Our Solutionary Power

This post is by Eli Shepherd, a program leader with the Iowa City, Iowa program.

This summer, the Iowa City Summer of Solutions (ICSoS) Our Power project hosted two public forums on rental energy efficiency issues. With all stakeholders working collaboratively- tenants, landlords, utilities, city officials, and community members- we developed a comprehensive list of barriers to energy efficiency for both tenants and landlords, as well as possible solutions. We then, with the help of a local energy efficiency consultant, developed a comprehensive recommendation to Iowa City City Council based on the most feasible solutions. Kira Stoller of the ICSoS Our Power team then prepared and presented our recommendation to council during the community comment period at the most recent council meeting and we will continue to communicate with the city in order to, with any luck, implement much if not all of our recommendations. Without further ado, here is what we came to council with, hope you like it!

Part of the Iowa City Our Power team following the first public forum.

Part of the Iowa City Our Power team following the first public forum.

Council Speech Continue reading
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Sustainable Art at Summer’s End

By Kate Johnson of the Iowa City, Iowa program.
This summer must have big plans for something fun in the fall, because it sure is in a hurry to get there! It has been a whirlwind of a few months here at Summer of Solutions in Iowa City, and we’ve been making the most of it in the ‘Sustainable Art’ group under the direction of Nick Gerken.  Though we have been sparsely populated, we’ve had some great assistance from our friends in ‘Our Power’ and ‘Iowa City Roots’.  With whoever we could grab, we have traveled to camps all summer, working on crafts with kids and talking to them about the environment.
These camps include Taproot, Pheasant Ridge, and two Wildlife camps (Hawk and Fox).  At Pheasant Ridge, we had the same group of kids that all live in the same neighborhood every Wednesday.  We did many projects with them and got to spend a lot of time with them.  Some of our crafts included weaving mats, pinwheels, and birdhouses.  We really enjoyed our time there, which we wrapped up July 31 by going to a nearby park after making parachute toys with plastic bags.  It brings a smile to my face when I think of some of the things our Pheasant Ridge kids talked to us about, even though we sometimes struggled to keep them on task. Continue reading

Our Power and Rental Energy Efficiency

By Kira Stoller of the Iowa City, Iowa program.

The Our Power project has had a lot going on recently. Throughout our canvassing most people have been more than willing to listen to us talk about our project and some have even invited us into their homes to escape the heat. We have come across a number of residents- both renters and homeowners- who have expressed an interest in making their homes more energy efficient. Thanks to a donation from the University of Iowa we have been able to offer these individuals free low flow shower heads. Thus far, two homes in the Northside neighborhood have signed up for our weatherization and a few others indicated that they want MidAmerican to conduct a free energy audit of their property. Continue reading

Painting Windows and Building Community

By William Perry of the Iowa City, Iowa program

After a week long orientation with our group leaders Nick Gerken, Eli Shepherd, and Kate Anstreicher, we split up into subgroups run by each leader geared toward specific causes.  Eli is in charge of ‘Our Power,’ which is an energy sustainability initiative with an end goal of addressing the split incentive issue for city counsel in regards to rental properties in Iowa City.  Kate leads ‘Iowa City Roots,’ which is a community gardening force working with the Iowa City landfill to implement a composting collection service for downtown businesses.  Then there is ‘Sustainable Art,’ the program that I am in.  Nick heads this subgroup and our weekly activities for a range of summer camps with the goal of educating about waste and waste management through hands on activities and recycled artwork.  Our group of about four people just recently came up with an idea we are very excited about: downtown window painting.

Children painting windows as part of the Iowa City Downtown District’s ‘Kidows’ initiative. Continue reading

Let the Solutionary Summer Commence

By: Eli Shepherd from Iowa City Summer of Solutions

The end of fall marked the rekindling of planning and organization. Winter came and plans were made, the leadership team organized. January rolled around and said team journeyed to Chicago for several days of intensive and enlightening training. Spring brought both metaphorical April showers and May flowers as plans and programs were dreamed up, debated, shot down, and solidified. Participant applications and grants alike came sporadically. Now it all comes down to summer.

The turning of the calendar to June marks the start of the Summer of Solutions. So, while program leaders like myself, Nick, and Kate (our 2013 leadership team) are scrambling to master our trainings and tie down the loose ends before our June 10 start date here in sunny, flooded Iowa City, I thought I would share an anecdote and a recipe from here in Iowa City! Continue reading

Local Solutionary Stories

Eli Shepherd’s Story

As is the tradition, many folks like to use the beginning of the year to reflect on the past year, and also to look forward, to set, if you will, their Grand Aspirations for the year ahead. As a 2013 program leader with the Iowa City Summer of Solutions program, I am just too excited to keep my Grand Aspirations for the program from the rest of the world.

I stumbled into Summer of Solutions in June of 2012- rather, I came across a Facebook post soliciting “solutionaries,” and subsequently walked over to a church basement in downtown Iowa City in June of 2012- and at first had no idea what to think. There was one really excited person who greeted me at the door, one person who I later discovered was also in high school, several people who attended the University of Iowa, several people who were studying engineering, and enough chairs and pumpkin muffins for the whole lot of us. By the end of our training week I knew I had found a home but it wasn’t until early August that I became truly invested in the work.

Continue reading

All Solutionary Systems Go!

Summer is back already!..wait, it’s not? Well, with sixty degree weather in November and December it sure feels like it. The physical season of summer may not be here but the problem-solving and action-oriented spirit of summer which earns us the name “solutionary” is most certainly in full swing.

Iowa City solutionaries hard at work at Wildwoods Farm in Solon, Iowa.

Iowa City solutionaries hard at work at Wildwoods Farm in Solon, Iowa.

Since a group of us Iowa Citians got back from the 2012 Grand Aspirations August Gathering, we have been quite a busy bunch. For starters, we have applied for two grants for our energy efficiency campaign Our Power. The funding organizations were the United States Climate Action Network (USCAN) and RE-AMP, a network of Midwest nonprofits and foundations working to reduce global warming pollution. We successfully secured the RE-AMP grant. In fact we were awarded $5,000 over our expected amount, allocated for the purpose of hiring consultant to help us identify viable ways of engaging landlords in our campaign for city-wide energy efficiency. We could not have achieved this without the hard work and dedication of our program leaders Nick Gerken and Zach Gruenhagen. Most exciting, and frightening, of all, was that in the message accompanying our RE-AMP grant, we were referred to by the grant selection committee as the only youth doing solutionary work in the state of Iowa. Needless to say we’re determined to live up to our status. Continue reading