Monthly Archives: August 2011

Catalyzing Change: Sustainability In A Southern Town – Part 2

By Kealy Devoy, 2011 Climate Corps Public Sector Fellow at the Town of Cary, NC; MEM Candidate at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment

If there’s one thing I’ve learned while working in the environmental arena, it is that change does not happen in a vacuum. We need to actively involve as many people in the organization as possible. Generating buy-in for workplace sustainability can be challenging, but with a few key strategies, we can start winning people over.

In my last post, I outlined seven core steps to catalyzing change within an organization, and talked about how the Town of Cary has implemented the first step. Those seven steps are:

  1. Make it official.
  2. Identify the changers.
  3. Change is not binary.
  4. Operate in parallel.
  5. The Rule of 7.
  6. Market internally and externally.
  7. Celebrate successes.

Steps two through four are about how to initiate change. Here’s what I’ve been up to over the past few weeks:

#2: Identify The Changers

The changers are the people who are excited about sustainability. They have ideas, enthusiasm, and momentum. If the organization has many departments, finding changers in various parts of the organization will promote sustainability in each department. Through these changers, you can develop relationships with different individuals and departments on their terms. The initial focus should be on why sustainability is important, and what the benefits of pursuing it are.

One project I am working on focuses on energy efficiency improvements for the Town’s fire stations. The Fire Chief gave me a list of changers from each of the seven Cary Fire Stations who were chosen based on an interest in energy and environmental issues. Having someone at each station who is excited by sustainability has been exceedingly helpful in building buy-in.

#3: Change Is Not Binary

Sustainability is not simply green or not. There are many facets of sustainability, all of which are steps in the right direction. It is important to tackle only as many projects as your organization can handle. Start small, minimize risk, and pick the low-hanging fruit. You don’t need to be generating all of your power from solar panels by tomorrow in order to be sustainable.

Energy efficiency is a great way to get started. Many projects involve low-to-no cost, such as turning down temperatures on hot water heaters and enforcing thermostat temperature set points. Other projects have short payback periods, like upgrading exit signs to LEDs. Still more projects, like preventative maintenance of HVAC systems, have co-benefits including improved occupant comfort and better indoor air quality.

#4: Operate in Parallel

Because the route to a sustainable organization is ongoing and ever-evolving, we should use many simultaneous tools to catalyze change. These include comprehensive strategic plans, various investment structures, capital projects, maintenance programs, and more.

One important consideration here is the impact of these projects on the facilities and maintenance staff. The Town chooses to operate in parallel not only in pursuing projects, but also with how to implement these projects so that their facilities team does not get overwhelmed. Namely, they choose their in-house projects wisely, and hire contractors for the rest.

These three steps are an important part of initiating change within an organization. The next three steps are all about how to communicate this change effectively and efficiently. Check back soon for more on the remaining three steps!

This post reflects the personal opinions of Kealy Devoy, and does not reflect the positions, strategies, or opinions of the Town of Cary.

EDF Climate Corps Public Sector (CCPS) trains graduate students to identify energy efficiency savings in colleges, universities, local governments and houses of worship. The program focuses on partnerships with minority serving institutions and diverse communities. Apply as a CCPS fellow, read our blog posts and follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this program.

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Just Do It: Sometimes Jumping In With Both Feet Is The Best Choice To Make

By Jen Weiss, 2011 EDF Climate Corps Fellow at Shaw University, MEM Candidate, Nicolas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, NC

A few weeks ago, I found myself peering over the edge of a forty-two foot platform willing myself to take the leap – to tackle the Mega Jump.  Okay, maybe peering is not the right word.  I was gripping the side of the platform, looking out over the horizon, and wondering how I had ever gotten convinced to do this given my severe fear of heights.  But, there I was.  I decided to stop thinking about it.  Better to trust that it was all going to work out fine than analyze every detail.  I closed my eyes, released my grip, and jumped …

The next moment, I was on the ground.  I checked for breaks or cuts – nothing.  The only thing I felt was exhilaration – a feeling of success and accomplishment.  I had done it. And I had survived.

I get a similar sense of nervous anticipation with energy efficiency.  What’s that?  You don’t follow my leap?  Consider this …

I have just wrapped up my EDF Climate Corps Fellowship at Shaw University in downtown Raleigh.  My EDF partner, Eliza, and I have made recommendations that could save the university over $125,000 a year in annual energy savings.  And, some of these recommendations come at absolutely no cost:

  • Power management (sleep mode) for PCs and copiers
  • Summer setback temperatures for some of the dorms
  • Upgrading exit signs to LED versions
  • Upgrading the residence hall’s laundry services to more energy efficient washing machines
  • Consolidation of office equipment and mini-fridges

A few other recommendations have a small price of admission, but with Progress Energy rebates and very short payback periods, they can be done quickly and savings can be seen within six months:

  • Install vending misers on all vending machines
  • Upgrade lighting to more efficient T-8s
  • Install programmable thermostats (my personal favorite – the savings here are huge!)

Shaw is now standing on the edge of the platform waiting to jump.  The eager faces in the audience as Eliza and I presented these recommendations tell me that they have the desire and commitment to make the changes and lead Shaw into sustainability.  And they certainly have the experience and knowledge to get it done.  The next step is up to them. 

At this point, Shaw needs to take a leap of faith. They need to jump off the platform and feel the exhilaration that comes from saving the planet (and saving money).  There is absolutely nothing to lose and a tremendous amount to gain. My advice? 

Just Do It!

EDF Climate Corps Public Sector (CCPS) trains graduate students to identify energy efficiency savings in colleges, universities, local governments and houses of worship. The program focuses on partnerships with minority serving institutions and diverse communities. Apply as a CCPS fellow, read our blog posts and follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this program.

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Fulfilling The Spelman Legacy: A Choice To Change The World

By: Melissa Wise, 2011 Climate Corps Public Sector Fellow at Spelman College; MBA candidate at Keller Graduate School of Management

Here I am back on Spelman’s campus.  It’s been eight years since the first time I walked through their gates as a student.  I never thought that I’d be back here so soon after graduation, living a dream that I once had out of desperation as a “freshwoman” trying to survive the non-air-conditioned dorms.  I had a vision of one day returning to the Spelman community as an Alumna and providing at least one dorm with the air-conditioning that it deserved.  It seemed to be a “rite of passage” at Spelman for first-year students to live in non-air-conditioned buildings. Those unbearable long summer seasons in “Hot-lanta” will never be forgotten.  So, I vowed that when I became a well-established businesswoman, it would be my gift to the school.  Being a fellow with EDF may make that dream come true a little sooner than planned.

 Here’s what I’ve learned upon my return:

  • The Suites, Spelman’s newest dormitory, received a silver-level certification from LEED.  This makes it the first of its kind for a residence hall on the campus of a historically Black university.
  • My office equipment inventory has shown that Spelman uses a very high percentage of Energy Star products including: copiers, fax machines, computers, and monitors. Spelman also has a high percentage of Energy Star vending and snack machines.
  • Lighting upgrades are well under way from T12 to T8 bulbs, along with many other energy efficient bulb choices.

 And the list just goes on at this pioneering institute.  Often, I find myself coming across an idea for a possible improvement, just to find out that it has already been considered or underway in future plans.  Spelman seems to have it all under control, so I’ll just have to keep on digging!  It is definitely hard to find fault behind these gates.

 Interesting quotes I frequently hear:

  • “It’s my choice, and I choose to change the world!” A line from Spelman’s theme song sung by our Glee Club.  I hear this song or see this phrase often around campus and in articles on the school website.
  • “Ahh, touché!” Friendly debates involving opposing views of equipment and upgrades.  For example, the campus mechanical “Mr. Fix –it” may feel that a heating/cooling unit needs to be replaced due to its extensive life cycle, while the Automatic Control System guru will say that it’s working just fine. Who is right?
  • “Hey, who turned out the lights?” The Director of Facilities Management and Services (my supervisor) will randomly make trips to areas around campus during peak demand hours and turn off lights in unoccupied areas.

Choosing to change the world may seem like a difficult task for such a small school, but Spelman is no stranger to leadership and service. Be it students, alumnae, faculty or staff, Spelman is dedicated to serving its community and making choices that will impact many generations to come.  I am proud to join the continuous, precious legacy of Spelman’s story that dates back to 1881. Needless to say, this opportunity is a dream come true.

EDF Climate Corps Public Sector (CCPS) trains graduate students to identify energy efficiency savings in colleges, universities, local governments and houses of worship. The program focuses on partnerships with minority serving institutions and diverse communities. Apply as a CCPS fellow, read our blog posts and follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this program.

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“Enter To Learn. Depart To Serve”

By Michelle Williams, 2011 EDF Climate Corps Public Sector Fellow at Winston-Salem State University, MBA, Winston-Salem State University, Winston-Salem, NC

My fellowship brought me to the illustrious institution of Winston-Salem State University (WSSU). A two time graduate of WSSU with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance, and a Master of Business Administration degree, I found it an honor to be assigned to my alma mater. The University’s motto, “Enter to Learn. Depart to Serve,” is very wise and has a great meaning. Serve (v.), means to be in service of, pay homage, work actively, provide, and help. In other words, to serve could be understood to be a selfless act, thinking not only of yourself but also the betterment/well-being of others. My assignment for the summer was just that.

Efforts to become environmentally aware and practice energy conservation, preservation, and sustainability measures require selfless behavioral acts that positively affect the environment. Individuals consider how they can inspire others to be aware so that generations to come have a healthy environment in which to live. This made me realize that the most important contributor to the success of WSSU’s environmental consciousness would be behavioral change. Of the several projects we recommend, the one most important to me was increasing institutional engagement and educating the faculty/staff and students in hopes to jeer a successful energy conservation movement.

I sought to get the institution excited about energy conservation. Often people fail to participate due to lack of knowledge. Simply informing people about the amount of energy wasted from one light left on and the impact it can cause could result in changes in one’s behavior.  Inform, intrigue, engage became the concept behind getting the University involved. Steps to WSSU’s sustainable future:

  • A constitution to start “Rams Go Green,” an environmental club which is the key aspect to student engagement.
    • Mission: To create awareness of environmental issues such as conservation, pollution, and preservation. The organization plans to advance the understanding of responsible environmental behaviors by informing the student body, faculty/staff, and the community on ways to improve our environment.
  • An outline for “Rams Do it in the Dark,” WSSU’s first environmental dorm war campaign.
  • Influencing participation in Student Organizational Day to gain awareness of the environmental club.
  • Catchy flyers that would grab students, faculty, and staff attention and would teach them important ways to be a part of the movement.
  • “Rams Go Green” Flyer for new students and faculty that includes tips on ways to conserve, preserve, and sustain.
  • “Set it and Forget it” thermostat policy. The proper thermostat settings can greatly reduce energy consumed.

I entered this journey with minimal knowledge, learning all that I now know along the way. I will depart with optimal energy conservation tactics and hopes that I served my institution proudly.

EDF Climate Corps Public Sector (CCPS) trains graduate students to identify energy efficiency savings in colleges, universities, local governments and houses of worship. The program focuses on partnerships with minority serving institutions and diverse communities. Apply as a CCPS fellow, read our blog posts and follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this program.

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Does Rick Perry’s Texas Have Room For Solar Power?

Running on Energy

Source: Texas Tribune

One of the fundamental propositions of Rick Perry’s presidential run is that energy policy in Texas has been successful in de-carbonizing our grid.  The claim is a pretty big stretch, considering that we still generate more carbon dioxide than any other state and, as far as it relates to our successful renewable energy mandates, he may have something to brag about.  Perry has been eager to take credit for their success in boosting wind energy, although he’s not always the first to point to the mandates that lead to such unprecedented wind growth.  It’s been easy for Perry to support wind power, after all, success has a thousand fathers, and the most meaningful legislation was assembled without much involvement from him or his office.

Perry’s support for solar, however, has always been a trickier issue even though it’s incredibly popular with voters across the political spectrum.  Even though voters want to see Texas go solar, it’s anathema to some of his biggest fundraisers and allies such as homebuilder Bob Perry, who worked to weaken homeowner’s rights to install solar on their own roofs, and the Koch brothers, who have opposed clean energy in other states.  So far, Perry has managed to walk a tightrope with his typical political savvy – pointing to legislation he signed or supported while working behind the scenes to undercut the movement towards a real solar industry in Texas. 

Walking the Political Tightrope

Perry signed legislation in 2005 establishing a 500 MW non-wind renewable energy mandate and in 2007 strengthening that same mandate. His appointees at the public utilities commission (PUC) and Perry himself have been slow on doing anything meaningful with the legislation, leading to uncertainty for businesses wishing to grow in Texas.  Most people in the industry saw this legislation as a way to push solar development in largely the same way the original mandate pushed in wind development.  Now, in an article in the Texas Tribune, it sounds like Perry’s spokesman, Mark Miner, wants to pretend his boss never signed those laws.  In fact, it sounds like he doesn’t think Texas has any real potential as a state for solar development [emphasis mine]:

“If you mandate a specific technology, you run the risk of getting stuck with high costs, and such mandates have failed to pass the Legislature in the past. The state making a decision based on its own conditions is different than forcing a one-size-fits-all approach on the whole nation. For example, South Dakota, Texas, and other states in the Plains have great potential for wind because of the climate and geography; other states have good potential for solar, but that is not the same for every state.”

As Miner notes, the original mandate for wind that Perry signed into law was less than ten percent of peak demand, making it so small as to have no significant impact to consumers and, therefore, a reasonable goal for the state of Texas.  By comparison, the 500 MW goal Perry did sign into law – though his appointees at the PUC failed to act on it – would be less than one percent of total peak demand, having an even smaller impact than the original wind mandate.  It is now quite apparent with his recent appointment of Commissioner and outspoken renewable energy opponent, Donna Nelson, as Chair of the PUC that Perry wants to ensure that Texas never reaches the goal he signed into law though.. This results in the likely killing of any renewable energy progress at the PUC, including future legislation, should it pass.

Maybe the Sun Doesn’t Shine on Texas

It’s as if Perry and spokesman Miner think Texas doesn’t have any real solar potential, which makes me wonder if they’ve read their own reports on renewable energy, showing solar power could supply Texas’ energy needs many times over.  His claim that Texas chooses not to provide incentives based on technology is laughable in the face of Texas’ $1.2 billion/year “high cost” natural gas tax exemption

Maybe Perry needs to make a trip to San Antonio where they recently increased their solar goal to 400 MW after seeing how cheap solar proposals are today.  This is in addition to about 44 MW they’ve already installed or contracted, in other words almost the entirety of the 500 MW non-wind mandate that Perry signed into law but refuses support.  Some of Perry’s funders and allies argue that solar is too expensive, but the largest municipal utility in the state (and country) with some of the lowest electric rates in the state, just decided to invest in solar in a big way for two reasons that fit right in with Perry’s ideal energy policy: San Antonio wants to keep electric rates low and solar will help them do that; it also wants to grow jobs, a key outcome to their clean energy strategy.  Perry has been touting himself as the “jobs governor” since he started running as a nominee for President, so you’d think the smart jobs policies of cities like San Antonio, Houston, and Austin centered around clean energy would be the perfect message. 

Unfortunately Perry seems uninterested, either because the corporations and people who have funded him are opposed or because he just doesn’t think Texas has the potential to be a real solar state.  Either way it’s disappointing, and I’m sure that the solar industry would agree. For the first time this fall, the solar industry is bringing its largest business conference to Texas.  Thanks in part to Perry’s solar equivocation, industry (valued at over $38.5 billion globally) may not be sure if Texas is ready for the big time, despite the fact that voters want to see solar in Texas.  For a jobs governor being on the wrong side of businesses that want to bring jobs to Texas and voters who want to see solar power here, it sure seems like a bad place to be, especially when unemployment in Texas is the worst it’s been in 24 years.

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The Big Green Apple

By Amy Kochanowsky, 2011 EDF Climate Corps Sector Fellow at New York City Housing Authority, MPP candidate at Duke University, Durham, NC

Things are always changing in New York City – whether it’s the former rail line turned urban greenspace, the construction of a new World Trade Center, or the recently  added calorie counts on menus. New York has always been a city ahead of the curve, and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is no exception. NYCHA has already done highly innovative work when it comes to energy efficiency, and I’m very fortunate to work with an organization that embraces environmental sustainability objectives.

As one of NYCHA’s Energy Department interns this summer, I’ve seen examples of this innovative work first hand in my visits to housing developments. As I stood in the stifling heat of a NYCHA boiler room, the staff explained the ins and outs of the boiler system – how the boiler creates the steam that delivers heat to residents in winter. They pointed out the new instantaneous hot water heaters, which are devices that reduce energy usage by heating water only as needed instead of wasting energy by storing hot water. It’s great to see all of this equipment up close, and talk to the people who really understand how to operate these systems. Being on the ground gave me an appreciation for the complexity of these heating systems.

At first, seeing this new equipment made it seem as though NYCHA had already done everything possible to reduce its energy use. Working with the other intern, we were given a very intuitive task – our charge for the summer was to identify additional opportunities for energy efficiency and conservation. We started this task with the basics – analyzing current energy consumption and costs. From there we got a sense of how NYCHA uses its energy and where we had the opportunity to make an impact. Reflecting on the information we learned during EDF’s week-long fellowship training, we realized that replacing existing exit signs with more energy efficient LED exit signs would be a good place to start. Simply by replacing exit signs, we enabled NYCHA to save more than $15,000 per year in electricity costs.

Sometimes it’s hard to grasp the enormity of NYCHA. As the nation’s second largest landlord (after the Army), NYCHA provides affordable housing for nearly half a million New Yorkers. The size of NYCHA means that my fellow intern and I have the ability and responsibility to make a huge impact. NYCHA pays the utility bills for residents at its developments, thus reducing energy use is good not only for the climate, but for their budget as well.

I hope our efforts and recommendations help NYCHA to achieve its energy and climate goals. I also hope NYCHA can serve as an example for other public housing authorities across the country on how to reduce energy use and create a more sustainable community.

EDF Climate Corps Public Sector (CCPS) trains graduate students to identify energy efficiency savings in colleges, universities, local governments and houses of worship.  The program focuses on partnerships with minority serving institutions and diverse communities.  Apply as a CCPS fellow, read our blog posts and follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this program.

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