Making a Difference One Attic at a Time…
By Jaclyn Khoury, Hands On Nashville’s Director of Sustainability
The Home Energy Savings (HES) Program is celebrating its ONE (!) year anniversary this month. It feels like a lifetime of accomplishment has been packed into these past twelve months, thanks to the help of 264 volunteers who worked hard to improve the energy efficiency of nearly 40 low-income homes in North and East Nashville. As we analyze the utility bills of each home before and after each project, we are able to see the environmental, economic, and social impact of our work. Each metric adds up to make Nashville a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable community:
• kilowatts of electricity saved
• reduction in each homeowner’s utility bills
• reduction in CO2 emissions
• safer, more comfortable homes
• increased homeowner awareness
• community/neighborhood building
My desk is a living collage of all the wonderful things homeowners have given to me in humble thanks – from cards and poems to plants. I work with a lot of elderly widows that are astounded that a young woman would crawl in their attic space just to help lower their utility bills. Sometimes I show homeowners their attic space for the first time in their 30+ years of living in a home, and they are so curious and mystified… it’s like we’ve made a voyage to the moon.
One particular homeowner, Ms. Smith*, took notice of my paint-covered work boots while inspecting her home. As we sat at her kitchen table going over the importance of shutting off lights, she said, “my, your feet must ache being in those all day.” I smiled and didn’t think much of it.
Three weeks later, 20 employees from Schneider Electric and C & W Weatherization spent the better half of a day helping weatherize Ms. Smith’s home. All afternoon she sat at her kitchen table feverishly knitting. The volunteers did a great job and heart felt “thank you’s” were exchanged all around at the end of the day.
Ms. Smith knew I would be working on her neighbor’s house the following week. Mid-day while I was working in her neighbor’s front yard, Ms. Smith came up the street with a freshly finished pair of knit slippers for me. She said, “I don’t have much money, but I know everyone needs a place to rest their feet, so I made you these, I hope you like the colors I picked.” The knot in my throat made it hard to say thank you, I was so deeply touched.
This week we ran the utility analysis on Ms. Smith’s utility bills. In the eight months since we completed work on her home, she has saved $654 on her bills compared to the previous year. That is $654 she can put towards more pressing needs like food, medicine, and transportation. Furthermore, we saved 6,812 kWh**, and 10,218 pounds of CO2 emissions for Nashville residents to breathe easier.
With generous investments from The River Fund of The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, The T&T Family Foundation, and Ingram Industries, Inc., we are rolling up our sleeves to complete 280 homes in 2012 and 2013. This will be no small feat, and it will take the many hands and hard work of volunteers like you to make this happen.
*Name is changed to respect privacy.
**kWh=1,000 kilowatts (electricity is measured in kilowatts)
About Jaclyn: As Hands On Nashville’s Director of Sustainability, Jaclyn developed the organization’s Home Energy Savings Program, which launched in early 2011. She works with volunteers, homeowners, and her hands to create more sustainable homes in Nashville’s low-income neighborhoods. Before her move to Nashville in 2009, Jaclyn worked with Habitat for Humanity as a Construction Facilitator in Minneapolis and Central America. As a LEED ID+C and certified energy auditor, Jaclyn is determined and devoted in her commitment to integrate sustainability into the fabric of working communities. She is currently a student at Lipscomb University pursuing a Master’s Degree in Sustainability and Green Building.