diet as a Chapter Program.

Using the steps laid out in Gershon's book, Keith worked with Chapter Vice-President Lynn Feaver to mentor students from the local community college's Student Leadership Program to take the program to the schools. In addition, they trained several Chapter volunteers as group leaders, who then worked with small groups of community members to assess their carbon footprint and provide them tools to help reduce it. NIAS applied for and received Audubon Collaborative Funding in FY2009 to help build several tools for the Chapter website, including a carbon footprint calculator and forms for each participating group to enter their data.

Over the past three years, participants in the Chapter's program have pledged to cut 576,950 lbs of carbon from their lifestyles. Three participants were so inspired; they traded their gas-guzzling vehicles for hybrid electric cars. Another participant had an energy assessment done on her home in preparation for installing a photovoltaic system. Keith thought her energy usage was unusually high, so he supplied her with an electricity load meter to determine where the energy sink was. It turned out the refrigerator and freezer in the garage accounted for half of the home's energy usage! After removing the energy-draining appliances, she was able to save $15,000 with a smaller PV system--just by making that one, small change.

NIAS has reached over 5,000 people through its educational presentations on global warming and Low-Carbon Diet Program groups. In addition, the Chapter has purchased 25 electricity load meters and donated them to local libraries. Community members can borrow the meters to assess energy use at their home, office or school.

FOR MORE INFO
Call Keith Blackmore at 815-938-3204 or visit http://www.nwilaudubon.org/lowcarbon.asp.