As residents of New Orleans, we’re all well aware that this city has a water problem; the Mississippi River is rising as the Crescent City slowly sinks. To combat this problem, the nonprofit, Green Light New Orleans, is bringing more sustainability and resilience to NOLA and its fiercely loyal residents in a unique and innovative fashion.
Green Light not only installs energy efficient light bulbs to any and every home in New Orleans, but they also provide rain barrels, which are responsible solutions to the looming water problems we face here. But that is still not all; the nonprofit installs home vegetable gardens to close the food gap in neighborhoods. This is also a huge necessity in NOLA, as many areas in the city qualify as food deserts.
Q: What inspired you to start Green Light shortly after Katrina?
A: “I wanted to be part of the rebuilding process because I got so much out of the city as a musician, and I wanted to give back to the city. But, I wanted to do it in an environmentally conscious way. I decided to become carbon neutral as a band. On tour, we’d ask the audience to donate, and we took that back to New Orleans and bought lightbulbs. We got a mailing list together, went to peoples’ houses and changed lightbulbs, and that’s how it all got started.” (Andreas Hoffmann, Founder)
With so many amazing initiatives, who wouldn’t want to get involved in such a remarkable cause? Lucky for us, there’s a way to help.
Green Light invests in New Orleans residents by assisting them in person, one household at a time. In order to accomplish their mission, the nonprofit relies on people in the community to help out. Volunteers install free energy efficient light bulbs, rain barrels and backyard vegetable gardens. These efforts prove that a collection of individual actions can have a major impact on our community and the environment.
Q: Tell me about your struggles with the Sewage and Water Board and the recent development with them.
A: “The only missing pieces are the Sewage and Water Board and the city, who need to understand that I need funding. And they need to understand that it includes the art and the community building aspect that I consider so important. It needs to be different because it’s New Orleans, and New Orleans is different.” (Hoffmann)
Andreas is the innovative founder of Green Light New Orleans. He started the nonprofit in 2006 after he finished touring internationally with his band, B-Goes. Andi’s story began in Switzerland, and he moved to New Orleans in 1993. In regards to his environmental interest, he described hiking as a young boy near the glaciers in the Swiss wilderness and admiring their vast beauty. However, when he returned in adulthood, he was saddened to see how the landscape had drastically changed as the glaciers receded. After Katrina hit, he felt a stronger pull to join the sustainable rebuilding movement in New Orleans.
Q: What has been the most rewarding experience during your time running Green Light?
A: “The participation of the community really inspires me. We’ve had 27,000 families who have opened their doors to complete strangers. You start something and don’t think it’s going to be this huge program, and when it turns into something like this it’s very unusual. Maybe part of it is New Orleans and the fact that people are actually open to opening their doors to complete strangers.”
My Personal Experience
This semester I’ve had the incredible opportunity of working with Green Light through my service learning class, Pathways to Urban Sustainability. I truly think that Green Light brings us closer to urban sustainability in New Orleans. Even though I wouldn’t necessarily call myself an artist, I’m proud to have contributed my amateur skills to the New Orleans community. I love knowing my work will go to good use in a NOLA resident’s yard, and I hope it will inspire others to sign up with Green Light.
All the rain barrels are painted by local artists or willing volunteers; they provide a unique canvas for creativity and with your own personal design. There are Mardi Gras, Creole cottage, and streetcar themes all around the city. These barrels not only brighten up people’s yards and provide a great conversation starter, but they reflect the vibrant culture of New Orleans.
Working with Green Light has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me during my time at Tulane. Not only am I proud to be involved in such a positive initiative, but I’m making a difference in the place that I now call home.
Q: What are your future goals for Green Light?
A: “The most important goal is that we get empowered to take this to the next level. For 2019, I want to double our impact to installing 600 rain barrels. Then in 2020, I want to install 1,200 barrels, and we want to continue going along on that scale from there.”
Green Light is always looking for volunteers! If you want to get involved, follow this link http://www.greenlightneworleans.org/volunteerapply to help make a difference in the New Orleans community!
“We connect New Orleans residents to relevant, local opportunities and encourage individual actions so that everyone can benefit from a vibrant, resilient, and sustainable community.” (greenlightneworleans.org)
All photo credit: Green Light New Orleans