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Q&A: Kristen Psaki of WeatherizeDC

April 15, 2010 - 3:45pm

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Roughly 20 percent of carbon emissions come from inefficient homes. The DC Project says it has found a way to mitigate emissions and create jobs, a winning combination.  WeatherizeDC is the non-profit’s effort to use a community engagement model to help DC residents find green jobs and live a more energy efficient lifestyle.

Energy Empowers recently spoke with DC Project co-founder and creative director Kristen Psaki about WeatherizeDC’s approach to climate change.

WeatherizeDC is a nonprofit community engagement program. What’s the background of it, the story of how and why it was founded?

The DC Project was founded over a year ago in January 2009.

WeatherizeDC is the DC Project’s flagship program that will be a community and consumer advocate for DC area residents interested in going through their weatherization pathway.

We recognized that homeowners didn’t feel they had an accurate sense of how to go through the weatherization process so we launched WeatherizeDC. 

What is a weatherization pathway?

A weatherization pathway takes you through the energy audit process, the actual weatherization process, and hopefully to a place where you’re building your own community energy team around energy efficiency and weatherization.

Do you partner with other organizations?

We want to make sure we work with small business and local home performance businesses that are actually doing the work. We brokered what is called a Community Workforce Agreement between our business partner Ardently Green (energy audit and weatherization company) and Local Liuna (labor union). We had garnered enough new interest in Washington, D.C. for weatherization that Ardently green had to hire additional employees. Because of the agreement, Ardently Green hired Stephon.

Describe what an average day is for WeatherizeDC field representatives?

It involves phone calling, knocking on doors, organizing meetings and making sure they are staying on top of field science and new financing methods.

Each field representative has a specific community that they work in. They touch base with community leaders every day. A lot of it is contact—making sure their communicating with theircommunity groups, relevant members and checking where people are on their weatherization.

What happens at community energy meetings?What’s your objective for the meetings?

We have an open office event on the first Thursday of every month. It’s a chance for us to get feedback on WeatherizeDC and for people to meet each other.

We also organize community energy meetings. The meetings are held in various communities. It can be at someone’s home or workplace. It’s a chance to introduce people to both to WeatherizeDC and weatherization in general. Everyone is in different places in terms of what they know, so we give a broad overview of our mission and role.

How many homes have been weatherized so far?

We have over 130 homes in the weatherization pathway.

Has WeatherizeDC created jobs?

In our very short existence, we’ve actually created jobs with a sustaining wage with benefits, opportunity for growth in the future.
Stephon Burgess was hired by our business partner, Ardently Green, in December.  He had been unemployed for over 12 months— and had a hard time finding any work.

He learned about WeatherizeDC through his church and participated in training, and now works as a weatherization technician. He’s on track to become an energy auditor. That’s important to us creating this space of job creation.

Stephon actually was invited by the president to participate in a President Obama’s roundtable discussion on weatherization in Alexandria, VA. We asked him, “What did you talk about with the president.” He said the president asked if my life has changed since getting a job, and, “how do we replicate the WeatherizeDC model?”

What we’re doing is working.

What does the future look like for weatherization jobs?

There are really exciting prospects for people.  It’s a really cost-effective way to increase your energy efficiency as an individual. We’re seeing that weatherization jobs are one of the pieces that will expedite and grow the clean energy market.

What in the future for Weatherize DC?

We are well on our way to our goal. The WeatherizeDC pilot will end but we’re just ramping up. The purpose of the pilot is to share our lessons learned with other communities around the country. We will replicate this weatherization model in many other cities.

We will continue to focus on building a sustainable economy and creating good green jobs for people who have been locked out of yesterday’s economy. We will continue to refine and expand our anchor program herein DC.

After weatherization upgrades were made, Judy saw a 25% decrease in air infiltration. She invited neighbors to her home to learn about what we can do to not only save on our energy bills, not only reduce our carbon footprint but stimulate the local economy at the same time.

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