There’s Energy in San Antonio

Member Taylor Bye, serving with the National Center for Appropriate Technology in their San Antonio office, writes about his initial impressions of the newly created Energy Corps position in Texas.

Taylor writes:

Since I received this job with Energy Corps, I have been asked many questions Often, something like “why do you want to move to Texas?” or “That’s a long way away, and so soon too”. However, a couple people I talked to, after describing my work, asked “what are they doing for the environment in Texas?” I can’t say whether that question implied honest ignorance, sarcastic political stereotyping, or some combination of the two. Nor did I have an answer, other than to insist “that’s what I’m going to find out,” which felt pretty lame. I’ll admit to some of the same biases and stereotypes, reinforced by the daily, unrelenting drumbeat of a Presidential election that strained both my nerves and my friendships. This impression of a lack of urgency and action in Texas on matters of the environment and sustainability was further reinforced by some of the materials we saw at orientation in Fayetteville, AR. State commitments to sustainability often seemed inversely related to size – certainly Massachusetts’ commitment dwarfed that of Texas. But I joined Energy Corps looking for a challenge, and I have found that in spades, as well as answered the question. So, for those who may not know, or may doubt, here are some of the things San Antonio is doing in the area of sustainability and green energy.

Firstly, much of the momentum for sustainability in San Antonio comes from a governmental level, particularly the current and previous Mayors, Julian Castro and Phil Hardberger, respectively. Envisioned by Mayor Hardberger and continued by Mayor Castro, the Mission Verde Sustainability Plan has been the most high profile action. The Mission Verde Plan begat the Mission Verde Center, located in a former school. The Center’s purpose is to serve as a showcase for technologies and developments related to energy efficiency and sustainability, as well as a job training site. It also houses San Antonio Youth, a program for at-risk children. Part of San Antonio Youth’s curriculum involves green building and environmental stewardship.

Currently under construction is another building that will highlight sustainability.  Just a few months from completion, and located on the campus of San Antonio College, Eco Centro is going to be an urban outreach center dedicated to advancing the cause of sustainability in inner city San Antonio. It will also host classes to prepare students for green jobs, and hold demonstrative exhibits that expand on the work being done at the Mission Verde Center. I hope to take a role in these outreach events, with the ultimate goal to have NCAT and Eco Centro co-host events that help the people of San Antonio make their lives more sustainable. Furthermore, the city’s own Office of Sustainability is making great strides towards their goals. They have implemented bike and car share programs, through B-Cycle and Hertz, respectively. I have made connections there as well, and have already begun work to find ways the car share program can be better marketed and enhance usage.

There is also a long list of NGOs and non-profits at work to make San Antonio more sustainable. Groups such as the Green Spaces Alliance, Build San Antonio Green, and Solar San Antonio all work both independently in their own fields, as well as together on collaborative projects. These organizations also receive support and respect from local government. On Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012, an event was held in Converse, a small city just beyond the San Antonio city limits. Converse has made some remarkable strides in the realm of green building. The event was an outreach event, (free house plants!) as well as a forum to formally announce and celebrate the adoption by Converse’s Economic Development Council of new building standards developed by Build San Antonio Green. These standards are independent of LEED or other national bodies, and they have been proven to save money and energy. I attended the event as part of my developing relationship with the folks at Build San Antonio Green. I find it illustrative of the enthusiasm local officials and NGOs share about the possibilities that lie before San Antonio.

Much more could be said about any of these points, but I’ll stop here. San Antonio is making strides that would be enviable anywhere, not just in Texas. Sure, they have a long way to go, but there is an energy here (no pun intended) to press forward on sustainability. It just be might be a bit hard to see from the outside.

Nissan Leaf at charging station

One of many B-Cycle bike share hubs located throughout the city

One of many B-Cycle bike share hubs located throughout the city

Taylor Bye  Taylor will be the first Energy Corps member to serve to NCAT’S San Antonio office. His duties will revolve around helping the city of San Antonio become a “greener” city. Taylor received my B.A. with a Major in American History from Dickinson College in May 2012. He is an experienced blogger and in the summer of 2011 he interned at the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum in Adams, MA, where he researched and wrote articles for the museum newsletter.

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