The Adventure Continues In A New Town

by Thomas Allen:

This past month I moved from Bozeman to Butte to serve the remainder of my AmeriCorps service term at the NCAT office. I had built friendships and community connections in Bozeman and was excited to experience the Gallatin Valley in summer after a frigid and snowy winter. There were plans to climb mountains and go backpacking in the wilderness surrounding Bozeman. Needless to say I was anxious to uproot from the place I had come to know over the last 7 months and start over in a new city. I worried about finding housing, making friends, and getting my frequent live music fix.

Taking a deep breath, I reminded myself that I had already traveled over 2,000 miles to come to Montana back in October, what was traveling west 90 more going to hurt? It is all part of the adventure. I would figure it out, I would be fine. I packed up my small car and headed west to Butte for the next chapter in this Energy Corps adventure.


The move coincided with a group Energy Corps project for all the service members to join in Butte for a two day LED (Light Emitting Diode) light retrofit at the Big Sky Senior Living Center. The plan was to replace the existing fluorescent tube lamps, compact fluorescent lamps (CFL’s), and incandescent light bulbs throughout the complex with about 4,000 LED lights. The new LED lights will require far fewer replacements (LED’s typically last 20 years without replacement) and will be far more energy efficient. The retrofit is estimated to save the same amount of electricity as the amount produced by nearly 17 train cars of coal burned in a power plant. Think of the potential energy savings and reduction in pollution and greenhouse gases if we implement this change in lighting across the city, state, country, and world.

Fellow Energy Corps member, Alexa, opening a light fixture to make the switch to LED

Later this month I have a project coming up with my host organization, U.S. Green Building Council Montana. A training series for K – 12 school staff from across Montana, called Better Buildings Better Learning, will kick off at the Montana Behavioral Initiative Summer Institute. We hope to introduce sustainability in schools to the attendees through an interactive workshop showing that improving building performance can help improve student performance as well. In addition to this workshop, we will be offering three webinars in the fall to continue training staff on building energy and water savings as well as ways to incorporate sustainability into the classroom curriculum.


The last month here in Butte hasn’t always been easy, but I did find affordable (if not well insulated) housing in Uptown near restaurants and nightlife. I have made friends and I have even enjoyed some live music with those friends. Butte is very different from Bozeman but it offers a unique experience and easy access to a beautiful natural playground. I can climb mountains, go backpacking, go mountain biking, play disc golf, or take part in almost any mountain adventure you can think of. As I continue my Energy Corps projects, I look forward to the adventures to come here in my new Butte community.

Flowers on Sawmill Gulch hike


Thomas Allen  attended Appalachian State University, majoring in Appropriate Technology with a focus in renewable energy, sustainable building design, and sustainable development. He then worked as an energy auditor and project manager for companies doing energy saving retrofit improvements in homes in the Washington, D.C. area. He will be serving at the US Green Building Council of Montana on the Montana Green Schools Cohort program to guide school staff on green building operations and sustainability education curriculum planning.

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