It began with a simple idea: Andreas Hoffmann wanted to give back to New Orleans after Katrina. So he made his job as a touring musician carbon-neutral by installing energy-efficient CFL and LED light bulbs in band members’ homes. Soon enough, word spread across the community and his low-key CO2 reduction project developed into Green Light New Orleans.
Continuing with the light bulb project, Hoffmann ventured into his neighbors’ homes to install the lights directly. As he got to know more about New Orleanians and how they live, Green Light New Orleans became a community-building cultural project. (Once you install 30 to 40 light bulbs in a person’s home, you learn a thing or two about them.) At this time, Green Light New Orleans has helped reduce the carbon footprint of over 28,000 homes in the New Orleans area.
Plus, the whole setup offers a different method for environmental work. People had to approach Green Light New Orleans in order to get their bulbs installed. “When you tell people you have to do something, you get pushback. If people want to get involved, there’s no pushback,” says Hoffmann. And because there was so much demand for involvement, Green Light New Orleans added new programs.
Because growing your own fruits and vegetables is one way to access healthy food at any time, Green Light New Orleans started the backyard vegetable program to address food insecurity issues. After taking a class on garden tending, community members are given garden beds of their own, as well as ongoing support for their gardening efforts. It is a popular program, with close to 600 gardens installed since 2012. Hoffmann notes that growing your own food offers people a peace of mind, and many people have remarked that gardening is a calming, positive pastime.
For a city with so much rainfall, New Orleans needs better community efforts at water management. That is where the rain barrel program from Green Light New Orleans comes in. Residents apply for the program, then Hoffmann and the team install their desired barrel, free of charge. Barrels are hand-painted by local artists, so their designs are part of the draw. The resident can then use the collected rainwater to water the garden or wash the car, saving the need to use fresh water.
Hoffmann had residents sign up for lightbulbs in 2008, a vegetable garden in 2014 and then add a rain barrel or two a couple of years later. Hopefully, Green Light New Orleans will continue to make its positive impact on the community for years to come.
At this time, Green Light New Orleans needs donations, sponsorships and support from all angles. With goals to install 1,200 rain barrels a year, as well as many more energy-efficient light bulbs and vegetable gardens, the organization welcomes support. Visit GreenLightNewOrleans.org to learn more.