Scharmel Roussel is serving her second Energy Corps term with Arkansas Interfaith Power and Light. Scharmel writes:
Having provided eight retrofit projects since 2009, Arkansas Interfaith Power and Light is slightly switching approaches. AR IPL is moving from energy efficiency improvements at houses of worship and community buildings to increasing awareness among young people and homeowners. The goals are to 1) empower low-income homeowners to reduce energy consumption and lower utility bills; and 2) to inspire young people to join the movement to care for neighbors in need.
An ice cream social July 22 at Oak Forest United Methodist Church included an instructional game of Energy Bingo from the National Energy Education Development (NEED) project. Church members and neighbors participated in an interactive Turning Point presentation to increase awareness of energy consumption. A trained energy auditor explained how homeowners could sign up for free home energy audits and receive improvements with little or no out-of-pocket expenses, using coupons and rebates provided through utility companies. Eight homeowners signed up that evening for free home energy audits.
A similar process was repeated over a week’s time, using borrowed Turning Point software and responders (clickers) at a Catholic Campaign for Human Development session for 70 teens, an adult education center, and a homeless shelter. Those in attendance received socket sealers, booklets on “30 Simple Ways to Save Energy and Money,” published by the Arkansas Energy Office, and faucet aerators. CFL bulbs were presented as prizes.
Building on that success, AR IPL submitted a grant proposal and was awarded a cash donation to provide 50 “Tighten-Up Treat Bags” October 29-30 to low-income families at the Hillary Clinton Children’s Library. Volunteers from the Arkansas Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council will assemble the bags with CFL bulbs donated by the City of Little Rock, socket sealers, faucet aerators, weather stripping, power strips, and instructions for their proper installation and probable impact. The info sheets also will contain information on how homeowners may apply for free home energy audits and retrofit improvements with little or no out-of-pocket expenses through rebates and coupons from utility companies. Volunteer students from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) campus will distribute the treat bags.
If other pending grants are awarded, the treat bags will be duplicated multiple times in low-income sections of the metropolitan area. AR IPL also is raising donations through documentary presentations. “Dirt” was presented June 6, and “Nourish: Food + Community” will be presented September 12 at the Oyster Bar. Tentative plans include additional documentaries in October, November and December.
AR IPL continues to make presentations at retirement centers, after-school programs, a recent Green Jobs Conference in the Delta, a recent Sustainability Conference in Fayetteville, adult community groups and church groups in Central Arkansas.
Scharmel Roussel is returning for a second year of service as an Energy Corps member. She was a founding member of Arkansas Interfaith Power and Light in 2009. In 2012, she served the organization as Outreach Coordinator and will continue in that role in 2013. Arkansas Interfaith Power and Light focuses on energy efficiency improvements at houses of worship and community service buildings in low-income areas. Another focusis increasing awareness levels of energy conservation and other environmental issues at schools, summer camps, youth groups, and adult groups. Scharmel serves on the Steering Committee for the Creation Care Conference in April, 2013 at St. Margaret Episcopal Church in Little Rock.