Growing up as a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club, Michael Kerstein developed an appreciation of the natural world from a young age. “When you’re in the woods and you drop your garbage on the path for somebody else to stumble on and clean up – it’s really a shame. It doesn’t take much to do the right thing. Pick up your own garbage and leave no trace.” Now the owner of Simons Shoes in the heart of busy Coolidge Corner, Kerstein sees his recent efforts to implement more energy efficient lighting strategies as an extension of this elementary rule. “What we’re talking about here – making your business more sustainable – is an extension of this ‘leave no trace’ principle.”
Kerstein switched to LED lighting in Simons Shoes under the Mass Save program in 2017 and soon after, opted up to 100% Brookline All Green electricity through the town’s aggregation program that offers power from New England renewable energy sources.
The shop, a 3,800 square foot establishment located on Harvard Street in Brookline, was originally founded in 1892. “My parents bought out the original owner in the late 1940s and then I bought out the family in the mid 70s and have been working there ever since,” he explained. News about the Mass Save Program came to Kerstein from another local business owner. “It was through word-of-mouth that I learned about the program. A friend explained to me how I can save money, save energy, and benefit the environment. He was another businessman and he did it, so I wanted to hear about it,” Kerstein recounted. His story perfectly captures recent research indicating the importance of direct social contact in adopting cutting edge behavior, as outlined in The Psychology of Sustainable Behavior published by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. The lesson here is that direct contact with someone who already does something sustainable increases the likelihood of picking up that behavior, which further increases with the nearness of the relationship and the “early-adopter’s” willingness to talk to others.
Getting Over the Hurdle
Making the decision to take action was the only difficult part, according to Kerstein. “It really wasn’t a big challenge. Deciding to contact Mass Save in the first place, to make that initial phone call was the only step that required action on my part. Once you get over that hurdle – and I got over it by having a friend tell me how he’d done it – it’s very easy,” he reflected. After Kerstein contacted Mass Save and scheduled a facility assessment, AECOM, a sub-contractor for Mass Save, performed an audit at no cost, identified energy-saving measures, and set up the replacement work with an available vendor; the vendor installed new LED lighting, replacing light fixtures and bases as needed at no extra charge and disposing of the old, halogen light bulbs. Most of the installation cost was covered by the Mass Save program, leaving approximately 25 percent, or $1,400, to be covered by Kerstein with an interest-free loan from Mass Save spread over 24 months. With the savings from the new LED lighting, Kerstein’s monthly costs remained roughly the same even with the added installation costs. After paying off these costs, each month he saw the monetary benefits from saving energy.
After continued savings each month from the new LED lighting, investing in local renewable energy by opting up to 100% Brookline All Green was the next logical step. “There is a multiplier effect” noted Kerstein, “We’re saving money. We’re investing in local, renewable energy. We’re moving down the road to sustainability. It makes business sense and environmental sense. It’s all positive news.”
Installing energy-efficient lighting is a good starting point. “Changing lighting is only one of many things we want to get involved in. This is easy, relatively speaking. Everything takes work, but this is simple. Mass Save installed the new lighting and the LED bulbs will last 10–25 years. You save time, you save money, and you benefit the environment. This is a no-brainer” reflected Kerstein. Taking an initial step towards sustainability increases one’s willingness to think about other steps, as pointed out in The Psychology of Sustainable Behavior. In other words, it gets us thinking, “What’s next?” What’s next for Michael Kerstein might be tackling waste or rethinking transportation. And, as Kerstein’s experience shows, sharing his simple story might be all that is needed to convince a friend to take that all-important first step on the path toward sustainability.
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