Turning Down the Temperature in Tupelo
Travis Hunsicker of Tupelo, Mississippi—that's right, Elvis's birthplace—an avid hiker who last year walked Peru's Inca Trail to Machu Pichu (above), says it was an article in an adventure travel magazine article that jump-started his environmental activism. "It was a special on what people can do locally to help out with the environment," he told Voice of America this month. "I guess it's kind of a thing where if you enjoy the outdoors, you also want to give back."
The way he decided to act was through the Sierra Club's Cool Cities program, to get cities and towns to adopt smart energy solutions to reduce their global warming emissions. The first step was to get Tupelo Mayor Ed Neeley to sign the U.S. Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement. Neely was receptive, and said he would recommend that the City Council approve the move.
Hunsicker now plans to form a local board to determine what actions the city and individuals can take. "A lot of people have thought about doing something but never took those steps. I want to give them the opportunity to say, 'Yeah, let's help out.'"
The main pushback he has gotten from civic and industry leaders is the up-front cost of switching to energy-efficient technologies. Hunsicker points to a survey of Tupelo's municipal buildings which shows that the city's annual energy bill dropped by half after implementing green changes. "If we can do it here in Tupelo," he says, "what could be done around the state? That's my ultimate goal—to have a positive influence on other cities to do the same thing."