Greenovate Boston’s One City Hall blog series introduces community members to the people behind the programs that make our city greener, healthier, and more energy efficient. In our first edition, we meet Lourdes Lopez - Community Outreach Manager for the Renew Boston residential energy efficiency program.
Hitting the bricks
On a hot Thursday night last month, community members gathered in the gymnasium at East Boston's Pino Community Center. Renew Boston Community Manager Lourdes Lopez greeted community members at the door, her contagious smile making it feel more like a community gathering than a workshop about energy efficiency.
As community members found their seats, Lourdes welcomed them in English and in Spanish. Before she began her presentation, she asked those in attendance to tell the group what neighborhood they were from. Many had walked only a short distance to the community center from the nearby neighborhoods of Jeffries Point and Eagle Hill, and some had come from other Boston neighborhoods across the harbor.
Then Lourdes asked what types of buildings people called home. One person called out, “In an apartment!” then “Triple decker,” and “Duplex!”
Lourdes teaches people from all over the city about energy efficiency, and she sees that the need to feel comfortable at home is a personal issue for many Bostonians. As is the challenge of paying utility bills. And so Lourdes has learned that to serve each Bostonian's needs, she needs to get to know them on a personal level. (Photo: Lourdes speaks with community members at a Renew Boston workshop)
Boston’s residential energy efficiency program
Renew Boston is the City’s residential energy efficiency program. It helps Boston’s renters, landlords, and homeowners save energy and money by providing home energy assessments, installing energy saving features, and connecting them with incentives and rebates through Mass Save. Many people start their Mass Save journey at a Renew Boston workshop, which are free, open to the public, and usually feature an impressive spread of complimentary snacks.
The next step is to sign up for a no-cost home energy assessment. During an assessment, a professional adviser from Mass Save shows a resident how they can improve energy efficiency in their home. They install instant saving measures and determine what types of rebates and incentives they qualify for.
For Lourdes, it’s personal
Lourdes is on a mission, and for her this work is very personal.
“My job is to motivate people to make these changes, and keep them motivated after the workshop so that they can become more self-sufficient. Financial self-sufficiency is an important part of community sustainability,” she explains.
Lourdes has developed personal relationships with many of the constituents she serves.
“I remember one home energy assessment we did in East Boston. A woman was struggling to pay for utilities and stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. We switched out all her lighting and did a 100 percent insulation at no cost. We stayed in touch and she told me that she saw huge energy savings right away. She was finally comfortable in her home and she was so happy about that.”
“I really like to provide the follow-up. Once people are ready to take action, I give them my card and tell them to call me directly. People seem to really appreciate that service.” (Photo: Community members ask questions and share their concerns and goals at a workshop.)
Walking the walk
Lourdes was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Boston as a young child. She lives in Roslindale with her family, who have embraced her environmental values.
“They follow the work that I do. I want to be a role model to my four sons and my three grandchildren. My youngest son, David, knows how adamant I am about recycling, and he does it too. We do things around the house to be more energy efficient all the time. For example, instead of the dryer, we use the clothesline. My son is so proactive and it feels great.”
Lourdes’s commitment to her work is a testament to her love of Boston.
“I love this city. I love to go out to the Harbor Islands. I love bike riding, even though I own a vehicle. Taking the T is good for our environment and it’s good for my health. We always say that the first step to energy efficiency is to only use what you need.”
Meet Lourdes and get started with Renew Boston
This week Lourdes is back out in the community. She’ll meet constituents, listen to their energy concerns and goals, and connect them with the resources they need at workshops in Dorchester and Roxbury.
Lourdes knows that making improvements to their homes overwhelms many people. She also knows that many doubt that they can afford it. To this, she says:
“Just come down to a workshop! I help turn skepticism into something positive. The workshops are packed with information about what Renew Boston and Mass Save cover. Then people have everything they need to get started with a home energy assessment. Sharing the resources and knowledge I have with constituents is my mission both professionally and personally.”
Workshops are free, carry no obligation, and of course there’s that impressive assortment of snacks.
Readying for another workshop, Lourdes explains, “This is not the type of work you can do from behind a desk. You’ve got to be out in the community, meeting the people the program serves.” (Right: Lourdes meets Bostonians at the Franklin Park Zoo. Below left: Renew Workshops provide information in several languages. Below right: Renew Boston knows how important it is to provide lots of snacks.)