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Driving a Student-led Revolution in Small-Business Energy Savings

Sheila Kinkade | December 10, 2015

Five years ago, while interning at an energy auditing firm in Washington, DC, Daniel Hill questioned why the company never consulted with small businesses. In response, he was told that any effort to work with small businesses to reduce their carbon footprint couldn’t be justified in light of the time and resources required.

Recognizing that such businesses in the U.S. account for half a billion tons of carbon emissions annually, Daniel and technology consultant Dave Hussey started thinking about how you could deliver such a service—and achieve energy savings—at scale. The result was the Green Impact Campaign, a nonprofit organization that equips university students with cloud-based tools to conduct free energy assessments for small business owners.

Since 2011, Green Impact Campaign has worked with student volunteers at more than 100 universities across the U.S. that have helped hundreds of businesses cut their energy costs by an average of 25 percent.

Central to its approach is engaging students as pro bono energy consultants, who not only advise local businesses, but gain valuable experience to prepare them as climate leaders. Students use a self-training, cloud-based tool, called GEMS, on their smartphones to record simple yes/no responses from business owners on their energy uses. Once completed, GEMS produces a customized report for the business that provides actionable recommendations on how to save energy—and money. The whole process takes roughly 20 minutes.

Through developing a virtual toolkit and establishing partnerships with national environmental groups with campus-based chapters—including Net Impact, the Environmental Defense Fund, and Alliance to Save Energy—Green Impact Campaign is successfully scaling its model.

Learn more about Daniel’s approach to scale in this video interview