Bright Ideas: Green Light New Orleans plugs into an environmentally friendly way of life.
Last year, a little New Orleans nonprofit celebrated a significant milestone — installing its 500,000th compact fluorescent light bulb. Green Light New Orleans, started by Switzerland-native Andreas Hoffmann, relies on the enthusiastic help of local volunteers to swap incandescent light bulbs and other types of bulbs for free fluorescents. Repeated in thousands of homes throughout New Orleans, this small action has translated into big change. Switching to fluorescents doesn’t just save homeowners money; it also lowers carbon emissions.
Volunteer coordinator Rebecca Fisher-McGinty joined Green Light in 2013. “I have my degree in environmental policy, so I wanted to understand how meaningful environmental change could happen on an individual basis,” she says. She began as a volunteer, and now she helps raise awareness and sign up new volunteers who are interested in visiting local homes and giving away light bulbs. “Currently, locally, we probably have around 30 to 50 volunteers work with us each month,” she says. Those interested in volunteering with Green Light can apply online or by calling (504) 324-2429.
True to its motto — “We change more than light bulbs” — the nonprofit has also expanded into other areas, including food access and agriculture. New Orleans residents can apply to have a 4-by-4-foot raised-bed vegetable garden created in their yards, empowering them to grow their own food. “We are currently at about 300 gardens, and we have had a lot of positive feedback and energy around this program,” Fisher-McGinty says. The simple garden application is available online or by calling (504) 324-2429.
Green Light invites those who can’t volunteer their time to become sustaining members of its mission. “One of our main sources of funding is our membership program,” Fisher-McGinty explains. “So, our next milestone is building up a ‘monthly sustaining’ membership team of 500 people. This will be so powerful to our ability to continue and expand our services for folks in New Orleans.” greenlightneworleans.org
Food for Thought: Grow Dat Youth Farm raises a new crop of New Orleans leaders.
Tucked into City Park, Grow Dat Youth Farm has turned four acres of an abandoned golf course into two full acres of cultivable land, where local high school students learn to plant, raise and harvest organic crops. The organization’s Website explains, “On our farm, we work collaboratively to produce healthy food for local residents, and to inspire youth and adults to create personal, social and environmental change in their own communities.”
Tulane City Center, at the Tulane School of Architecture, led Grow Dat’s site development and designed the campus where youth crew members can learn in an outdoor classroom and cook in a teaching kitchen. Crew members from six different partner schools can apply to join Grow Dat and are paid for the time they spend working. They spend 20 weeks in an intensive training program that focuses just as much on leadership training, food justice, wellness and nutrition as it does on agriculture. That’s not to mention playing games every day. “Games are an essential part of our work at Grow Dat — they foster communication and help reinvigorate our spirits for the hard work ahead,” explains the organization’s 2014 annual report.
Grow Dat has sold and given away more than 25,000 pounds of food since its inception in 2011. This past January, the organization opened a farm stand in City Park; there, its youth farmers sell fresh produce from 9 am to noon every Saturday. growdatyouthfarm.org
Maria’s Pick: Carmo
Support sustainability while enjoying delicious dishes.
Open for nearly five years, Carmo has been committed to an Earth-friendly eating experience since day one. This fusion restaurant, located in the CBD, bills itself as a “tropical cafe.” Here, you’ll find flavors ranging from the Gulf South to southeast Asia, bringing in a fair number of Central and Latin American tastes along the way. Carmo sources as many ingredients as possible from local producers, and offers a range of vegan and vegetarian options. It’s also the only restaurant in Louisiana certified by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, underscoring its commitment to sustainability.
New Orleans Living publisher Maria Muro loves Carmo’s Esmeralda Salad, which features quinoa, black beans, corn, peppers and cilantro. Served on a bed of organic lettuces with toasted pumpkin seeds and Cotija cheese, and topped with a coconut chili-lime vinaigrette, it’s an incredibly energizing lunch that won’t leave you feeling hungry an hour later! cafecarmo.com