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

Gaining momentum through community engagement


LR Summer of Solutions hosted a booth on 12th Street to sign up residents for free home energy assessments.

By: Kara King
Location: Little Rock

The Little Rock Summer of Solutions team is officially half way through our 8 week program and our projects are really beginning to take off! We began the week by tending to the 12th and Oak garden. When I stepped into the garden this week after being away for over a week, I was blown away by the appearance of our garden! Despite some failed attempts in some of our beds and having to uproot some of the seasonal plants, the rest of the garden is flourishing. Our sunflowers are the height of most average adults and our tomatoes are constantly producing fruit! We continue to expand our garden by clearing new beds and planting new seeds. Continue reading

Courageous climate-saving superheros?

Last Wednesday night, a group of about 15 Worcester Solutionaries sat around a community fire hosted by our local librarian, advisor, and spiritual teacher Rachael Shea, checking-in for the week after one of our delicious, abundant potlucks. Rachael and her fellow friend, shaman, and healer Dan Sprinkles, who was a special guest visiting us, posed the questions, “What motivates you to do this work for Summer of Solutions?” “What brings you together as a community in ways that seem so natural to you but yet take time and practice from so many others?” and “What gives you the courage to do what you’re doing?”, not necessarily expecting an answer, but just hoping to understand how and why we’re doing what we’re doing this summer. The last question struck me as particularly interesting and maybe misdirected because I did not consider what we were doing “courageous” per se; to me that sounded too gratifying or pedestal-deserving than what we were actually doing. After talking to Dan about it more and asking what he meant by that question, he told me that “courage” actually comes from root definitions meaning “action from the heart”. All of a sudden it made more sense to me, and I do see our work this summer as full of courage; not in a medal-deserving way, but in a way that we maybe don’t know exactly why we’re doing what we’re doing, but it feels right, important, and coming from a natural pull from our hearts to action.

Weatherizing homes and the potential of skill

Here in the Twin Cities, one of our projects is Cooperative Energy Futures, a cooperative harnessing the power of efficiency to build community as well as energy solutions. We sell a lot of materials for home weatherization, but many of us had never tried these materials out. To educate ourselves more about how home weatherization is done, we enlisted the help of Jim Walsh, one of the founders of Project Warm in Kentucky. Last Saturday, about seven solutionaries did a walk-through of a house owned by Macalester College. Jim told us about different kinds of heat loss in a home and explained how to combat them. We mostly focused on convective heat loss (the kind that happens through the loss of warm air) rather than conductive heat loss (the kind that happens as heat moves through solid surfaces like walls). Armed with new knowledge, we walked through the house and he showed us where to look for inefficiencies.

Unfortunately for us (although fortunately for the residents), the house was already very well weatherized and there wasn’t very much for us to do. There was one window that needed weatherstripping, a door sweep to replace on the front door, some caulking to do in the basement, and a whole bunch of window pulleys to make more airtight. All of these are methods to plug up small holes in outer walls that let either cold air come in or warm air escape. We went back today to install them. They’re all fairly cheap methods — where the cost in weatherization lies, Jim told us, is in the labor.

That’s one thing that has really stuck with me, the idea that there’s so much value to add to weatherizing materials by knowing how to use them. I’ve been thinking today about the possibilities for CEF if we were really good at weatherizing. We’re already working on a workshop to teach people how to use caulk and weather stripping. As I understand it, one of the major flaws in energy auditing as it is done now is that the auditing work is separate from the installation of the needed materials. What if folks from CEF came around, did audits, and installed needed materials? I know this idea isn’t new or unique, but it really hit home for me today while I was actually installing pulley covers and caulking windows. I am really excited to figure out how we can simplify the process of making people’s homes more efficient and use it to do the parts of CEF that ARE new and unique: building communities that are empowered to create their own energy solutions.