November 26, 2020
By Melanie Mason
We have spent the better part of our year in throes of the COVID-19 pandemic—social distancing, Zooming, washing our hands like crazy, and carrying out GreenHomeNYC’s mission from the kitchen table. This has almost begun to feel like a normal part of our routines. But at the beginning of the lockdowns back in March, the challenges to life as usual suddenly felt very far from “normal.” Just like everyone else, GreenHomeNYC had to quickly adapt to this new way of being. A testimony to our incredibly driven volunteers, together we dove headfirst into tackling how GreenHomeNYC would go from a live and lively in-person community to operating fully remotely.
Said GreenHomeNYC’s board president Lucie Dupas, “The board is so thankful for all the amazing work that our volunteers are able to get done safely from their homes—this year has been incredibly challenging in all aspects of life, and we are amazed on a daily basis by how passionate and resilient our whole community is!”
Shift Happened: New Directions and the Introduction of our YouTube Channel
Quarantining happened practically overnight, and almost no one had time to prepare. Our March event, which would have been in person, was cancelled. Then it was all hands on deck to plan for online events. We learned to use Zoom and Slack and chose to make our events free to attend. The first couple of times there were a few technical issues: scrambling to let people into the event from the “waiting room,” noises interrupting the event from attendees not on mute (remember when we were all new at this?).
After a team debrief to sort out what worked and what didn’t, we realized the skills we needed had shifted radically. We educated ourselves swiftly, and sought out tech-savvy individuals to help with mounting digital marketing campaigns, hosting the online events, and editing event recordings. Our move to the digital event world expanded our audience base beyond New York City. And with the press of the Zoom record button and the help of our talented volunteer editors, we now upload our events to our brand new YouTube channel,
allowing us to reach an even larger and wider audience.
As concerns turned to how COVID-19 and the political agenda were affecting our communities, our monthly forum topics shifted as well. We hosted:
Sustainability in the 2020 Election Cycle
Summer in the City: Urban Heat Island, Environmental Justice and Covid-19
Material Impacts on Indoor Air Quality and the Environment
Monthly Forum: Circular Economy
Ventilation: Covid-19 and Multi-Family Buildings
As relentless devastating headlines increased the world’s collective anxiety level, we aimed to create a space for helpful discussion. At times this proved to be more challenging than it had been at in-person events. A networking happy hour in downtown Manhattan is hard to imitate on Zoom. However, our online events allowed us to reach a wider audience since people from outside New York City could now join in. As millions found themselves unemployed, our monthly career panels became even more pertinent, helping attendees to point their compasses in new directions and encouraging them to create new connections. We hosted:
Sustainability Careers for Non-STEM
Sustainability in Government
Careers in Green Finance
Green Vocational Jobs
Mounting our green building tours seemed to face the greatest obstacles, as we could no longer enter commercial buildings or private homes, and government mandated group sizes shrunk. But we were determined, and, with our committed partners, we hosted two virtual tours:
Wythe Windows Factory tour co-hosted with NJPassiveHouse
Can we fix everything? Bring Sustainability Home, a virtual tour with Sandra Goldmark
The WIFI connection sometimes became spotty as the tour guide moved around, but the audience members remained very much with us, filling the chat with tons of questions and engaging in rich conversation.
The pandemic pushed us to expand our format, our outreach and our capabilities, and some of what we’ve picked up during lockdown is here to stay. Volunteer Daniela Lam says she “looks forward to a hybrid model that gives us flexibility and the best of both worlds.” When we resume our in-person events, we plan to record and post those as well, and hope incorporate both in-person and remote speakers.
Humans are resilient and we lean on community in hard times. Although we couldn’t all meet up in person, GreenHomeNYC remained a constant in our seemingly turned-upside-down lives. Our events became a place to process the pandemic and the 2020 election. No matter what we dealt with at home—kids in online school, unemployment, mental health, isolation—we still had each other. Ongoing volunteers doubled down on their involvement and new volunteers joined the team—proving that even in the most turbulent and distracting times, people remain firmly committed to sustainability and green development.
Said GreenHomeNYC’s board president Lucie Dupas, “The board is so thankful for all the amazing work that our volunteers are able to get done safely from their homes – this year has been incredibly challenging in all aspects of life, and we are amazed on a daily basis by how passionate and resilient our whole community is!”
All of us at GreenHomeNYC send you warm holiday wishes. We have much to be thankful for and look forward to sharing another—and a better—year with you in 2021.