Tag Archives: Affordable Energy

Durham SciNergy: Sustainable Solutions for Distressed Homeowners

12 Jun

Durham has over 500 boarded buildings, many of those distressed houses in danger of foreclosure or demolishment. In their current condition, these buildings are extremely inefficient, needlessly wasting energy and water. Individual property owners can’t repair or resell these properties, which add no value to the community and impact the value of the neighboring properties. Durham SciNergy is offering these homeowners, as well as rental investors, a way to upgrade their properties with a complete green retrofit that will improve buildings’ energy and water usage, and revitalize Durham’s neighborhoods.

Durham SciNergy is still in the startup phase but has identified a sizable market for its solution. During their initial research they identified a staggering 2,638 renters and 102 distressed owners in three “transitional neighborhoods” defined by poorly maintained properties coupled with crime and safety concerns for residents. Many of these distressed owners are elderly or disabled, or simply inherited the properties and are unable to maintain them.

At the same time, Durham has been recognized as one of the nation’s leading real estate investment areas by both the Wall Street Journal in 2010 and Forbes Magazine earlier this year. The retrofits offered by Durham SciNergy will help homeowners and renters improve their property’s market value. Their plan is to offer the retrofit at a lower than market rate price and depending the property owner’s needs, include the following sustainable green systems to decrease the property’s environmental impact and energy costs:

  • Air and vapor ceiling insulation
  • Energy-efficient appliances and systems
  • Porous pavements
  • Remediation of lead and asbestos
  • Solar hot water
  • Xeriscaping (landscaping gardens to reduce the need for supplemental watering)

Their work will reduce utility costs by an average of 35-40% and help improve the homeowners’ properties and realize returns. For rental investors, the retrofits will improve the quality of their rental options and provide increased profits. Finally, neighborhoods will be revitalized and communities strengthened. Durham SciNergy are currently fundraising to launch a pilot program.

Here are their social links, connect with them and watch for great things to come!


Boston Founding Members working on environmental protection: sustainable solutions to big problems

16 Nov

The public is becoming increasingly concerned about the environment. The impact of human activity on the planet is far reaching and there is growing concern about access to clean water, overpopulation, the depletion of natural resources, and the burning of dirty fuels. Gone are the days when we can lean on Government to solve these problems alone. Government, business and citizen alike, we must all play our part. It is the nonprofit and social enterprise sector however, that by and large, is leading the way in environmental stewardship. Today we feature four of our Founding 30 Boston-based organizations who are working to protect the environment and tackle these problems. What makes these four so compelling, is not just their impact on the environment, but their approach to tackling a combination of social and environmental issues simultaneously.

SolSolution has a dual focus: to generate clean, renewable energy and improve the quality of education in low-income communities. Their model is simple but effective – funds from the sale of solar-generated energy are diverted to underprivileged schools.

They’re ambitious too. Their 2020 goal is to provide 1 GW of solar power to U.S. schools, effectively saving $200 million in energy costs, which is donated to schools in need. How are they reaching their target? The SolSolution Educational Power Purchase Agreement (E-PPA) provides clean energy at a low, fixed rate, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and freeing up schools’ budget to be spent on much needed resources.

Help SolSolution! Learn how you can promote their case, go solar, make a donation or simply “Shop and Eat!”

Wegowise is bringing clarity and simplicity to a complex but popular issue in the green space – Energy Efficiency Investments. In addition to helping those grappling with the confusing science and finance of energy efficiency, Wegowise is also using its resources to serve low-income housing communities – precisely where their work can have the most meaningful impact.

They have created a low-cost and easy-to-use online tool that “gives expert answers to non-experts.” This tool helps users get the most out of energy efficiency investments, especially in the affordable housing sector, where resources are limited. As a social enterprise, Wegowise also combines the benefits of a revenue stream with a mission for using energy more wisely. Visit their website for a demonstration of how the Wegowise tools work, as well as pricing plans.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) combines the expertise of scientists, economists and lawyers to address environmental threats to the climate, oceans, ecosystems and people’s health.

Science, Economics and Partnerships: EDF was founded by a small and passionate group of scientists, who remain firm in their belief that rigorous science will help us identify and understand the most serious environmental problems and most effective solutions. Armed with scientific facts, EDF appeals to the marketplace. EDF have demonstrated time and time again that the right incentives can attract people and capital investment from the markets to solve environmental problems. Finally, EDF scientists partner with lawyers and major corporations to ensure lasting solutions.

EDF has been in operation for over 40 years and has many success stories to share. Visit their site to learn how EDF wrote the 1990 Clean Air Act, changed the way people think about commercial fishing and how they became the first nonprofit to partner with a big business in the US.

Founded in 1973 by the League of Women Voters and the Boston Shipping Association, The Boston Harbor Association (TBHA) promotes a clean, alive and accessible Boston Harbor.

Harbors are often the hub of industrial activity for seaside cities. That doesn’t mean they can’t also be beautiful, green, and safe public spaces. TBHA works closely with all the harbor’s stakeholders – from developers, environmentalists, waterfront businesses and local government – to develop sustainable solutions for environmental protection, industrial and commercial activity and public access. Among its many initiatives, TBHA has ensured the success of various renewable energy projects, the development of its popular waterfront and a program to remove over 240 tons of marine debris from the harbor’s waters.

They also host a number of free events that encourage both locals and tourists to get involved and enjoy the harbor. Visit their website to see what is happening in the upcoming weeks and learn how you can get involved.

Find Your Butterfly Effect: E+Co

15 Jun

Introducing E+Co

E+Co empowers local small and growing enterprises that supply clean and affordable energy to households, businesses and communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America. By offering clean technology, these enterprises represent a cost-effective and long-term solution for local energy access. With E+Co’s support, many have become local business champions charting a new, cleaner, more inclusive development path for their countries.

How E+Co Does Good

In 2006, E+Co teamed up with local partners to develop the business plan for Toyola. The team developed a mechanism to employ the informal sector to both manufacture and sell the new stoves. This strategy allowed Toyola to corner the market by employing most of its potential competitors and selling to a wider market. The plan also included a strategy to take the stoves to the people with a mobile stove delivery system. To assist with the implementation of the business, E+Co invested US$70,000 for the purchase of a truck and supplies. The business expanded rapidly selling 20,000 stoves in one year. As a result, E+Co is working with the entrepreneurs to further expand production and distribution and has made two additional loans to Toyola each in the amount of US$100,000.

E+Co’s Impact

Toyola now manufactures and sells energy efficient cook stoves in urban and rural Ghana. While the stoves use standard charcoal, they are 40% more efficient than the traditional stoves used throughout the region. The result? Far less charcoal is needed to cook, which not only reduces carbon dioxide emissions but saves a great deal of money for families who use the stoves. To date, Toyola has provided this cleaner energy product to 35,000 households, offset 15,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions and created jobs for over 200 employees.

Catchafire Pro Bono Impact with E+Co

Jameel Newkirk is used to designing sleek marketing and promotional materials as his day job, and as something he does to give back to organizations he cares about. Jameel found his first pro bono experience with Catchafire so rewarding that he committed to designing E+Co’s annual report. E+Co was excited to have such a willing and able professional working with them on a weekly basis. Jameel interpreted E+Co’s vision and turned it into a concrete publication. Jameel’s work resulted with what E+Co will use as a tool to raise awareness of the urgent energy access issues around the globe, and encourage stakeholders to support E+Co (and through them, great business like Toyola) as they continue to carry out their mission. As you can see he’s done an incredible job.

Get involved with E+Co

E+Co needs a Public Relations Professional to help them build a Press Kit and Human Resources professionals to help them with an HR Strategy. If that’s not your skill and you’re inspired by their mission, you can select them as a favorite on E+Co’s Organization Page and we’ll alert you when new opportunities become available!  (You need to be logged in to do this). If you’d like to learn more about similar opportunities, please email community@catchafire.org

Photo Credits: Stephen McGee

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