GreenIowa Service Continues

Bri Burke, GreenIowa Americorps Member

COVID-19 has brought our regular home energy assessment work to a temporary halt. In response, we have been hard at work brainstorming new ways to continue serving the community while abiding by social distancing. To do this, we have altered our old Americorps mantra, “Getting things done”, to, “Getting things done…from a distance”. To continue our work (from a distance!), we are developing an “Audit in a box” to reduce energy bills for NE Iowans, assisting with food distribution, helping our area stay beautiful by removing invasive species and litter, as well as staying in touch with the community over social media.

Since we can no longer safely enter people’s homes to conduct our usual home energy assessment, we are moving to delivering an energy assessment to people’s doorsteps in a box. This “Audit in a box” will contain lightbulbs for the homeowner to install themselves throughout their home. While lightbulbs are only one component of our home energy assessment, it accounts for 70% of the savings a homeowner is expected to see from our services. We are aiming to get this service up and running around mid April.

Food distribution is vital for vulnerable members of our community. As Americorps members, we are able to mobilize to help our community during times of emergency. Our work is now expanded to helping the Food Pantry and Meals on Wheels Deliver food to community members who need it. Both organizations have largely been staffed by volunteers 65 years and older and needed younger volunteers who are less at risk from COVID19. 

To serve the environment while still social distancing, we decided to pursue outdoor work. We will be partnering with Luther and Friends of Decorah Parks to remove invasive garlic mustard and buckthorn. These invasive species are detrimental to our woodlands because they out compete our native species, and take over the woodland floor. This inhibits biodiversity, disrupts the ecosystem, and most wildlife do not eat or benefit from these species. We will also pick up litter along the roads. Driving around, you may have noticed there is a lot of litter! Over the winter, it builds up because it is too cold to go pick up litter, and the snow holds it in the ditches. Now is the perfect time to pick it up before the plants start growing and make it more difficult to spot.

Outreach and education are another important aspect of our normal work. We think that this work will be vital to continue during this time through social media. Keep an eye out for posts from our Winneshiek Energy District Facebook and Instagram to stay in touch about the outdoors and environment! Joel Zook and Lucas G. already worked hard on bringing the solar fair to all by livestreaming it online where over 50 people were able to watch.

Our community is going through an unprecedented crisis; it is scary and confusing. However, we are so grateful that we are part of such a strong community with so many resources for its members and ways to stay connected. Together, we will be able to get through this and rebound back “to normal” as soon as we can. It will take time and a lot of work and won’t be easy, but we’re in this together, and that will make it possible. We will “Get things done, from a distance, and together.”

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