By MARY BISHOP
Sustainability Outreach Specialist
Since 2010, Sarasota County Sustainability has offered “Energy Upgrade” workshops that are free and open to the public. Attendees of these workshops receive DIY in-home energy kits, and learn energy- and water-saving tips.
A few years ago, the idea of making these energy programs more equity-focused emerged. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, low-income families are more likely to be “cost-burdened,” or paying up to 30 percent of their income on bills. Reducing these bills leaves more money for other necessities, such as food or health care.
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In summer 2018, Sarasota County offered a 5-day “Energy Coach” training, where a core group of dedicated volunteers learned to do minor energy installations and evaluations for low-income families. In September, we launched our first in a series of “Energy Sweeps” in partnership with Sarasota Housing Authority and Florida Power and Light.
During sweeps, our “Energy Coaches” meet and greet housing authority tenants and offer simple tips for energy savings, such as changing the thermostat settings or turning off fans when away from home. Our coaches also perform minor installations, such as changing out air filters or upgrading incandescent bulbs to LEDs.
By the year’s end, our “Energy Coach” volunteers performed sweeps in 60 low-income homes in Sarasota County. We anticipate serving an even greater number of families in our community in 2019.
Want to get involved? Watch for our next “Energy Coach” training at ufsarasotaext.eventbrite.com to reserve your spot.
For questions, email SustainableSarasota@scgov.net.