Thursday, March 19, 2009

Famed Environmentalist Visits Bay Ridge AARP

By day, Michael Allegretti works with such well-known political figures as Tony Blair and Arnold Schwarzenegger. But last week, he took the time to speak to the AARP chapter in his hometown of Bay Ridge.

Allegretti works at The Climate Group, an international organization that deals “with the issue of climate change in a common-sense way that leads to economic growth,” he explained. As the head of government relations, he works with some of the biggest companies in the world to start “public and private initiatives that come up with climate solutions always with an eye toward economic growth.”

Recently, Allegretti and The Climate Group went to Michigan — a state that he says is “reeling” — to discuss how existing industries (particularly the auto industry) and new industries can work together to “lift themselves up.

“We’re bringing hope to some folks that don’t have any,” he said.

He also meets with small-business leaders and union workers and students, “demonstrating how to save money, but also about how to create jobs, jobs that can be seeded in Brooklyn, Staten Island and other parts of New York City.

“There are white-collar and blue-collar jobs to be created, and if we have a candid look at the numbers, we see that many of these jobs can be created right here. From carbon traders who will work in the city’s financial services firms, to building tradesmen who will work retrofitting buildings to greener specks, New York City has a competitive advantage in the new energy economy, but it needs to be developed,” he explained. “Through a combination of market innovation and better public policies, we can see these jobs start to take hold in our city.”

But in Bay Ridge, Allegretti approached discussion in a different way. He spoke to the approximately 80 people in the Shore Hill Community Room, “communicating a message focused on saving money through simple adjustments to one’s daily life.”

While many people talk about climate change in scary ways that often overwhelm and sometimes are misconstrued, Allegretti said he “depoliticizes” the issues and puts them “in a language that people can understand.

“For some audiences it’s about saving money, and for some it’s about saving the planet,” he said, adding that for others, it’s both. He spoke to his audience about using energy-saving appliance, eating locally when possible, and using reusable bags to shop with. “Let’s not be wasteful,” he said.

But he urged listeners to “use as much as you need,” and “was so impressed by the level of knowledge,” he encountered, saying that the questions and dialogue were very smart and addressed topics that even he hadn’t planned on speaking about.

“It was just a great group,” he said. “I love Bay Ridge.”

In his own life, Allegretti carpools to work at The Climate Group, where printing is always double-sided, no paper kitchen products are used and they even offset their travel.

Photo courtesy of The Climate Group