The power of big numbers is such that even a relatively small number of people or organizations can make a real difference with a minimum of effort.

On the one hand, the problems facing the world today are so huge it often seems like a waste of time even trying to solve them. On the other, the power of big numbers is such that even a relatively small number of people or organizations can make a difference with a minimum of effort.

Case in point:The Center for Automotive Research(CAR), based in Ann Arbor, MI, recently published a report saying that if just 25 percent of U.S. corporations switched their vehicle fleets to some kind of clean-burning technology, it would cut annual oil consumption by some 15 million barrels. On the emissions side, this would be the equivalent of removing approximately 600,000 vehicles from the nation’s highways. It would also provide a tremendous boost to the nascent “green” energy industry, creating thousands of good jobs.

The CAR study is based on an ongoing fleet modernization program taking place at AT&T. Through the program, which was announced earlier this year, AT&T hopes to switch all of its vehicles to hybrid, electrical or compressed natural gas technologies in the next 10 years. CAR estimates that over the course of the conversion period, AT&T will reduce its gasoline consumption by more than 49 million gallons and trim carbon dioxide emissions by 211,000 metric tons. It will also help support an estimated 1,000 new green manufacturing jobs between now and 2013.

“If the country is serious about increasing the number of fuel-efficient vehicles on the road in the near future, the fleets of America, with their rapid turnover of vehicles, represent the best opportunity in the shortest time frame,” says Kim Hill, director of CAR’s sustainable transportation and communities group. “This example of corporate leadership, if followed by a significant portion of other public and private fleets, could have a huge impact on the release of greenhouse gases and significantly reduce our dependence on foreign oil.”

Granted, while 15 million barrels of oil may sound like a lot, it is, in fact, still a little less than what the United States consumes in a single day. Nonetheless, the point remains that relatively painless actions taken by a lot of people or a few large organizations can make a meaningful difference. A day’s worth of oil saved here, a day’s worth there-before long the amount of energy being conserved starts to add up to where you’ve got some real savings.

And it doesn’t all have to happen on the consumer side. Over the years, ASSEMBLY magazine has run numerous stories on how manufacturers can save energy-and boost the bottom line-by doing such simple things as shutting off the lights when a work area is not in use or plugging leaks in a compressed air system. Energy-efficient motors, electrically frugal lighting systems, ventilators that don’t run up your heating and cooling bills-today’s equipment manufacturers have developed a wealth of new technologies that can help assemblers cut energy costs and consumption literally overnight.

We’ve been living in a capitalist world for so long, it’s easy to forget there is a moral, or at the very least a practical reason for living the way we do-because it makes the world a better place to live. Don’t give a damn about the environment? Fine, at the very least I think we can all agree the less money we put into the pockets of people like Hugo Chavez and the Saudi royal family the better.

Whatever you do, don’t be daunted. Every little bit helps. Take pride in the fact that in reducing your company’s environmental footprint, you are not just helping it succeed, but making the world a better place in general. In the words of the immortal Jimmy Van Heusen:

So anytime you’re gettin’ low, ’stead of lettin’ go, just remember that ant Oops there goes another rubber tree plant…