Margie Campaigne lives in Rochester, New York. After the company that employed her for 22 years as a bookkeeper was closed, she saw an opportunity to pursue her passion for the environment. She became an eco-consultant with Green Irene. Doing Green Home Makeovers fit right in with her website called Project HOUSE. This site was home to hundreds of tips to save energy, water and generally lower your carbon footprint. Currently Margie is kept busy with Green Irene and also Cool Rochester, a group assisting people, businesses, and local government to lower their collective carbon footprint. She’s involved with her local Sierra Club, serving on their executive board and also working with their Zero Waste, Global Warming and Energy committees and chairs their Vegetarian/Biodiversity committee. Funkoos was lucky to pick Margie’s brain and learn all about her green experience!

What do you do as the “Green Answer Lady?”

Margie: Because people know me as Green Irene, they sometimes ask me questions about everything from unclogging sinks to geothermal systems. My specialty is saving water and energy in the home, but with all my volunteer experience I can usually help people with an answer. Just last week, I had a Green Irene exhibit at an employee wellness fair. April, with Earth Day, is always very busy with various eco-events.

Do you have any tips for businesses interested in going green?

Margie: Sure! Go for the low hanging fruit first- the obvious things you can think of that you’d do at home. Also involve your employees. You can bet some of them would volunteer to lead a Green Team to come up with and implement ideas that are not only sustainable, but will save money in the long run. Perhaps it starts with something like turning off your computers at night, and turning off lights in unused rooms. Maybe it’s encouraging staff to bring in their own coffee mugs, and trading in the bottled water for a fountain with a water purifier. Each business will be somewhat unique in their needs and opportunities.

What are some reasons you’re so passionate about educating others about sustainability and the environment?

Margie: It may be that I really hate seeing waste, or damage to and disrespect for our environment. I just never throw anything away without some thought about whether it can be reused or recycled. I love nature, and animals, and want to see all life flourish.

Why should businesses and families consider “going green?”

Margie: I don’t see it as an option or a choice- I see it as imperative. The future depends on making smart choices today, for a livable planet. We’ll all have a better tomorrow if we keep our children’s children in mind.

What is Project HOUSE?

Margie: Project House stands for (wait for it)- Household Opportunity to Upgrade and Save the Environment. A mouthful, I know. It’s an acronym I came up with back in the seventies when I reworked a project I came across that was about measuring your use of various resources so you could become aware and then share ideas to cut back.

In early 2007, I joined our local Sierra Club’s Global Warming and Energy committee. In the very first meeting I went to, it was mentioned that the foremost concern of the Sierra Club, as a whole, was global warming. I decided to make my old project 21st century friendly by turning it into a website. When the hosting fees went up, and then the hosting service decided not to provide website hosting as they had before, I had to let it lapse. Now I have a Facebook page and a Merchant Circle page under the name of Margie’s Green Irene Mart instead.

What are some basic ways families can reduce their carbon footprint?

Margie: There are many lists out there of the top 10 or 20 things you can do. Actually, the biggest single one is the proverbial elephant in the room. Cut out or cut way down on meat and dairy consumption! The respected World Watch Institute has published a report that raising livestock is responsible for a whopping 51% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions! See more information at www.51percent.org.

Do you have upcoming green projects?

Margie: I just finished helping with this year’s Greentopia Festival (http://greentopiafestival.com), on the Waste Diversion committee as a planner, and on the weekend of the festival itself, as a Reclying Ranger. We were aiming at Zero Waste, and had 10-12 stations, staffed by volunteers, to collect recyclables, a minimal amount of trash, and compost material from food vending.

The Rochester Sierra Club is VERY busy with many projects simultaneously.

I also volunteer with Cool Rochester, an organization devoted to helping to lower our region’s carbon footprint using the Low Carbon Diet book model, among other things (http://www.coolrochester.org). We are a small but dedicated group.

How can parents get kids interested in reducing their household carbon footprint?

Margie: This works two ways- sometimes it’s the kids who try to get their parents interested! Either way, it can be a real challenge. I think a good tool might be to purchase or borrow a Kill-A-Watt meter. These devices measure the amount of electricity a gadget or appliance uses, by plugging one into an outlet then plugging the appliance or gadget into the meter. It can read out watts, volts, amps, dollar amounts, usage over time, etc. This easily demonstrates just how much power different devices use. Green Irene also has a Family Action Plan that has two pages of simple ideas for the whole family to sit down with and discuss. Anyone interested can email me for the FAP. Family members can make individual pledges as to what they will do.

Learn more about Margie Campaigne at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Margies-Green-Irene-Mart/152068008271, and order a variety of green products from her at www.greenirene.com/1144.