Powering Up Energy Conservation in North Carolina

The North Carolina Fellowship has been working with PowerUp NC to educate residents about North Carolina energy policy and how they can save money and energy by making small changes to increase energy efficiency in their homes. The problem we have been trying to address is the alarming amount of fossil fuel energy that is being used in North Carolina, which contributes to climate change. Our aim has been to lower utility bill costs, secure affordable housing, and ensure that community development is driven by people rather than profits. During the month of April, we had three really exciting  opportunities to take action and make our voices heard.

"It is imperative that youth participate in work like this so that they will be better prepared for networking in the environmental activist community in the future."

The first opportunity was when North Carolina Fellow Laura Gaines spoke at a Raleigh City Council Meeting in April. She urged the city to create a community development plan that creates jobs and doesn't expand natural gas or push people out of their homes. One of the key issues we are trying to avoid is an increase in natural gas infrastructure in Raleigh. Laura argued that the city create a comprehensive development plan that prioritizes energy efficiency and renewable energy while rejecting the expansion of natural gas and other fossil fuel infrastructure.

In addition to speaking up at planning hearings, the North Carolina Fellowship also hit the streets canvassing. On Saturday April 16, three North Carolina Fellows canvassed homes in Southeast Raleigh to talk with residents about energy equity and invite them to an event on April 21 that focused on concerns of affordable housing, rising utility bills, and quality job creation. For all three of the Fellows this was their first time canvassing. Knocking on doors and talking to strangers can be intimidating, but the Fellows pushed through their fears. “The Fellows had courage, embarking on door-to-door canvassing for the first time. The day started off slowly with many unanswered doors but picked up speed during the afternoon. The Fellows ended the day with a great conversation with a neighborhood resident and her children,” remarked ACE Program Manager Briana Steele, who mentored and lead the group in canvassing.

On Thursday April 21, ten Fellows assisted at a PowerUp NC community event by greeting folks as they entered and helping to set up and clean up the event space. Throughout the day, we observed what it takes to build people power in the community. Two of the fellows stood by the DIY Block Party table and conversed with attendees about the block party held in November and small changes they could make to reduce their energy use and save on their energy bills. The event turned out to be a success, and it was clear that the experience will benefit our networking skills and strengthen our activism in the future.

It is imperative that youth participate in work like this so that they will be better prepared for networking in the environmental activist community in the future. These opportunities also allow young people to learn how to converse with strangers about their cause and encourage others to join the movement.

Tamia Sanders is a 2015-2016 Action Fellow in North Carolina. She attends Hillside High School.