This is where Gershon's book comes in. The book guides participants through a month-long process of behavioral change. Each participant calculates his or her footprint – the average US household emits 55,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually, the book says – and then browses a list of emissions-lowering actions. The goal is to reduce that amount bit by bit. Replacing an incandescent bulb with a fluorescent, for example, counts for a 100-pound annual reduction. Purchasing an energy-efficient furnace counts for 2,400 pounds. Just tuning up your existing furnace reduces your carbon emissions by 300 pounds while insulating your warm air ducts lowers them by 800 pounds.
But the key to the program's success, say those who've participated, is in forming a support group. People have good intentions, says Gershon, but alone, they often lack the will to follow through. Like Weight Watchers or Alcoholics Anonymous, the formation of a group encourages follow-through by socially reinforcing the new, desired behavior.
"I think it's essential," says Nathaniel Charny, a New York lawyer who participated in the recently completed testing phase of "Low Carbon Diet." "Everybody's reinforcing the goals, and you're having frank discussions about things."
And as Gershon sensed, the timing for a book offering day-to-day solutions to an overwhelming global problem couldn't be better. Gore's group, The Climate Project, which recently began training 1,000 volunteers to give Gore's now-famous slide show, is handing out 600 copies of the book at the end of the session.
Meanwhile, a handful of environmental and religious groups are recommending the book to its members. The Regeneration Project, a San Francisco-based interfaith ministry, has linked to the book on its main page. So have Climate Solutions, a nonprofit group in Olympia, Wash., and the Vermont chapter of Interfaith Power and Light (IPL), a nationwide organization dedicated to "greening" congregations.