Up and coming NGSS Leadership Team Member: Matthew Hornung, Wellesley High School, Wellesley, MA
I was recruited to join the Wellesley Middle School Green Team when I was in the sixth grade. Since then, I have become more involved with different local and state organizations pertaining to sustainability as I have learned more about the benefits of and need for sustainability.
No specific person gets all the credit for inspiring me to become involved in helping the environment; simply spending time outdoors and in the world has made me come to appreciate it. If I had to choose, doing service work and exploring the world with the Boy Scouts has really helped me connect with the environment around me by exposing it to me first hand.
In my junior year, I worked with the Sustainable Energy Committee Chair for the Town of Wellesley (MA) on a town-wide residential solar initiative. Although our town does not qualify for the state-run residential solar program, we designed our own in partnership with Sagewell and Astrum Solar (now Direct Energy Solar) to congregate the most financial incentives possible into one package that would entice residents to purchase a solar array for their own home. Through a massive grassroots campaign over the course of a nine-month period, we successfully converted over 80 residents to solar power, representing half a megawatt of green energy powering Wellesley homes.
Our goal for the project was very simple: to convert as many Wellesley residential buildings to solar power as possible. We accomplished this by holding information sessions and gala events, dropping off fliers door-to-door, publishing newspaper and television press releases, running open houses, handwriting letters to residents, handing out informational cards at town events, putting up yard signs, and more. Put simply, it was a traditional grassroots/local campaign.
The project was completed by helping interested residents (enticed by our aforementioned promotional efforts) work with Sagewell and Astrum Solar to price out and select the proper solar array for their homes. I participated in the effort by sitting on the leadership team of the project for its duration and helping to lead efforts to publicize the campaign and coordinate with the solar salesmen and residents.
We received some funding for promotional materials through Sagewell and the Town of Wellesley; however, most of our efforts came through volunteer contributions and no-cost methods. Our publicity was generated for virtually no charge, with newspaper, television and online promotional materials created with no significant costs.
On numerous occasions we ran into issues coordinating with our solar vendor, in most cases due to miscommunication or differing approaches to promoting the initiative overall. Although the solution to the problem varied between instances, we generally resolved issues with meta meetings of all parties involved to realign our efforts.
At a fundamental level, our project impacted the community by rerouting half a megawatt of energy consumption through sustainable sources; this not only reduced residents’ energy bills by a massive amount, but it also reduced the peak energy load on our Municipal Light Plant and has the obvious impact of reducing the use of conventional dirty energy in town. Besides the energy savings that will last for decades to come, I would argue that this project is also self-expanding; by helping so many residents put up solar arrays we put the concept of going solar in front of hundreds more, many of whom may consider it in the next few years even without the financial incentives of this initiative. Some have already signed up to get solar on their own.
This project was by far one of the best educational experiences I have ever taken part in. I not only learned a great deal about the technology behind solar power, but I learned how to work with people in a business setting, how to organize a grassroots campaign, how to produce promotional materials and press releases, how to sell a product, and many other skills based in experiential education.
Upon graduating high school, I hope to gain a business degree with a focus in sustainability and use it to work in the business of renewable energy and sustainability. Whether it be selling solar panels or advising companies on their practices through a sustainable lens, I aim to develop my career and livelihood around a focus on helping others become more sustainable.