This blog post was written by DEP’s Residential Energy Program Manager, Larissa Johnson, and originally appeared on the BOOST Breakfast Club blog.
There’s something you need to know about me, I love all things energy related!!! I love eating food (especially broccoli) because it gives me energy to live, dance, and laugh. I love talking about electricity because it heats my showers, cooks my food, and keeps my house at a comfortable temperature year round. And I love thinking about how energy connects us all and without it, our lives would be a lot less eventful.
My entire job is to talk about energy – where our energy/electricity comes from, how we can (and should) use less of it, and how we can switch to renewable energy sources. As the Residential Energy Program Manager for Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection in Maryland, my job is to outreach to residents, especially those who pay their utility bills, about reducing those bills and keeping money in their pockets. In 2017, our County passed an ambitious goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 100% by 2035 and to get there we need a lot of people to take action when it comes to our energy usage.
We have over one million residents in our County, we are larger than six states, so it would be next to impossible for me to directly connect to all of the residents to talk to them about the importance of energy conservation and efficiency. Though I must admit that since I took the job in 2016, I have personally met with and talked to over 20,000 residents through programs and events I have done so I could potentially get to one million but it would take me 50 years.
Since I don’t have 50 years to talk to one million residents, it is important for me to form partnerships. I think this is true for all nonprofits and government agencies, we are often short staffed and underfunded so the only way to reach our ambitious goals is through partnerships and creativity!
One way to be super creative is to leverage the ENERGY of the next generation (see what I did there…) In Maryland, we are lucky enough to have a Green School Certification program and an organization called Maryland Association of Environmental and Outdoor Educators that I can leverage to help me create partnerships.
Through this organization, I met Diane Lill who works for the Audubon Naturalist Society and together we created the P.O.W.E.R. Program which stands for Peer Outreach With Energy Resources. We are training eight high school students to be presenters and educators on all things energy related. We are using their energy and their enthusiasm to help us reach the over one million residents in our County. They attend trainings and workshops with the goal that during the summer of 2019, they will visit all twenty one libraries in the County as part of the Summer Reading Program, A Universe of Stories to present on the importance of energy conservation.
This program doesn’t take a lot of funding but it does take a lot of energy and creativity. We meet with the students once a month on a SUNDAY afternoon from 3:00 – 5:00 pm to teach them about energy. Most of the resources and lessons we use are from the National Energy Education Development Project, an amazing resource! They even have ENERGY CHANTS that we totally make our high school students learn and use during their presentations!
So even when we don’t have a lot of resources or funding, there is something that we always have an abundance of and that is ENERGY! It is our jobs to figure out ways to leverage partnerships, to be creative, and to make sure our energy is being harnessed in a way that best supports our jobs and communities.
Learn more about DEP’s Energy Programs here.