Are You STEM-Aware?

On Thursday, April 27, more than 200 students from high schools in Berkeley, Emeryville, Oakland, and Richmond took part in the 6th Annual East Bay STEM Career Awareness Day in West Berkeley. Industry, academia, nonprofits like CESC, and local government joined forces to connect with young people from underserved communities and encourage them to pursue a major in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM). According to the Institute for STEM Education, “There is strong data to suggest that the opportunity to meet professionals and learn about careers and employment in actual workplaces can be highly motivational and transformative.” In this year’s one-day program, students learned about the demand for STEM careers and a diverse workforce.

Just how many jobs are there in the energy efficiency field? The New York Times recently reported that there are more jobs in the solar power industry than in the coal industry. But according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) blog, the energy efficiency industry employs more people than solar and coal combined. The organization estimates over two million jobs in energy efficiency. CESC is just one example of an organization that offers jobs in that field.

The theme of this year’s STEM Awareness Day program was “What problem(s) are you trying to solve?” This question provided a lens through which to think about future careers and to speak to professionals. Each student visited two work sites in West Berkeley. Tours at 17 companies, including CESC, provided hands-on science and innovation activities.

At CESC, Construction Manager Gregory Clark spoke to 16 visiting students about the organization’s energy efficiency work. Using the day’s theme, Clark presented one of the problems that CESC tries to solve: duct leaks in residences:

Forced air furnaces pull air from the home, heat it, and push it back into the home. It’s a balanced system….if it pulls 100 cubic feet per minute (CFM), and puts back 100 CFM. If the system pulls 100 cubic feet per minute (CFM) from the house, and pushes 90 CFM back (with a leak of 10 CFM), that depressurizes the dwelling. If the pressure outside a building is greater than inside, any leaks in the building envelope become active. Often the air quality from these leaks is not the best, coming from the crawl space or attic for example. The utility customer is also paying to heat the neighborhood.

By going into the home and fixing things like duct leaks, CESC is able to make a residence  healthier, safer, and more energy efficient. Clark pointed out that the larger problem is socioeconomic; through its residential energy efficiency program, CESC, a nonprofit with a mission, is trying to improve the conditions in which low-income people live.

“What surprised me was the amount of people that really took the time to show me new things.”
– Kasandra, Dewey Academy

“I learned that the Bay Area is the place to be to work in Biotech fields.”
Sebastien, Berkeley High School

“I learned that there are many opportunities out there for me.”
Maria, Richmond High School

(quotations reprinted with permission of the Institute for STEM Education.)

Another aspect of STEM Awareness Day was a lunch conversation. Local professionals shared lunch, conversation, and advice with high school students. ​The lunch included a career mapping exercise.

SmartLights Program Administrator Tyi Johnson maps out her career path starting from her original goals in high school to her current position with four students.

What problem is CESC solving?

CESC provides living-wage jobs to help more people live and work in healthy, safe and energy-efficient buildings. If you are interested in supporting CESC’s workforce development programs or home repair programs or just learning more about CESC, contact us today!

Energize Richmond!

“This program has been great; we have new bright lights and better motors in the cooler—all for free!”

-Anees Ali,  U.S. Liquor and Market

Twenty-third Street in Richmond holds many great restaurants and small businesses serving the predominantly Spanish-speaking community surrounding it. The Street’s Merchant’s Association is renowned for its annual Cinco de Mayo event each year, to be celebrated this year on Sunday, May 7.

The neighborhood is struggling, though, and needs all the support it can get. CESC is getting involved through a new campaign to help Richmond merchants save energy.

Energize Richmond is taking advantage of the small commercial program East Bay Energy Watch (EBEW), funded through PG&E and MCE, which helps businesses install new upgraded lighting and refrigeration equipment to become more energy efficient and reduce utility costs. The City of Richmond is supporting EBEW to increase small business participation by covering merchants’ costs through a City of Richmond grant from the Environmental and Community Investment Agreement (ECIA). Because of all the small businesses there, the East Bay Energy Watch and our partner contractors have been spending a lot of time on 23rd Street!

Through Energize Richmond, U.S. Liquor and Market has received new motors and controls for its refrigeration system and new LED lighting inside and out, improving the look of the store and brightening the exterior walkway for safety. More than 100 businesses will eventually participate, with 50 projects already under way. EBEW is distributing the funds on a first-come, first-served basis until the grant funds are distributed.

A nonprofit organization, CESC has delivered energy, environmental and home repair services to Bay Area residents since 1986. Funding from MCE and from EBEW, our commercial energy efficiency program, cover the administrative, marketing, and technical assistance for the campaign, with some rebates to help cover the project costs. The City of Richmond then helps by covering the small gap costs not covered by the rebates.

These energy-efficiency projects are now available at no cost to Richmond businesses! Through this great partnership, the smallest, most vulnerable business can now participate. Businesses can take control of their energy use, improve lighting for public safety, and become sustainable. CESC has been marketing this program through influential business groups like the Richmond Main Street Initiative.

“The Energize Richmond Campaign is a great resource for our businesses to improve their facilities and save money. We are happy to partner with CESC to publicize this great opportunity for Richmond Main Street property owners and businesses.”

—Amanda Elliott, Executive Director, Richmond Main Street Initiative

Do you know a business in Richmond that could benefit from a free energy assessment? Call EBEW today! 

What Are You Doing This Earth Day?

By Janet Stephens

It’s that time of year again—the time to be reminded, as individuals and as a community, to work to protect our fragile environment. Earth Day 2017 is coming soon, on Saturday, April 22, to be precise.

As someone who works with nonprofit organizations that benefit the environment (like CESC), I get to think about this topic all year long. Yet on Earth Day, almost everybody joins in, and it’s wonderful to feel the power of community when it turns its focus on this cause.

Although I thought I knew a bit about the history of Earth Day, the details of its creation are actually rather surprising. Here’s a short version summarized from the Earth Day website.

A U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson was inspired to create Earth Day after seeing the devastation caused by a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara. The anti-war movement had made it clear that organized energy could achieve great things, so with a conservation-minded Republican Congressman, Pete McCloskey, Gaylord announced a national “teach-in” on the environment and put together a staff of 85 to organize the event. On the first Earth Day, 20 million Americans demonstrated for a healthy, sustainable environment. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests, and groups that had been fighting for specific environmental issues realized the values they had in common. Earth Day 1970 even brought Republicans and Democrats together. By the end of that year, “the first Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. ‘It was a gamble,’ Gaylord recalled, ‘but it worked.’”

In this year, which may see the gutting of the EPA and a complete denial of climate science by the administration, the message of Earth Day has a particular urgency. I am especially intrigued by the March for Science. On Earth Day, thousands will march on the The National Mall in Washington, DC and 425+ satellite marches around the world, to advocate for evidence-based policy-making, science education, research funding, and inclusive and accessible science. There’s a local one in Hayward, one in San Francisco, and one in Berkeley.

Don’t feel like marching? There are fairs, volunteer opportunities, and other participatory activities around the Bay, with some being organized by some of CESC’s partners:

Fremont Let’s Go Green Together (April 22).  Meet with eco-friendly experts and learn new ways to go green!

The Ecology Center’s East Bay Climate Action Expo and Film Screening on (April 21).

Oakland’s Earth Day (April 22) provides volunteer opportunities. “Groups and individuals of all ages and abilities are invited to join cleanup and restoration projects at creeks, parks, and neighborhood sites throughout Oakland. All tools are provided.”

* City of Alameda’s Love Our Green Island (April 22) includes volunteer opportunities along with games and exhibits.

My Earth Day Marin (April 14 to April 26) provides volunteer opportunities. One interesting opportunity is called “Clean the Canal on a Paddle Board.”

CESC promoting energy efficiency at a 2016 Earth Day event.

Still haven’t found the right one? See a list of more Bay Area events. Whatever you end up doing for Earth Day, think about saving energy on that day (and every day): take public transit, ride a bicycle, or turn off all the lights in your house when you leave. Or turn your focus to energy efficiency: switching out a single 75-watt bulb for an LED of equal brightness could keep up to 275 lbs. of carbon dioxide out of the air over the course of a year.  If you are a PG&E customer you should be receiving your California Climate Credit in your next bill. This twice-yearly refund is perfect timing for investing in LEDs for Earth Day!  


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