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

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

A Year of Solutions

This post is by Kwame Ntiri Owusu-Daaku, program leader at Iowa City Summer of Solutions.

I can’t believe I have changed this much in a year. I can’t believe I’ve stayed involved this much for a year either. What started out as a the need to find a summer internship in Iowa City has turned into an amazing journey of discovery from which I’m moving on to a PhD in Geography in which I plan to focus on development and climate change adaptation.


Kwame learns to caulk a window.

I came to Iowa City in August 2011 to begin a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Iowa. Before then, climate change for me was something Americans and Europeans rambled on about. Coming from Ghana, I was more concerned about social and economic sustainability than environmental protection and preservation. For me then, the tensions inherent in environment versus people and economy saw an obvious winner – I wasn’t about to let people continue to be impoverished while the ground lay fallow. I’ve expanded my thought processes since then and now I have no clear cut solutions. Continue reading

Iowa City making noise

It’s been an exciting week in Iowa City. One of our program leaders – Zach Wahls, maybe you’ve heard of him – has been fighting hard for marriage equality across the nation the past few months. He gave a speech a while back to the Iowa legislature, and it’s been blowing up the Internet (again). It recently hit 12 million views – woah.

It’s pretty easy to be proud of our friend. It’s also been pretty easy to get excited for this upcoming summer. We continue to work on projects from this past summer and have been planning away for new ones.

Update on 2011

IC is on the verge of something great. Our Solar Schools project – an initiative to install solar panels on two local schools in the Iowa City Community School District – has grown tremendously. After working with the school district, the project now includes at least 10 schools, and our team has been working tirelessly to get this passed. If the project is approved, it will be the largest solar project network hosted by a public school system in the nation.

Looking forward – 2012 projects

Our Power: Born in the Twin Cities, the Our Power program is a home weatherization initiative for low-income households in the Iowa City area. The program combines strong outreach and educational components focused on energy/environmental benefits of winterizing homes, the effect on residents’ energy bills and local resources for homeowners and renters. We recently received an $8k grant from Re-Amp, an alliance of foundations focused on clean energy issues, to get the project off the ground.

Iowa City Roots: Jumping on the local food bandwagon is easy to do in Iowa City, where our community’s educators, farmers, expert gardeners, parents and students all have a common goal: feed our kids with fresh, local and HEALTHY foods! We’re in the planning stages of this bloomin’ awesome project, which aims to construct and maintain 6 community gardens in public parks and schoolyards throughout the growing season of 2012. Partnering with the Parks and Recreation department of the City of Iowa City, the ICCSD, the Johnson County Local Food Alliance and dozens of community members, we have received a bounty of support thus far; the planning will continue through the dormant winter months as we secure land and funding–be on the lookout for things to start sprouting up come March!

Internship program: We working with the University of Iowa Career Center to create internship opportunities for U of I students interested in gardening, green economy work, clean energy issues and other community-based projects. Our team incorporates leadership development and youth empowerment in all aspects of our organization, making us aptly suited to be a Community Based Learning partner with the University. We are also working with professionals in local green businesses to match interested interns with sustainable companies in need of help and innovation.

White Roof and Neighborhood Compost Pilot projects: still in preliminary stages, these two projects aim to involve community members in simple intiatives that make a big impact. White roofs are perhaps the easiest way to engage businesses in sustainability, and with a lively downtown business community, we hope to provide white roofing services while partnering with local hardware and home improvement stores. The Neighborhood Compost Pilot is a branch of Iowa City roots, and hopes to bring composting intiatives to the community garden centers we’ll be working with.

Who we are

Our team is led by Zach Gruenhagen, Hadley Rapp, Zach Wahls, Tom Frakes, Eleanor Marshall and Kerri Sorrell. All of us are Iowa City natives or students at the University of Iowa. We’re committed to building a model of sustainability in Iowa City, one that can hopefully be replicated in other parts of our state. Iowa may be small, but we’ve got a lot of potential to do big things in this unique community.

Interested in keeping up with Iowa City Summer of Solutions? Check us out on Facebook, Twitter and at iowacitysos.org. We can’t wait for what promises to be an exciting, exhausting and exhilarating summer.

p.s. – Did you know Grand Aspirations is in the running to win $25K in the Pepsi Refresh Project? We’re working with the Progressive Slate to fund-raise towards our amazing programs and leaders. You can vote every day in December, so mark your calendars! Share this link: http://bit.ly/sWzLvl with your friends online and help us spread the word! Go team!