Utility Conservation Corps - Saving Energy for the Local Community

Tue, 15 Oct 2013 16:26:00 CDT  — by: Charlotte Henderson, C'13, Sustainability Post-Baccalaureate Fellow

meter_300Many families in Sewanee's surrounding community struggle to pay their bills. The Utility Conservation Corps is a project lead by students that reaches out to the community by performing free energy audits to houses and fixing as many of the energy losses as possible.

The Utility Conservation Corps is one of the most successful outreach initiatives at Sewanee. Implemented about 10 years ago by the Coordinator of Outreach Ministries, Dixon Myers, the program serves to help combat the intimidating and high energy bills that many people in the area of rural Appalachia face. Many families in this area are unable to pay their bills; in order to lower their expenses, students perform energy audits on their houses to check for energy losses and try to remedy them.

corps_auditSewanee students have been involved throughout the years, positively impacting the local community around them. This year the program is lead by Emmie Oliver, a Canale intern and sophomore. Funding is provided by the Outreach Office and clients are directed to the program through the Community Action Committee. Recently, three houses have been audited by Sewanee students. In past spring semesters, Dr. Deborah McGrath’s Human Health and the Environment class has worked extensively and closely with the program as well.

Benefits are bountiful from this program. Not only do homeowners lessen their energy bills, but they also gain valuable knowledge on how to save energy. The homeowners are not the only ones gaining an education – Sewanee students that participate in the program learn life skills, like how to patch up holes that result in energy loss or turn down a water heater thermometer, and about the community that they are in. Students gain perspective and insight into the daily struggles of poor rural Appalachia families and work to alleviate some of those struggles. Students learn how to interact with each other, the homeowners, and how to engage with the greater community, outside of Sewanee’s campus.

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