On Martin Luther King Day, I joined up with some volunteers from around the city of Fayetteville to distribute some home energy efficiency kits in some of the older neighborhoods. I was happy that the weather was beautiful and that I was able to do such good work on a day that is very special to me. A lot of familiar faces turned out to volunteer that day and we got started with the weather in our favor and high spirits. I was lucky to partner with a friend of mine and we got to walk the beautiful, South Fayetteville streets together and catch up.
We saw many interesting people that day, but one stood out to me in particular. He was an older man who had retired his small business in order to take over the home rental business for his father –in-law when he became ill. This man himself had had some health trouble, as had his wife, and they were doing what they could to make ends meet. He was very excited that we had come to his neighborhood to talk about energy and sustainability and he wanted to show us his project, which we had spied excitedly on the walk up to the door.
He had built a home heating system out of a wooden box, a sheet of sliding glass door glass, and about 50 tin beverage cans that he had painted flat black. He had attached a hose to the back of the box and ran it into his window, where he had properly sealed the hose and attached a fan on the inside to draw in the boxed heat. He told us with excitement that he had found the instructions to build it on YouTube and that he had other efficiency projects all throughout his house. According to him, on days that are as cold as 30 degrees, sometimes his heating unit will never turn on and the box that he made will keep him and his wife quite comfortable in their mid-sized home. He was very proud when he talked about his projects and said that they really helped to manage costs in the winter for his family budget. He encouraged us to go onto YouTube and look up home energy projects, assuring us that they were easy to build and affordable, all while we were there to encourage him to install the energy kit we were delivering.
This moment in my service term was very rewarding. It is so nice to stumble upon people who are excited to make changes to their lives and homes in order to better our mutual environment and also who know that environmental progress can benefit us financially too. I left this man’s home that day with a sense of pride for doing good work and helping to distribute needed goods to low income neighborhoods that day, but also with a sense of shared humanity and a recognition that we really are all in this together and that every little piece helps to build a big, healthy future for us all. It is stories like this man’s that make me feel hopeful in seeing environmental change on a larger scale and motivate me to stay in the field of sustainability, helping others to succeed in implementing new ways of doing things that will benefit us all.
Jodi Nimmo is currently an undergrad at the University of Arkansas studying Sociology, Sustainability and Gender Studies. She is the lead organizer of a student group on campus and an active volunteer at Tri Cycle community farms as well as with other non-profits in her community. Jodi will be working with the Illinois River Watershed Partnership to build rain gardens in the watershed community and educating the community about the importance of keeping water clean.