EDF fellows bring glimmer of hope to Showtime climate series

Victoria Mills

This Memorial Day, cable network provider Showtime aired yet another episode of its acclaimed, subscriber-only series Years of Living Dangerously. If you were a member of the lucky Showtime crowd, this was one you didn’t want to miss.

Yes, three of Environmental Defense Fund’s Climate Corps fellows starred in the Monday, May 26, show – and they made us proud. But the real reason to watch the episode was to be reminded that there are things we can still do to halt our dangerous trajectory toward a 2-4-6-degree warmer world.

The nine-part Years of Living Dangerously series, which brings the reality of climate change into American living rooms every Monday night, doesn’t spare viewers the devastating effects wildfires, super storms and droughts have on regular people. But it also shows how people can be part of the solution to climate change.

The EDF Climate Corps fellows featured in the May 26 episode are protagonists in that story of hope.

The three graduate students spent a summer working inside Caesars Entertainment Corporation, Texas Southern University and Office Depot to show how saving energy benefits the environment as well as a company’s bottom line. Both are priorities for a growing number of organizations these days.

The building sector is responsible for nearly half of carbon-dioxide emissions from the United States, and two-thirds of electricity produced in the U.S. is used in buildings. With coal plants still accounting for some 40 percent of our power production, all savings will translate into fewer emissions.

Where are they now?

The Showtime episode came on the heels of EDF Climate Corps’ announcement last week that it’s dispatching six graduate students to China this summer, the program’s first expansion overseas. The fellows will work with large brands such as Apple, Walmart, McDonald’s, Cummins and Legrand that understand the many benefits that come from smart energy management.

All are companies that were already working with the program in the United States, where it was first rolled out in 2008. Since then, Climate Corps fellows have worked in hundreds of organizations, uncovering nearly $1.3 billion in energy-saving opportunities.

This year, a total of 117 top graduate students were chosen for the program, two-thirds of whom will fan out across nine U.S. states that consume more than 50 percent of the nation’s energy. Of those, 16 will be in Chicago to accelerate the Windy City’s progress toward its goal to reduce building energy use by 20 percent by 2015.

Behind the scenes

Fellow Scott Miller, of course, was nowhere near Chicago his first day on the job last year when Showtime’s video team followed him around. He had been assigned to Caesars Entertainment in Las Vegas, where lights are on day and night and cutting energy costs, it seems, should be an imperative.

“The first day at a new job is already a pretty nerve-wracking experience, and the cameras following me around…definitely raised up the intensity a few notches,” Scott recalled in a recent interview. “I remember going through the casino with cameras following me and patrons were pointing, looking, commenting and wondering if I was a celebrity, and I was thinking, ‘If they only knew that I’m here to save this company energy and money.’”

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