“It’s like reading War & Peace…”

I just loved this line from an article in the New York Times about Sharp Electronics efforts to educate consumers about solar power.

“There’s so much data out there that it’s like reading ‘War and Peace,’ ” he said. “After a while, you just can’t remember which princess went off with which nobleman. If we teach them a little bit at a time, we have a better chance at making solar a mainstream consideration.”

I couldn’t agree with this more. That in a nutshell is what we think is the problem with existing efforts to get people to reduce their climate impact or be “green”: Information overload. It’s just too much for most people to swallow. Even those “10 Simple Things” lists are completely counter-productive, in my humble opinion. Not to pick on any specific groups but just look at these examples:

  • Al Gore’s list includes “drive less” and “avoid products with a lot of packaging. Um, how exactly?
  • This is the Earth Day Foundation’s Top 10 list. There are about 30 things on here, including cleaning the condenser coil on your refrigerator.
  • The Sierra Club’s 10 Things You Can Do list includes mounting a local campaign against global warming.
  • #3 on Global Green’s 10 Simple Things list is driving smart by buying a hybrid or electric vehicle. #7 is building green and using solar power.

Unless they’re already self-motivated to make change, who reads one of these lists and says “Whew. And I thought it was going to be hard!” before rushing out (on their bike, mind you) to order solar panels or buy a hybrid? Now, I’m not saying that any of these are bad suggestions. Nor am I pretending that it won’t take these kinds of changes to start making a real dent in our greenhouse gas emissions. But then either don’t claim these things are easy or focus, focus, focus on the stuff that’s truly easy to do.

To their credit, some groups have gotten this concept and are pushing single calls to action, like buying compact fluorescents. 18seconds.org is a good example. But how are they actually helping people literally change their light bulbs?

The challenge is in doing both: Providing simple and compelling calls to action while removing the obstacles that keep people from making the change. That’s what we’re hoping to accomplish with Climate Changers.


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