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Heroes of Sustainability: Jeff and Heather Barrie

Sometimes the smallest changes can make the biggest impact -- that's the motto of Jeff and Heather Barrie, the husband-and-wife team behind the award-winning film Kilowatt Ours: A Plan to Re-Energize America.

Documentary filmmaker Jeff has been producing independent films since 1993, all related to the goal of showing how people can be part of the solutions to the environmental challenges our planet faces.

A 'Filmic Jewel' In Kilowatt Ours, Jeff puts a spotlight on the dangers of coal-generated power and shares how simple changes such as switching incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents, using Energy Star appliances, installing adequate insulation, and locating and sealing leaks in air duct systems can have significant results. These changes can result in reduced carbon footprints, along with hundreds of dollars saved on home energy annually, and potentially millions of dollars in savings for businesses and communities.

Heather, an artist and musician, came into the fold in 2000, when she met Jeff at a coffee shop. With Kilowatt Ours, she provided creative input, moral support, and meals (always helpful!), along with becoming part of the focus as she and Jeff worked to find energy solutions in their own home.

The film started airing on public television stations in 2008, has been viewed in schools by more than 5,000 students, and has been screened in 1,000-plus communities. It's won numerous awards, including Best Documentary Feature at the South Dakota Film Festival and Best Environmental Film at the Southern Appalachia International Film Festival.

"Kilowatt Ours is the rare environmental filmic jewel -- it is well made, filled with just enough facts and figures to galvanize people to action, good for all ages, humorous and extremely accessible, " says a GreenMuze review. "Kilowatt Ours is The Inconvenient Truth of energy. A must-see film for every person in North America. "

Ordinary Citizens The Barries practice what they preach. They line-dry their children's organic cloth diapers, pay attention to their thermostat settings, use ceiling fans, and unplug electronic devices that aren't in use. Those may all seem like small things, but the couple is able to keep their electric bills at half the national average, despite the fact that they live in Tennessee, which has a higher average electricity usage rate than other parts of the country.

Wondering what other tips they have? Check out a short video they made of home tips here.

Perhaps best of all, the Barries say that working together toward a common goal of conservation and learning to compromise and negotiate with each other has helped to keep their marriage strong.

"Kilowatt Ours helps ordinary citizens take an active role in energy conservation, " Jeff says. "Most viewers are shocked at the scope of the issue and even more so at the immediacy and simplicity of the solution -- energy savings as an energy source. "

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