Tony Anderson: Changing Light Bulbs & Changing Lives

Authors: Maritza Martinez, Fellowship Program Manager Everything changed when Green For All Fellow Tony Anderson, then a college student at Morehouse College, was given a compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL) at an event. For Mother's Day, he bought his mother 30 CFLs and installed them. This small action changed his mother's perspective on environmental issues and she began talking to the neighbors about going green. From that transformative moment, Tony has been part of the environmental justice movement every step of the way. He went back to Morehouse and started an effort called Let's Raise a Million (LRAM) with co-founder and Green For All Fellow Marcus Penny, to retrofit a million homes in communities of modest means. Working in teams, student-volunteers canvassed neighborhood, going door to door to discuss the benefits of using CFLs and change every incandescent light bulb in the resident's homes.

It's our time, our turn for green collar and green cufflink jobs and that is what we are trying to build.

Tony sees LRAM as a social justice organization that does environmental work. He wants to make sure that residents of low and modest income communities understand how the environmental condition they live in affects their health and what they can do about it. Tony notes "80 percent of people of color live within 30 miles of a coal-fire plant." Communities are breathing in toxic air but often don't realize how these toxic businesses are linked to health concerns such as asthma. Tony asserts, "We lost in 2010 because we didn't do a good enough job of telling people how they are part of this work." Tony sees his role in this movement not only as an educator and a builder of green collar jobs but also as the creator of "green cufflink" jobs. By arming students with the tools and knowledge to tackle the problems facing communities, he is preparing them to be future leaders in this movement. Since graduating from Morehouse College, Tony has grown LRAM into a multi-city effort that has expanded to include water conservation kits and installation of low flow toilets. LRAM recently received funding from the Kendeda Fund to allow for further expansion. Tony and his team have moved out of his bedroom-office and into a commercial space with a warehouse to store all their CFLs and other supplies. They have partnered with Citgo to install 22,000 CFLs this year and will be creating a toolkit to help other community groups create their own Retrofit Day of Action – including a 5 X 8 trailer filled with all the supplies necessary. In September, LRAM will revamp their brand to reflect their growing work and introducing a new name for the project: Let's Retrofit A Million Education Fund.

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