Throughout Vermont, community spirit has long been a source of pride, whether at times of need or celebration. This past winter year, that spirit brought residents together in 19 Upper Valley towns to help improve the energy efficiency of area homes through Weatherize Upper Valley. This campaign, designed by White River Junction non-profit Vital Communities, inspired locals to use innovative ways to help their community members improve the energy efficiency of their homes. Today, as a result, over 100 area homes are ready to stay warmer this coming winter while using less energy.
The initiative was so successful that one partner in the effort, Efficiency Vermont, is now taking the Weatherize Upper Valley model statewide as part of its 2018 Button Up campaign; an annual effort to help Vermonters throughout the state tighten up their homes for winter.
“The Weatherize Upper Valley model works because it understands that Vermonters like dealing with people they know,” said Paul Markowitz, an Account Manager with Efficiency Vermont. “Vital Communities built the program around that fact, resulting in an impressively high rate of project completions. So many Vermonters will have a better winter because of it. We’re honored to make this accessible approach available statewide through Button Up Vermont.
That accessible approach starts with a public event, organized by local volunteers, where residents meet Efficiency Excellence Network contractors from their community. Homeowners then can sign up to have the contractor of their choice conduct a free home-energy assessment and provide recommendations for improvements. What happens next is, according to Paul Markowitz, “the key to the success of the program”. Local volunteers personally contact homeowners to see what they need to make those improvements a reality.
“So much of what happens in rural communities is word of mouth and neighbor referrals,” said Sarah Brock, Energy Program Manager at Vital Communities. “We hear from a lot of participants who wouldn’t have weatherized otherwise, who are grateful somebody pointed the way. And the volunteers feel great that they were the one who encouraged their neighbor to take action that now keeps them warmer and keeps the heat bill down. It’s that Yankee sense of community, that we make things happen ourselves. It’s powerful.”
Through the 2018-2019 Button Up Vermont campaign, residents of towns throughout Vermont will have the same opportunities to participate – as a homeowner or volunteer – to improve the energy efficiency of local homes. Now in its 10th year as a statewide campaign, Button Up will also feature help for do-it-yourselfers. Participants can get how-to tips on projects of all sizes and up to $100 from Efficiency Vermont for completing three weatherization projects.
“We’re very excited that Efficiency Vermont is bringing this statewide,” said Sarah Brock. “Efficiency Vermont was an invaluable partner in Weatherize Upper Valley because of their experience statewide. They have long standing connections to home improvement contractors, they know what’s going on with weatherization in the state, and they’re so ready to go into action.”