Conversation

Advancing clean energy with responsible design

A community-based approach to solar education

Design for people &
environment

 

In April 2021, Rachel Wagner of through design LLC, based in Duluth, Minnesota, sat down virtually for a conversation with CERTs northeast regional coordinator Colby Abazs and sustainability storyteller Marie Donahue. Through design offers consulting, education and advocacy, providing ecologically and socially conscious solutions to projects, employing what Wagner calls "responsible design."

During the interview, Wagner speaks about her decades of experience working in private sector architecture and building design and the pivot she took to pursue bolder grassroots and mission-driven work. She shares about recent projects working to engage local youth and community members in green building design and solar energy through a workshop and video series supported by CERTs Seed Grants, as well as a new, collaborative Green New Deal Housing effort that seeks to address climate, social and economic inequities through energy efficient, affordable housing.

 

Listen to the conversation or read it below.

In addition to its release on CERTs Energy Futures podcast, a version of this conversation also aired on Energetic Talk with Colby Abazs, a local radio program of Two Harbors Community Radio (KTWH 99.5 FM), in Northeast Minnesota. Both the audio and write-up have been edited for length and clarity.

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I didn't set out to be a leader in energy efficient design, I think I stumbled into it because of my passion for what I'll call ‘responsible design’—which is responsible to people and responsible to the environment.

Rachel Wagner, founder and owner of through design LLC

Marie Donahue: And now, we’re excited to get the show started and welcome Rachel to the program. Rachel, could you introduce yourself to our listeners and share what led you to your work in clean energy, design, community-building, and consulting—all the great work you’re doing at through design LLC.

Rachel Wagner: Thank you for inviting me. I'm Rachel Wagner, and I am the owner of through design LLC in Duluth, Minnesota. I founded this small consulting firm in the fall of 2018 after leaving a 13-year stint as a partner of a custom residential design firm in Duluth. Prior to that, I had been a sole proprietor in design in Duluth, for about nine years. I started through design because I had decided to make a pretty radical departure in my work life. The seeds for this started probably 2014 or 2015, and I slowly planned my exit to take place in the fall of 2018.

The impetus for that was a desire to take the knowledge that I had amassed in the private sector for more than 20 years and reach a broader and different audience and constituency. While I loved my clients and I loved the work that I was doing and I was also grateful for the opportunities that I had in more than two decades of private sector work focusing on energy efficiency and resourceful design, I felt that those most in need of access to and the benefits from the kind of work I did, the kind of design I did, and the skills that I had to share rarely received access to that kind of work. So my work in the private sector was reserved mainly for what I called the 10 percent, and I wanted to move my work and my focus into the 90 percent.

This wasn't a departure internally in terms of what I cared about throughout most of my life, but it was a pretty radical departure in how I could choose to take my work. I was in my 50s when I did this and when I made this change to start through design. I think that's notable because I had two things—several things going for me.

One, and maybe most importantly, was decades of really rigorous work, study, practice, experience, successes and failures. I think that put me in a good position to be able to share my work and my role as a leader. I didn't set out to be a leader in energy efficient design, I think I stumbled into it because of my passion for what I'll call “responsible design”—which is responsible to people and responsible to the environment.

The other thing I had going for me, at that point, was I had spent a lot of time working as a volunteer engaged in youth organizations doing public education. Offering my time to a variety of causes, in addition to doing work in the community. So I think I had built relationships and a presence that I could then capitalize on in this new direction. What I didn't realize was the wealth, breadth and depth of people and organizations I was only peripherally aware of or not at all aware of who opened their doors to me, who allowed me to participate in their efforts and magnified and amplified the kind of work that I wanted to do. That's been really gratifying.

It seemed to me logical and exciting to use the sun and to understand how to calculate energy consumption and use with every building that I might design or work on.

Rachel Wagner, through design LLC

Colby Abazs: That's very exciting and you've already started talking about our next question—what motivates you to focus on energy issues or as you described, people-focused and energy-focused design?

Rachel Wagner: My motivation to pay attention to energy in my work began more than 30 years ago, while I was still in college. I took a class on passive solar and energy efficient building practices. I took it as an elective while I was in design school. The work in that class just made sense to me. It was not something I had been exposed to during my normal coursework, despite the fact that I was in the College of Design and Environmental Analysis. It seemed to me logical and exciting to use the sun and to understand how to calculate energy consumption and use with every building that I might design or work on. I also mistakenly assumed at that time that this must be how all architects work, and I just didn't know it yet. When I left college and began working in the quote-unquote “real world,” I rapidly discovered that that was not the way that most architects and designers approached their work, in the late 1980s anyway.

So that interest in energy and solar design and even environmental design took a backseat with one notable exception. My first job out of college was for a designer who designed and built community built playgrounds. There was one in Duluth for a long time at the Bayfront Park called Play Front and that company was Robert Leathers and Associates. So Leathers and 
Associates taught me the importance and benefits of grassroots, boots on the ground community engagement—deep and broad community engagement.

And for two and a half years, I went from city to city across the United States working directly with children and their parents, educators, city officials, planners and others to design these community build playgrounds and engage in the process, like a literal barn raising. Having the playgrounds not just designed by the community members but literally built by them with skilled assistance. So that wasn't exactly about energy efficiency or solar design, but I bring it up because it was formative, enormously important, and impactful to me personally and then came back in a giant way 20 years later, when I started through design.

The energy piece kind of sat on the back shelf, as I said in my first 10 or 12 years of work working for other people. But when I moved to Duluth in 1996 and became self-employed, I realized I had an opportunity to do what I wanted the way I wanted and focus on design in the way that made the most sense to me. That's when the energy piece and the solar piece came back to the forefront of my mind.

I realized I had a lot of learning to do. I still had the book from my college days—I still have that book. It's called More Better Homes and Garbage. But I began taking classes, going to conferences, reading everything I could get my hands on, and listening to those—many of whom had been practicing in the 1970s during the energy crisis—to understand what energy efficient design and passive solar design really entailed. And I began employing it in my work. Just as I had felt in college, it made sense.

For years, I used to say that my favorite design tool is the sun and I meant it.

Rachel Wagner, through design LLC

In fact, a big part of what made sense about it was not only did passive solar optimized design and energy efficient design save energy, and it was cleaner for the planet, but the spaces felt better when you design a space to take advantage of the sun. Bringing the sun's light and heat into the spaces, when you want them there, but intentionally keeping them out of the spaces by design when you don't want it there, let's say in the middle of summer. The spaces are more comfortable. They're more pleasant. They're more enjoyable, and they're more energy efficient. It was fun. For years, I used to say that my favorite design tool is the sun and I meant it.

One more thing about that, which is—the motivation initially was just, “Well, this makes sense.” That motivation continued to evolve in the late 1990s and into the 2000s, as I became aware of climate change. So I educated myself about it, as I became aware of resource scarcity and the tremendous pollution and environmental degradation that was being caused by the building industry.

So then an interest turned into a responsibility. I felt that because every day I participated in this industry, my responsibility was larger. Each day, the way that I approached my work would bring the opportunity to make things worse or to make things better. And I decided, I was going to choose to try to make things better.

The next iteration of that kind of awareness, then came to the awareness of the inequities—the social inequities—that exist and have always existed in our society, with regard to housing, buildings, education, energy access.

I learned more about the structural and systemic nature of these inequities and injustices. Then, again, I turned my attention and my learning there. To see if I could make a difference there and make things better in that direction as well. Through design came from that, Green New Deal Housing came from that, Outside the Box came from that.

Each day, the way that I approached my work would bring the opportunity to make things worse or to make things better. And I decided, I was going to choose to try to make things better.

Rachel Wagner, through design LLC

Colby Abazs: I'm curious with your experience you mentioned of, “Oh, everyone must be designing in these ways,” and then finding out that they weren't—what are the barriers that are preventing more designers from incorporating these different ideals that seem to you anyways, and I think to me as well, [to be] “no nonsense” and “of course”?

Rachel Wagner: There are a lot of barriers to the more widespread approach to the work that I take and, sadly, I think that those barriers are artificial, as real as they are. I don't know if that makes sense. [laughing] Let's start with concrete examples, one of the biggest barriers in the world of professional architecture, design, and engineering, is that building science, energy management and passive solar design are not required coursework in most design, architecture, and engineering schools.

Until it is, it isn't going to become a fundamental part of the way that most people approach their profession. It is also again building science energy management, solar optimized design and environmental degradation that are not tested when you take the architects registration exam and I would venture a guess that you're also not tested on that in professional engineering exams, although I don't know because I'm not an engineer.  So that's barrier number one.

That's a pretty big barrier to change because our institutions of higher education even though now most of them are offering some kind of coursework in sustainability or natural resources, it’s not embedded in the training. If the designers and architects aren't trained in energy and environmental issues, they don't approach it through that lens. Of course, that barrier then translates to the building trades themselves. In the state of Minnesota residential contractors are required to pass an exam and have a license; they're also required to take continuing education units. The examination tests you on your knowledge of the energy code. But the energy code is the lowest bar with regard to energy. Following the Minnesota energy code does not give you an energy efficient building. It certainly doesn't prepare you for the integrated kind of thinking and doing that leads to really efficient, high functioning, high performance buildings. So again, it's not embedded in the professions.

That's the good news about the building and design industry. We have the information, the tools, the knowledge, the materials, the assemblies, the modeling that we need to make every new building zero energy and to even approach the millions of existing buildings that could benefit from deep energy and environmental retrofits. It's employing that energy. It's getting that information into the hands of as many people as possible.

Rachel Wagner, through design LLC

The barriers aren't technical though. They're not material-based, they're not even knowledge based. That's the good news about the building and design industry. We have the information, the tools, the knowledge, the materials, the assemblies, the modeling that we need to make every new building zero energy and to even approach the millions of existing buildings that could benefit from deep energy and environmental retrofits. It's employing that energy. It's getting that information into the hands of as many people as possible.

I guess the last thing I want to say about that barrier is. For the first time in my work I think that we are seeing a generational shift across all sectors. Younger folks are acutely aware of the dangers posed by climate change, structural racism and other environmental injustices and inequities. That's our incoming workforce. That's our new workforce. That's literally the next generation. So I think with that awareness at their core, they've never known a world where climate change wasn't a worry. I think we're at a moment where we could enact widespread change. I hope we are.

 

justbsolar.jpg

Photo: Keith Dent and Noy Koumalasy with Just B Solar talk to kids about the electric grid and clean energy at "Here Comes the Sun" workshop.

We came up with an idea… to teach middle school aged students and their families about renewable energy and to expose them to the fact that there are tremendous opportunities in education and jobs, lucrative jobs in this industry.

Rachel Wagner, through design LLC

Marie Donahue: I hope so too, thank you for digging into those barriers. I'm excited to hear more about how you're addressing and thinking about some of the solutions in your approach to the grassroots efforts that you're doing. So, you applied for and were awarded a couple of CERTs Seed Grants this year. I'm curious to have you tell us about these projects, your ideas for them, your approach and who you're working with and engaging?

Rachel Wagner: So about two years ago with another local architect and the help of a local nonprofit, Ecolibrium3, here in Duluth, Minnesota, we embarked on a new project aimed at introducing middle school students, and in particular middle school students from our lower income and more marginalized communities so the central and western neighborhoods of Duluth. Introducing students to the fields of design engineering construction building trades through a new program called Outside the Box.

The idea was that by providing early exposure opportunities, activities, and engagement with people working in those fields to youth in middle school, it would encourage them to do two things: one is just to learn about these fields and careers that they might not have otherwise had exposure to before they got the high school when they might want to take some coursework that could lead them into those professions; and the second idea behind Outside the Box was literally teaching design thinking. That process of creative problem solving that is not only necessary to solving things like climate change and racism, but is also really, really useful in a much more personal nature for anyone to make changes in their own lives and to create a sense of agency.

Outside the Box is focused in general about all sorts of maker skills and hands-on activities in the design trades, but we also wanted some specific focus on sustainability and renewable energy. That's where the idea to write a grant proposal to CERTs came in. We came up with an idea of two community-based workshops called Here Comes the Sun to teach middle school aged students and their families about renewable energy and to expose them to the fact that there are tremendous opportunities in education and jobs, lucrative jobs in this industry, which is so needed and fun. So, we wrote the grant for two community-based workshops.

We did a lot of planning in conjunction with two local nonprofits: the Family Freedom Center and AICHO, which is the American Indian Community Housing Organization. Because our focus on Here Comes the Sun in particular wasn't just youth and lower income families—we specifically wanted to connect with BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) populations in Duluth. Family Freedom Center and AICHO were right on board with us for this goal, so they were our partners.

 

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Photo: Attendee at "Here Comes the Sun" workshop learns about solar at home with Bret Pence from Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light (MnIPL).

 

We had a wonderful day-long event at Family Freedom Center in early March of 2020. We were looking forward to another successful event a week later at AICHO—and this all unfolded just as the pandemic was unfolding. I think we lucked out that we were able to have the event at Family Freedom Center on March 7th. Through the rest of that week, we were in panic mode trying to make a determination of whether or not it was safe to hold an event on the 14th of March. At the 11th hour we canceled that event. It was the right thing to do. We literally had everything in place to have another event. And, we stopped it.

The second CERTs seed grant came out of the cancellation. As we sat through the pandemic and thought about the missed opportunity yet the need that was still there. We talked to folks at CERTs about, “Is there something else we can do?”  And we realized that there might be a more remote way of coming up with a project with a similar goal.

We came up with the idea of solar storytelling through video. It grew into a larger project than just one short video, and we were able to write a second grant to produce not one but three solar storytelling videos. We're calling it the Solar Storytelling Series. It can be watched 1-2-3, but each of the roughly three-minute videos can stand alone.

It engages young women from AICHO with community members working in solar energy, most of that engagement is remote like questions being asked at AICHO and then interviews happening elsewhere, with voiceovers, and blending it all in video. So, the focus of the three videos are:

  1. What do we all need from and get from the sun and why is it important to us;
  2. What kind of jobs are there in the solar industry; and
  3. How does this type of work tie in with environmental justice.

Those videos will be launched in early May, and we're really excited. We're editing right now.

Some of the things we need to do differently are to make all new housing zero net energy because we have got to deal with climate change and new buildings in this way.

Rachel Wagner, through design LLC

Marie Donahue: Wonderful, I was going to ask—but you anticipated my next question. I knew those were coming together. We'll be sure to update our podcast page with links to those when they're available. So excited to have those shared broadly!

Rachel Wagner: Excellent.

 

Colby Abazs: In addition to those CERTs grants, you've been working with a grant from University of Minnesota Extension RSDP, on a project that you've titled the “Green New Deal Housing” project. Could you tell us more about this, and I think you have an exhibit that just opened.

Rachel Wagner: We do. So, first of all Green New Deal Housing is a lot more than a project. It is both a nonprofit organization, a 501c3 and a partnering public benefit corporation, which is a mission driven for-profit corporation, and essentially the mission of the for-profit arm of Green New Deal Housing is to support the efforts of the nonprofit by actually creating the designs, offering technical assistance, and then expanding efforts by offering the same designs and technical assistance to communities and people and organizations everywhere, whether they are individuals, for profit or nonprofit.

The mission of Green New Deal Housing is to develop equitable zero energy housing and a green collar workforce in the Arrowhead region. It is in many ways a manifestation of the work that I spoke about earlier in terms of wanting to create access and opportunity to folks who have, for the most part, either been disenfranchised or have had barriers to accessing durable, energy efficient affordable housing and accessing stable employment in a sector that is safe and lucrative. The building trades are a stable, lucrative career. In addition, the building trades are suffering from a lack of incoming workforce in the Duluth region and actually most everywhere. We have a relatively aging workforce in the trades and they are not recruiting new and younger members as rapidly as the older members are retiring. Construction is one of those fields where we will always have jobs and always have a need. We need shelter, we need buildings, we need to maintain buildings, and we often need new buildings. In the wake of climate change and pollution and environmental degradation, we absolutely need to transform the way that we build rapidly and in line with the emissions reductions needed to address climate change overall.

So I joined forces two years ago with a local attorney and housing advocate and just sort of rabble rouser named Greg Gilbert. He contacted me and said, “I want to do something about housing. There's a tremendous lack of affordable housing in Duluth, and we need something new. We need something innovative. We need to do things differently.” And I agreed, but I also added that some of the things we need to do differently are to make all new housing zero net energy because we have got to deal with climate change and new buildings in this way. So I said, I will join you—let's do something, but I want the housing to be zero net energy. I want to make it cost effective. In order to do that—we talked about this earlier in terms of what some of the barriers are to all buildings being done this way—we don't have education in place, where our workforce is trained to do this. So I said, let's create a housing organization that also offers workforce training in green construction. That was the impetus for Green New Deal Housing. 

We had the not so good fortune of getting ourselves up and running and ready to mobilize in the spring of 2020. So, like many other organizations, our plans were dramatically curtailed due to COVID-19, and RSDP was an incredible help at that moment in time and has been for the entire year. We had written a grant to the Northeast RSDP for technical assistance with the startup of this organization. When we received word that we were awarded that grant, it came with in-kind assistance in the form of guidance from the director of [Northeast] RSDP David Abazs and a lot of work from their newly hired AmeriCorps VISTA Leah Karmaker.

This help has literally been a lifesaver. Green New Deal Housing would not be where it is today without that help. You asked about the exhibit. I don't know that I would have come up with the exhibit idea, were it not for COVID-19. We wanted to engage in a whole lot of public outreach. Honestly what I imagined was going from place to place and giving PowerPoint presentations. Sometimes I'm a decent public speaker, but I'm not sure. In fact, I am sure, going from place to place and giving PowerPoint presentations—no matter how compelling they would have been—would not have had the impact of the exhibit that we devised this winter, when we realized we needed to come up with something else that didn't require lots of face-to-face contact.

We created the Green New Deal Housing Show and Tell. It's a traveling exhibit, we worked on it for months. The exhibit has a scale model of the Evergreen House, one of the homes we've designed for Green New Deal Housing. It has a section of a Green New Deal Housing wall, a full scale section of wall. That's about four feet wide and six feet tall, up close and personal. And the wall is built with layers, you can imagine peeling away the layers of something, so that you can see what's underneath or slicing into a cake to see all the layers of the cake. That's how this wall, the section of wall, was built. So you can see how a Green New Deal wall is constructed, and how it differs from a standard code-built wall.

We then have four large format informational panels with colorful pictures, diagrams and text, explaining our mission, our organization, why we exist, what we hope to do, and how to join our efforts. And the exhibit opened at the Folk School last week. More than 60 people attended a sort of cautious, slow, socially distanced opening. And now the exhibit resides in the Folk School in the main space in Lincoln Park from now until the middle of May, after that it is going to move to the Zeitgeist Atrium in downtown Duluth.

 

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Photo: Green New Deal Housing exhibit at the Folk School.

When we build lower quality housing for our most vulnerable and lowest income residents, we take the folks who are least equipped to deal with high and volatile energy costs and we put them in the homes that are going to experience the most dramatic differences in energy costs because the houses are not efficient.

Rachel Wagner, through design LLC

Colby Abazs: Cool, that's very exciting and it's neat some of the benefits of the COVID-19 [pandemic] and reimagining in ways that have some nice advantages and reach different people. I'm interested, it sounds like you were the kind of instigator really pushing for net zero to be a big part of this kind of movement and also specifically for lower income people that need housing. I'm curious how those two things interrelate. Oftentimes I know there's this idea that net zero costs a lot. And so, if you can elaborate a bit on that cost versus performance equation, and how it can be actually better for low income residents to have a high energy efficient home.

Rachel Wagner: Let's start with the premise that affordable housing or housing for low-income residents is automatically housing of lesser quality and lower initial first costs than other housing. I have a problem with that. When we typically—when organizations build quote unquote “affordable” housing the idea is to build as many housing units as possible to to get as many low income people in need into that housing. And there's merit to that approach, but there are also some problems with that approach, in my opinion.

When we build lower quality housing for our most vulnerable and lowest income residents, we take the folks who are least equipped to deal with high and volatile energy costs and we put them in the homes that are going to experience the most dramatic differences in energy costs because the houses are not efficient.

When we use the cheapest materials possible to keep the initial first costs down, we often create a less durable product and again the occupants of those homes, who have the least disposable income to deal with escalating maintenance and repair costs can't afford the maintenance and upkeep. So I think that there is a logic to creating more durable, better built, more energy efficient homes that have lower operating, maintenance and repair costs, for occupants who don't typically have as much disposable income.

When you take housing and then add the additional layer of super efficiency and renewable energy systems to make the house zero net energy, a few things happen that I think could be game changers in the world of what we call affordable housing. The first is that a zero net energy home literally has zero electricity costs over the course of a year. Now, it will still have costs for water and sewer, and it will still have the fees associated with being tied to the electrical grid. But there is a but those fees tend to be pretty reliable. They are way less volatile and they don't tend to spike or get higher and lower when we have terrible winters or super hot summers. In addition, when the house is producing more energy than the house is consuming, the owners are selling that energy back to the grid and reaping the financial benefit of that.

 

GNDH_infographic.jpg

 

Zero energy houses, we know retain their value, so not only do they add value and equity to the homeowners they add value to the community and the neighborhood as a whole, and I think that matters.

So, in terms of the initial first costs and the argument that we can't afford this upfront cost of renewable energy or more insulation, better windows, more air tightness, et cetera, we've calculated that it adds between 10 and 15 percent to the cost of a home to bring it to zero net energy. Those costs are basically zero doubt, depending upon the house, the location, how it was built in the first place, but those costs will zero out anywhere between 15 and 25 years after the house is built. So, you're talking about less time than an average 30-year mortgage. And if we can create subsidies, so that the buyers of these homes aren't actually paying the full price of the home, then the occupants have a manageable mortgage and incredibly low operating costs and that adds to family resiliency and stability at a time where all we have to do now is look around and see how fragile families are and how much economic uncertainty there is.

So, I think that now is absolutely the time to invest in this kind of housing because it's one thing that we can do to add stability and security to our neighborhoods and our populations who have had anything but stability and security, as of late.

Then of course, there's the whole workforce training component, which says, in addition to, we are not only inviting folks to join the green building trades, expand their knowledge if they’re already in the trades to build green construction for Green New Deal housing and other similar projects, but we're building a workforce that everyone needs, in order to rapidly deploy the kind of change, we need to the building industry as a whole.

You don't have to have a PhD and be 75 years old to be an expert in your field, but you have to be rigorous. You have to have an interest. You have to develop skills, build your skills, have a mission, and then deliver the social good. That's my advice.

Rachel Wagner, through design LLC

Colby Abazs: Based on all of that, and what you've learned through your long career in design what advice would you give to others interested in pursuing local clean energy projects, and I mean specifically with your experience with the CERTs seed grants? What advice would you give for folks looking to pursue a seed grant to support their clean energy ideas?

Rachel Wagner: That's a good question, what advice would I have, and I have two main pieces of advice. The first might be more controversial. I might start with that.

My first piece of advice is that I think that we are suffering from a disease of incrementalism. I think that we are past that, in so many of the systemic crises that we as a society face. So, my advice is to leap over incrementalism. Be as bold as you can and move directly to the solution, instead of on little small steps of change.

If I were myself today, 30 years ago, I don't know that I would have to give that advice, but I think I do need to give that advice now. I think that we have squandered away decades, and we don't have the luxury of small steps anymore. We need the biggest, boldest steps available or maybe not even thought of yet.

So, that leads to the second piece of advice because if our changes need to be as bold and big as possible, we better be as sure as we can that those are the right steps. That those large steps are the right step and not a misstep. So how do we do that? Well, I think, first and foremost, take your interest and become an expert, study really hard, know your subject matter and understand what it is you're trying to solve. Know what the barriers are, what the history is, what the causes are, and what the nature of the issues that you want to solve are, and then understand and be able to articulate why the solution that you are coming up with matters, is sound, is a good one.

So, in a sense, I'm saying become an expert, which is a scary thought, but I think that's what we need right now. You can be 70 years old, 50 years old, 20 years old and become an expert. All we have to do is look at Greta Thunberg to know that you don't have to have a PhD and be 75 years old to be an expert in your field, but you have to be rigorous. You have to have an interest. You have to develop skills, build your skills, have a mission, and then deliver the social good. That's my advice.

I think we all benefit when we step out of our silos, so to speak, as much as possible.

Rachel Wagner, through design LLC

Marie Donahue: Thank you for those. So much wisdom in this, I’m kind of in awe and speechless, honestly [laughing]. So, I appreciate you articulating all of that. Your advice for projects might be similar to that for folks along their career paths. But CERTs does a lot of work helping connect folks to clean energy work and careers. So, I'm curious if you have any other thoughts on your path and in your work that you would give?

Rachel Wagner: I guess one thing I would share, and I touched on this a little bit earlier when I said that I was unprepared for the doors that opened and the people who I encountered and whose work I have now been able to benefit from over the last three years. There is a lot of really good work being done. There's tremendous research being done and that has been done and it can be hard to find that. I think the Internet makes it easier, social media makes it easier, organizations like RSDP and CERTs make it easier, and so I think we all benefit when we step out of our silos, so to speak, as much as possible. Look around, walk across the street, walk next door metaphorically speaking and learn from the work that others are doing. Don't be afraid to ask to sit beside somebody to participate, to share—because if your interest is genuine, if your intentions are good, and if you also bring something to the table to offer, I think you're going to find that more often than not, you are given a seat or you're invited to join. I think that's how we need to approach projects right now because our problems are intersecting and I think our solutions should be intersecting as well.

 

Marie Donahue: I just want to really thank you, Rachel, for your time today. We’re so grateful to have this opportunity to connect. And to our listeners, I know we shared a lot, so there'll be our show page with a transcript and additional links related to this story. So that wraps up the segment, so thank you again so much for joining us.

Rachel Wagner: You're welcome, it was my pleasure speaking with both of you. I appreciate the opportunity and I'm so happy for the work you're doing.

Project Snapshot

 
  • Clean Energy Focus: Solar energy
  • Northeast CERT Seed Grant: $5,000
  • Total Project Cost: $9,800
  • Other Funds: Other project partners' in-kind contributions
  • Project Team: Rachel Wagner, through design LLC; Bret Pence, MnIPL; Helen Davis, Family Freedom Center; LeAnn Littlewolf, AICHO; Tiersa Wodash, Brick and Mortar; Keith Dent, Just B Solar; Bob Blake, Solar Bear
  • People Involved and Reached: 158
 
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