When the oil embargo hit in the 1970s, Alan Abramson was energized by environmental awareness. But he was just starting his career as a bond trader; he was just married, had his 1st kid — you know how it goes.
But Alan never stopped wondering why America used its resources so inefficiently. And he could not understand why we bought so many resources from our enemies.
Alan, his wife Lynn and their young family moved to Westport 20 years ago. “It’s the best thing we ever did,” he says. “We absolutely love the community.” He had a successful career in bonds — but he never truly loved the industry.
In 2007 hooked back up with his alma mater. Duke’s online master’s program in environmental management was aimed at environmental professionals. Alan wasn’t one — but as an expert in market-based solutions, he was in.
“It was a great experience,” he says. He graduated in May 2009 — a horrible time to look for a new job, let alone change careers. But Duke’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions needed a carbon markets fellow, so 2 months later Alan moved to Durham for a year.
Lynn stayed here. She was attending Columbia University’s Teachers College — getting a master’s in English education.
“People on Wall Street think they’re the smartest people on the planet,” Alan says. “Well, there’s incredible talent in academia too. And the energy level there was like being on the bond trading floor.”
When his year was up, Alan returned to Westport. Soon, Gordon Joseloff asked him to co-chair the 1st selectman’s Green Task Force. Simultaneously, Dan Levinson asked Alan to co-chair a Green Village Initiative to help local homeowners become more energy efficient.
At Duke, Alan had become intrigued by the low rates at which people take steps to reduce energy consumption. A result of his interest is a survey currently making its way around town. The questions are designed to understand local knowledge and interest in home energy efficiency measures. (Click here to take the survey.)
After the results are tabulated, GVI will organize a focus group to find out how best to market energy efficiency to Westport. Alan knows energy efficiency is not a long-term solution — as a recent New Yorker story pointed out, the more efficient energy usage becomes, the more energy is used — but he calls it “a bridge to the eventual answer.”
As environmentally aware as this town is, there are still obstacles to more efficient energy usage. Many homeowners don’t realize, for example, that a CL&P Home Energy Solutions analysis costs just $75 with co-pay — and that we pay for the audit program anyway, through a utility bill charge.
We don’t have a lot of time to pursue energy efficiency solutions. And although a 10% reduction in energy bills sounds nice, for many Westporters the actual dollar amount is not significant for many.
“The key is to get lots of people to do it,” Alan says. “Then the reductions in use would be enormous. And the payoff for the community would be huge.”
Surprisingly, Alan is “not a big advocate of ‘green’ and ‘sustainable.’ I think those words have been marketed very poorly.” He is no marketing expert — but he knows there are plenty of Westporters with expertise in that field, who can help market the energy efficiency cause.
“It’s important for people to be aware of their consumption habits,” he says. “We’re a consumer society, and we measure our success based on GDP. Our perception is that consumption equals lifestyle.
“We have to find other ways to measure success.”