Posts Tagged ‘GRID Alternatives’

It’s Solarthon season! What does that mean? As some of you know, that means I’ve signed up to help install solar panels for low-income families with GRID Alternatives. And I’m asking for your help to sponsor me.

Why is this important to me? Because together, we can help bring clean, affordable energy to those who need it the most. But wait, that’s not all!

Through the simple act of installing solar electric systems for low-income families, GRID Alternatives accomplishes so much more:

  • An average GRID solar installation saves a family $28,000 over its lifetime and prevents 95 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • GRID has installed solar for over 3,000 low-income families, saving those families $92 million and preventing nearly 290,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • This helps improve the environment, the economy, public health, national security, and global politics — which helps you, too!

But don’t take my word for it: See what my friends have to say in this video. Be sure to watch till the end to see what Luna the Cat thinks of solar power!

So, want to help yourself while helping others?

Just click here to sponsor me — any amount helps, even a few dollars:

No pressure at all. But if you can give, I greatly appreciate it!

Thanks so much for your support, and thanks again to all of you who’ve sponsored me for previous Solarthons!

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Everybody Solar – Everybody Solar works to protect the environment and strengthen U.S. communities through solar energy projects. By providing solar power to local charities, we help them reduce electricity costs and direct their limited resources to the communities they serve.

RE-volv – RE-volv empowers people and communities to invest collectively in renewable energy. We help communities lower their electricity bills by financing solar projects through the Solar Seed Fund, which funds more solar projects. Together, we are planting seeds for a renewable energy future!

Stompers Boots – Stompers Boots’ mission is to be the Best Damn Boot Store in the World by providing customers with superior, personalized service, selection and assistance in finding the right boots to meet their respective needs.


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Hundreds of volunteers joined together to install solar on 13 houses.

A big thanks to over 100 friends and family members who sponsored me for the 2012 San Francisco Bay Area Solarthon! Thanks to your help, I was the top individual fundraiser for the third year in a row and broke my own record at a fab $4,800! Excuse all the exclamation marks, but it’s exciting to me.

Even more important than being the top fundraiser is what we accomplished that day, thanks to YOU:

  • We installed 13 solar electric systems (a total of 262 solar panels) for low-income families.
  • Over their 30-year life span, the 13 solar systems will save more than $450,000 for these families.
  • In the same time period, the systems will prevent over 1,500 tons of carbon emissions.
  • This is equivalent to taking over 300 cars off the road for one year!

I was part of the Women’s Build, which installed a mere 9 panels for our super-energy-efficient homeowner, Lilli, pictured here in the green shirt (and yes, there is a man in the photo — one of the volunteer team leads). Luckily, we didn’t have to turn her power off for long to install the system, because as Lilli informed us, she can’t live for very long without Facebook. Here’s a rundown of what we accomplished with just these 9 panels:

  • Kilowatts installed: 1.785
  • Lifetime energy savings to the family: $16,674
  • Tons of carbon emissions prevented: 56
  • Equivalent number of trees planted: 1,323
  • Equivalent number of cars taken off the road for one year: 11

It was hot work in sunny San Jose, but we did it a lot more quickly than we could have planted 1,323 trees!

For those of you who donated early (thanks!) and therefore missed my fundraising videos, you can view them here. I just wrote and performed. Thanks to Rafael for producing, directing, creating artwork, editing, and uploading!

More photos follow, and you can see even more at the GRID Picasa album. Thanks again for your help and support!

This roof wasn’t very high, so we could just hand the panels up. I’m in the yellow hard hat, toward the right of the roof.

Up on the roof, tethered by a harness

Tightening the screws to hold a panel in place

I never drink Gatorade, but in this heat it felt necessary!

Leaning out on the tether, with a view of the dry California hills in the distance

The happy homeowner flips the switch to turn on the system!

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Community power is springing up everywhere! There’s a huge amount of interest in it – in fact, as I noted almost a year ago, it’s really a movement, and one that keeps growing. This was in evidence at the recent San Francisco Bay Area Community Solar Confluence I organized, which was co-sponsored by the Solar Gardens Institute and the Local Clean Energy Alliance. It was part of a series of similar events this spring in Boston, New York, and Omaha.

A small part of the Confluence audience

The event drew in 80 people from diverse perspectives:

  • Members of community groups and neighborhood associations
  • Organizations that are funding community power
  • People working on policy to promote community power, or advocating for community power in other ways
  • Members of activist groups like 350.org
  • Government employees
  • Solar installers
  • And even individuals not associated with any organization, who were just interested in finding out more about community power

We also had a range of speakers from organizations promoting community power. Though the organizations have different approaches, they’re all working toward the same goal – and that’s to empower communities and help as many people as possible participate in renewable energy.

I’ve posted Confluence videos and presentations from these organizations on the Solar Gardens Institute Training page:

Evan Wynns, Andreas Karelas, Youness Scally

Learn more about policy:

The fact that we had to squeeze the talks and questions into not enough time attests to how much is happening with community power in the Bay Area, and how much interest there is. The Confluence gave us an overview of community solar in the area and introduced many of us to one another. Let’s continue the conversation!

Joy Hughes, Ted Ko, Eric Brooks, and Erica Mackie

If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, get involved locally:

  • Join the Local Clean Energy Alliance for updates on what’s going on, including monthly meetings on community power issues. The LCEA welcomes volunteers in a variety of areas, so here’s your chance to keep networking and learning.

For more Confluence videos, see the Solar Gardens Institute Training page and YouTube channel.

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We all get many requests for donations to causes, and there are so many good ones out there. Just recently, I’ve donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, to a bonobo sanctuary in the Congo, and to Narrative Magazine.

What do all those, and every other cause, have in common? None of them will continue to exist if we destroy the earth.

This may sound dire and insurmountable, but it turns out there are things each of us can do to help preserve our planet. And some of those are even easy, simple things.

That’s why I choose to give most of my volunteer time and charitable donations to GRID Alternatives. Through the simple act of installing solar electric systems for low-income families, GRID accomplishes so much more:


  • An average GRID solar installation saves a family $28,000 over its lifetime and prevents 95 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to planting 272 trees.
  • To date, GRID has installed solar for over 1,800 low-income families, providing 5.1 megawatts of power. That prevents nearly 160,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions and is the equivalent of planting nearly 460,000 trees.
  • GRID provides training for people who need hands-on experience to get into the solar industry.
  • GRID’s installations spread awareness of solar and show that solar can be practical and affordable.
  • All of this helps improve the environment, the economy, public health, national security, and global politics — which helps you, too!

So, want to get a lot of bang for your buck, while helping to do all of the above? As you probably know by now, each year GRID holds a “solar barn-raising,” the Solarthon, at which volunteers help install solar on homes in a low-income neighborhood. This year, I’ll be participating in the Bay Area Solarthon on July 21, and I’m asking for your help in sponsoring me.

Just click here to sponsor me — any amount helps:

Thanks again to all of you loyal supporters who sponsored me for last year’s Solarthon! To read about that inspiring day, see my blog post.

I realize these are tough times for many people, so no pressure at all — but if you can give, I greatly appreciate it!

Thanks so much for your support!

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Last weekend, I saw this amazing film about the plight of the Maldives — and the whole world (check out the trailer!). If global climate change continues at its current pace, this island country could soon disappear. And it’s not the only place in danger. Many coastal areas — think San Francisco, or Manhattan — will be affected.

This may seem like an overwhelming problem, but the film shows the power of one person to make a difference. You, too, can help, right here in the U.S.! How, you ask? It’s simple!

GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit based in Oakland, helps slow global climate change by providing solar to low-income families. In doing this, they help all of us: an average GRID solar installation prevents 95 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to planting 272 trees.

Each year, GRID holds a fundraising block party and “solar barn-raising” called the Solarthon. I’ve been participating for a couple years; you can read all about it in previous blog posts. This year, the Bay Area Solarthon is on July 21. Once again, I’ll be helping install solar panels for a low-income family. So I’m asking for your help in sponsoring me. (I’ll only ask for this once a year!)

Just click here to sponsor me — any amount helps, really:

What’s in it for you:

  • Feeling good that you’re helping GRID empower low-income families, show that solar is affordable, and build communities.
  • Knowing that you’re helping improve the environment, the economy, public health, and global politics — all of which helps you, too!
  • A way out of getting me a birthday present this year — a contribution to GRID is the best birthday present you could get me! (Yes, my birthday is not till September, but do this now and you won’t have to think about it again!)
  • My undying gratitude!

I realize these are tough times for many people, so no pressure at all. But if you can give, I greatly appreciate it!

If you can’t give but would like to participate in the Solarthon, you can sign up here for a fun and satisfying way to volunteer.

Thanks so much for your support!


For more on what GRID does, see this short video (can you spot me in the photo?):


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I'm in this group photo, but you'd need pretty good eyes to see me!

Any regular visitor to this blog has read more than once about the GRID Alternatives Solarthon. After participating in this “solar barn-raising” last year, I was hooked. And that’s not surprising, since the event combines two of my favorite things: solar power and community. It’s a celebration of the work GRID does all year, and it provides an inspiring example of what people can achieve together.

Some of us on the roof at the Women's Build.

There’s no dearth of good causes to contribute time and resources to, and many of us give to other organizations and do other kinds of volunteer work. But I’ve found volunteering for GRID the most satisfying. Yes, it’s partly that all the staff and volunteers are just so nice, and it’s partly that it’s very different from the work I do during the week. But mostly, it’s the bang you get for your buck. How many other single actions can you take that make a difference in such a host of areas as the environment, public health, jobs, the economy, foreign policy, national security … you get the idea? To top it all off, by volunteering with GRID you’re also helping spread renewable energy in the communities that are generally most affected by environmental problems.

Three of us lifted the heavy inverter into place and then went to work connecting it.

So I was glad to take part in this year’s Solarthon last weekend. And I must take a moment here to thank my family members and friends who helped me become the top fundraiser for the Solarthon for the second year in a row, for which I was featured in this GRID video. With your help, I raised over $4,300! This helps GRID continue their important work all year.

The direct benefits of this particular Solarthon can be measured:

  • We installed 13 PV energy systems.
  • These represent 31 kW of clean, renewable energy.
  • The systems will produce 1.7 million kW over their lifetime.
  • The families will save $290,000 over the system lifetimes.
  • And the systems will prevent 977 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

This is just one day’s work. GRID is growing exponentially and has already installed over 1,200 solar systems, preventing 96,300 tons of greenhouse gas emissions. But there’s a lot more to it than these impressive statistics. At the Solarthon, you experience being part of a community of solar enthusiasts, as well as the community where you’re installing the panels. While doing something very concrete in one neighborhood, you also get to feel that you’re part of something larger.

The happy homeowner turning on her new system.

Which you are. GRID is not alone in spreading solar through communities. We had a visit at the house I was working on from Joy Hughes of the Solar Gardens Institute, who wrote about the event in her blog. As a proponent of community solar, she was enthusiastic about GRID’s work, which brings local power to communities in need. She’s part of a growing community solar movement, as is GRID — just from a slightly different angle. And this movement could significantly change how we generate, distribute, and use power. The hope is that it will not only help us get off fossil fuels but also directly benefit not the large power companies but the people who need the power — which is all of us.

And that’s really the reason to volunteer for GRID and other renewable-energy organizations: we all benefit. We’re not talking in a fringe benefit kind of way; this is a serious, urgent issue. If we don’t take care of the environment, all those other causes people volunteer for will cease to exist. And ultimately, that’s really the reason I choose to devote my volunteer time and energy to an organization like GRID Alternatives.

The whole group at the end of the day.

The roof we worked on with all 10 panels in place.

With Erica Mackie, co-founder of GRID.

For more Solarthon photos, see my Facebook album and this album from GRID Alternatives.

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Sue Amar, EcoTuesday ambassador Jesse Martinez, and EcoTuesday co-founder Nikki Pava

At a recent EcoTuesday gathering in San Francisco, Sue Amar, Sustainability Officer at salesforce.com, referenced what Malcolm Gladwell calls the “law of the few” (aka the 80/20 principle), according to which 20% of the people will bring about 80% of the changes in the world. She’s a prime example of this herself, having single-handedly started a robust sustainability program at salesforce.com.

While many companies have recently embraced sustainability — even Walmart! — Sue explained how salesforce.com, with their commitment to the cloud, goes beyond the usual efforts to green the supply chain, travel, facilities, and other such areas. But beware: You may think you’re already using the cloud, but not all clouds are created equal! The salesforce.com sustainability site delineates the differences:

  • On-premises cloud: Onsite hardware and software that must be bought, installed, and maintained.
  • Private (or “false”) cloud: A cloud that’s housed in a data center, uses virtualization technology, or is hosted — and still requires hardware and software that must be bought, installed, and maintained.
  • 100% cloud: A cloud that uses “multitenant architecture” to allow sharing and economies of scale — using a small number of servers that are optimized to do as much as possible. This cloud has the benefit of being 64% more efficient than the private cloud and 95% more efficient than an on-premises cloud.

This kind of focus has made salesforce.com a leader in sustainability among high-tech companies. And their commitment to sustainability has been solidified and advanced by one employee, Sue, who started their sustainability program as a volunteer (in addition to doing her regular job) and now leads the effort full-time.

A section of the audience at EcoTuesday

EcoTuesday itself is another excellent example of the power of one or two people. Just a few years ago, the this networking group for sustainability professionals didn’t exist. Now, thanks to its two founders, Nikki Pava and Oren Jaffe, it’s spread to cities throughout the U.S and is providing a wonderful and inspiring venue to learn about what people like Sue Amar are doing.

This latest EcoTuesday gathering has inspired me to look into how I can help promote sustainability at my own workplace. Although Adobe is already strong in this area, I know there’s always more that can be done.

Every EcoTuesday evening I’ve attended has been similarly inspiring. I’ve met others working on sustainability and learned about all kinds of green resources and ideas.

Over a year ago, Erica Mackie spoke at EcoTuesday about GRID Alternatives, a local nonprofit she co-founded that provides solar to low-income families. Since then, I’ve volunteered at their Solarthon and convinced my employer to sponsor them. Not only that — a good friend of mine learned about the organization from me and is now working for them. If I hadn’t heard about GRID at EcoTuesday, perhaps she wouldn’t have thought to apply for the job, and they’d be out a great employee. But wait — there’s more! GRID was started by just two people who wanted to make a difference and saw a need that they could fill. They started small, but 10 years later, they’re growing by leaps and bounds. They’ve installed solar systems for over 1,000 families, preventing over 100,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

This shows what the vision of one or two people can create. Though we all rely on others and we need to work together to achieve our sustainability goals, each one of us can do a lot. Any of us who worry that we can’t make a meaningful difference should look at what people like Nikki Pava, Erica Mackie, and Sue Amar have done. That should be enough to restore our faith in the power of one.

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