Green Iowa AmeriCorps: “The coolest thing I’ve done so far…”

Briana Burke, Green Iowa AmeriCorps


When asked, “What’s the coolest thing you’ve done so far during your term?”, my mind is filled with images of changing light bulbs during energy assessments, kids excited about a game during an education event and sitting in a room full of people attending an energy breakfast. Actually, these moments may not sound very cool out loud, but these fond memories include rewarding work, seeing the bright minds of our future, and working with community members.

The images that pop into my head when asked what the coolest thing I’ve done this term is an explosive firework of so many memories lighting up my mind, but which leave an afterimage of clarity and commonality. This after image makes it apparent that all of the memories that pop into my head have a common theme, and this theme and the coolest thing I have done this term, is seeing and working alongside people who care.

First and foremost, the home energy assessments we do are amazing work. They’re not exciting, definitely not glamorous, but they are each important and impactful. It is the most rewarding feeling to see projected savings for both carbon emissions and dollar savings for clients after we enter all the data from the home energy assessments. I will never forget going to an old lady who lives on her own and saving her a projected $200 annually as well as 2 tons of carbon emissions. She let us know a few months after we came that she didn’t have to walk around her house with a blanket anymore because her house stayed warmer. Helping people save money while also saving the earth some carbon emissions- that is so cool and the type of solutions we need right now to combat climate change and poverty.

When we’re not busy doing home energy assessments, we’re often hosting outreach and education events in NE Iowa sharing why sustainability and environmental stewardship are so important for our prosperous future.Through these events, it has been so cool to see first hand how excited about, and knowledgeable, kids are of climate issues. When I first started planning education events for young kids (elementary), I would plan for them to have minimal to zero knowledge of sustainability or the environment. Well, I ended up having to think on my toes and rework lesson plans in the moment because the kids already had such a solid understanding of many environmental issues, especially climate change! Now whenever I plan events for young kids, I plan a lesson that I would normally think more appropriate for middle school students because they’re already so knowledgeable. Seeing the spark of awareness already present in our youth about climate issues, and having the opportunity to kindle that, is one of the most important things anyone can do, and makes it hard to believe our future bleak in the face of the climate crisis.

If our team is not busy with home energy assessments, or education events, we have the pleasure of helping out with Winneshiek Energy District events. Whether this is helping with member drives, attending energy breakfasts, or tabling at the solar fair, we encounter an endlessly dedicated community that cares deeply about the prosperity of this place. It has been one of the coolest things in my term to gather and work alongside such dedicated community members. Recently, I attended the energy breakfast where the sustainability council shared their goals for sustainable action in Decorah. Sitting in that room, surrounded by so many people who care about the future of our town, and work so hard for it, is one of the greatest feelings of excitement and contentment knowing our community is in good hands.

When asked what the coolest thing I’ve done this term is, it is hard to come up with a single event or memory, rather, I think it is something I see over and over again. The coolest thing I’ve done this term is see people who care. When we do energy assessments, we are caring about the people we serve and the future of our climate. When we go to outreach and education events, I see kids who are smart, curious, and who care about the environment. When we work with the Winneshiek Energy District in the community, I see people who care about the future of Decorah and NE Iowa. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but as long as we have people who care, we already have everything we need to prosper.

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