Guillermo Ulysses: Local Hero

Saving Energy, One Little Thing at a Time

What inspired you to make a commitment to saving energy?

I had my niece at the house with my daughter. We watched a documentary by Leonardo DiCaprio on the environment and moving from fossil fuel to solar power, and it rang a bell for all of us. My niece was the one who asked, What did we do wrong? And as I tried to explain, I think we weren’t supposed to use the entire amount of fossil fuel we had when we could’ve done something healthier for the environment. So, I told her, we’re kind of destroying our planet.

“The easiest thing is the lights. The light switches. You’ll be surprised if you hold yourself accountable how many times you leave them on. It’s a terrible habit that we all have.”

What was the first step you took toward becoming an Energy Hero?

The easiest thing to tackle was the lights—the light switches. You’ll be surprised if you hold yourself accountable just how many times you leave them on. It’s a terrible habit that we all have.

I began to notice how many lights we would leave on when we left the house, and how much light we used during the day while we were home. We didn’t really need to use so many. So we ended up taking a trip to our local home improvement stores to find the cheapest way to switch our light bulbs. We also moved from having regular lights to motion sensor lights.

And then the rule began: Every time we left the house, the lights needed to be off. And we simply made a conscious effort to turn them off. Once you switch your mindset, you begin to see the wastefulness. And believe me, the best cops in that situation are your kids because they’ll call you on it!

What other kinds of things have you done to become more energy efficient at home?

We had to buy a washer, and there was a rebate on a specific [energy-efficient] model. We bought it, got a rebate, and they came and took away the old one. There’s also this thing we found called Nest. You can control your lights from work or anywhere. I thought it was brilliant because there are still those times when I forget. We take shorter showers and use more cold water than hot. We fill a kiddie pool to rinse off in, instead of chlorine water, so each kid doesn’t have to take a shower. Then we use it as recycled water, just pouring it onto the grass.

What about saving energy at work?

Little by little I’m slipping energy savings into the conversation with the building owner. I told him because he leaves all the lights on. At first they were very skeptical.

Also, the AC is running 24/7, running on high, so it’s freezing all night – but not all of us are there 24/7. And so the building owner has begun to set the thermostat to a neutral standard. He’s getting there. I think I’m bringing him along. I showed him my office; he said he liked the lighting so much, and I told him it’s all from only two LED bulbs!

What were some of the challenges in becoming more energy efficient?

People walk with blinders [on]; they’re not aware of what’s happening. And many times I’ve pointed them toward the documentary Before the Flood. I’m like, pay attention, they’re speaking to us. I’m informing myself so I can relay the information to friends and neighbors, and make them understand it’s not going to be easy at first. Because the minute it hits you in the wallet, you are kind of like, okay, what am I doing?!

I think the most important things are to educate yourself and understand your carbon footprint. Understand how we can move from the fossil fuel that we’ve been using our whole life. How we’re damaging the environment. Seeing the brighter side of trying to make a difference – that part of the documentary really hit a chord in me – that we started this, and that we have to lead the change toward solar power and green energy.

I feel empowered. I’m all about hope. Let’s hope we can make a difference, guys. In my circle of friends, I’m making headway. I’m making them switch. Whenever we go to parties or gatherings, we talk about it. I speak to them about the possibility of going solar at home. Sometimes we live in a bubble. But sometimes it takes someone tapping you on the shoulder and saying, Hey, you’re not alone, there are others in your army.

What advice do you have for others looking to become more energy savvy?

Look at your energy bill. Pay attention to how much you waste. You don’t need the pool pump running 24/7. It’s not going to turn green from one day to the next. I give LED light bulbs as gifts because while I’m not going to run with you the whole way, for the first few miles I’ll be with you, helping you out. Here is my token of, like, come along, I’ll run with you.