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Big Changes via Small Actions

Small Actions Big Changes

Sri's Blog

Small Actions Big Changes

Climate change may seem like too enormous a problem to tackle—but big problems can be solved if many people take small actions. This phenomenon is perfectly illustrated by a famous story about former American Airlines President and Chairman Robert Crandall. Looking for ways to save the airline money and fuel, Crandall decided to remove one olive from every salad served on American Airlines flights. This tiny action, repeated hundreds of thousands of times, resulted not only in reducing the cost of food, but also reducing the amount of fuel needed for flights due to eliminating the combined weight of all those olives—to the tune of a hundred thousand dollars. Who would have thought a small olive could have such a big impact?

I firmly believe that a large amount of small, collective actions outweighs fewer larger actions. At Intellihot, we have also applied this concept, albeit in a different way. Rather than building larger water heating units for larger buildings, we built a modular box to which we could add more modules. As individuals, they have limited capability—but as a group, they are able to handle very large buildings with higher and more complex loads. Our large machines were made out of smaller building blocks of heat exchangers and controls—much like building a giant structure out of many small Lego pieces.

This is exactly how change happens: many individual people taking small actions to create big change. And this same thinking, this same phenomenon, can be applied to climate change and water conservation.

Most people have to wait 30 to 45 seconds, even up to a minute, for hot water to get to their faucets—and all the while, good, clean water is running down the drain. If we added up those tiny amounts of time, it would amount to six months of wasted water over the course of a lifetime. Now multiply that by a city of 200,000 people, and that’s three Olympic-size pools of water wasted. Along with the water being wasted, there is also the energy being used during that time to heat the water and bring that water to our homes. 

The small action of not wasting water will help the environment, create a healthier atmosphere, preserve weather and rainfall patterns, and allow farmers to continue farming and providing food to the world. If we don’t take these small collective steps, then we may not have enough to eat and our planet may become uninhabitable. It is all interconnected.

There is no one exact scientific path to a sustainable future—but there are many of these small, obvious actions we can take. We can switch to electric cars and more efficient light bulbs. We can recycle and use reusable bags. We can inflate our car tires to the proper pressure to get better fuel consumption. We can buy and cook smaller portions of food—currently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates a staggering 30 to 40 percent of food supply in the United States is wasted.

Those may seem like small, insignificant actions, but when you add them up collectively, the impact is larger than the sum of its parts. Even the tiniest of actions, multiplied by eight billion people, equals enormous action—and that is the only way we are going to get out of this crisis that affects us all, equally.

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