Helping Develop Skills to Build Strong Communities

For the four months spanning  August through November I was busy teaching  an energy conservation class to HACAP clients that are in need of energy crisis funds to help pay their utility bills. HACAP encourages clients who receive crisis funds to attend an energy conservation class in the hopes that they will receive information and tools to prevent them from needing financial assistance in the future. This directly fits into HACAP’s mission “Helping people develop skills to become successful and build strong communities” which I read at the beginning of every class.  In total, I’ve taught 38 classes in 5 different counties with class sizes ranging from 1 to 20.   I’ve been fortunate enough to teach around 200 people during the course of the four months.

EnergyWise Kit-1
Energy Wise Kit that participants receive for taking part in the class

At the class, participants receive a kit of items worth $75 that will help them save energy (and money) at home. The kit is provided to HACAP by the three largest utility companies in Iowa: Alliant Energy, MidAmerican Energy and Black Hills Energy.   Items in the kit include a low flow shower head, kitchen faucet and bathroom faucet, three compact fluorescent light bulbs, rope caulk, a window insulator kit for five windows, a digital thermometer to check the temperature of the refrigerator/freezer/hot water and an alarm that lets you know when your furnace filter is dirty.

The majority of the time in the class is spent walking through how to install items in the kit along with the money savings for each item. Depending on the home and its occupants, the money savings can range from $100-$300 a year per household.   By walking through each item and outlining the money that can be saved, many participants indicate that they will install the items when they get home. It is rewarding to hear that participants feel empowered to make changes in their lives.  If saving money wasn’t enough incentive, the kit also includes a survey that, when returned, enters the participant into a drawing for a $100 gift card. The information provided on the survey helps keep the program viable. The three large utility companies want to know that the kits are being installed and that people are saving energy.

Amy presenting using the Turning Point technology

Before the class begins, I ask a series of questions using the Turning Point technology. I also hand out an outline of what the class will entail which includes space for them to write the answers to the questions as the information is presented. I then ask the questions again at the end of the class. Overall, I’ve seen about 20% of participants have a change in knowledge.  The participants really seem to enjoy using the technology and like to test their knowledge.



Appliance Flashcards-1
Participants in the class break into groups of 3 or 4 to work together to put these flashcards in order of what uses the most energy to the least energy over the course of a year.

There are additional elements to round out the class including an information table with pamphlets about HACAP programs and other non-profits that provide human/green services.  There are also rebate forms for programmable thermostats and CFL and LED light bulbs.  We walk through behavioral changes that families can make to save energy and money including a discussion of which appliances/electronics waste energy when turned off (phantom load). In addition, the class participates in an activity where they put appliances/electronics in order from what uses the most energy to the least energy using 18 flash cards.

I’ve really enjoyed teaching this energy conservation class and getting to know our clients better.  I look forward to teaching additional classes in 2014 in addition to a special MLK Day project that is in the works where I’ll be working with Cedar Rapids Green Iowa AmeriCorps and community volunteers to install these energy saving kits into 25 homes!

member_amy-luebbertAmy Luebbert has a B.A. in Geography with a minor in Anthropology. She volunteered in Des Moines, IA as a community organizer with Oxfam America from 2011-2013. This experience offered her the opportunity to lobby on behalf of small scale farmers around the world, engage and inform the public on issues of hunger and poverty, organize events, manage volunteers and develop a social media presence for their local group. Amy has seven years of experience in the corporate world and is excited to have the opportunity to pursue a career more in line with her passions. Amy is serving with HACAP to promote energy efficiency and conservation through public trainings. She is assisting in energy-related certification presentations and educating residents about heating system maintenance and general energy conservation .

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