“I Haven’t Owned a Car Since 1972”

My name is Marisa Eftefield and I have been participating in the Energy Engagement Student Internship during the month of August. I am a senior at the University of Minnesota majoring in Urban Studies.

One of the activities we did during the internship was write an elevator pitch about climate change. This activity gave us the opportunity to explain climate change quickly but purposefully. However, I dared to propose the “open door” pitch. In an elevator, people are trapped and have to listen to you. With the door wide open, you can explain your pitch but you invite conversation with the other party. This “open door” pitch is more personal and therefore much more powerful. It reveals what we find notable or unique about ourselves.

At the State Fair, over a million people come through the gates with many things to choose from. At the Eco Experience, we competed not just with log rolling, but also with cheese curds. A lot of time and resources went into engaging with the public so that we can educate folks about ways they can make positive changes in their lives. I may have been talking to people about LED light bulbs, but I hope I was able to motivate them to go even further. Fairgoers can then tell their neighbors or read more about how their actions impact the climate. I want them to feel good caring about their home, their earth!

My experience at the fair was really exciting, but what I didn’t expect was to be absolutely taken aback by a woman at 10 a.m. on Senior Day. She came up to me and my light bulbs and said, “I haven’t owned a car since 1972.” And at that moment, she became my idol. This woman and I were talking for no time at all, and suddenly I knew what drives her—no pun intended. She went on to explain that she had made the choice for environmental reasons. In 1972, people in her family and friends looked at her sideways. She mentioned that her dad was even embarrassed by her choices.

Hearing about the choice she made in 1972 made me stop and think. Were people impressed in 1973? Maybe not. Not owning a car for a year, while no small feat, doesn’t sound that crazy. Multiply that by 45 years, however, and you have people’s attention. The things we decide to do today may seem small, but each day and each year we commit to change does matter. This got me thinking about what sorts of things I will be able to exclaim five or 45 years down the road.

Working in the Eco Experience building was great because there were so many ideas and actions on display for everyday people to adopt. Maybe giving up your car isn’t realistic, but I bet there’s something. Whether it’s composting, installing solar panels, biking part-time, volunteering, donating, or working in clean energy—it all adds up.

When you happen upon the 55th President of the United States at your cousin Tony’s ice cream stand, what will you say to get their attention?

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