It Pays to Volunteer! Meet the Winners of the 2016 GreenHomeNYC Scholarship

December 1, 2016

By Pamela Berns

 image-6-e1478788966554-1024x1024As an educational non-profit, GreenHomeNYC is committed to the advancement of people in the energy efficiency and renewable energy fields, especially those GreenHomeNYC volunteers who have made outstanding contributions to the organization.   Says Board President Jim Henderson, “Our partnership with the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) creates a great opportunity for our volunteers to increase their knowledge and connect directly with sustainability leaders. This year we selected four outstanding volunteers to attend NESEA’s BuildingEnergy NYC conference held at the TKP New York Conference Center. The conference offers a full day of workshops, networking and content sharing on energy efficiency in commercial and multifamily buildings in New York City and it attracts all the key players from the building, sustainability, and resilience sectors. We are pleased to announce our 2016 winners!”   It takes a lot of hard work, coordination, and teamwork to produce a GreenHomeNYC event: speaker recruitment, venue procurement, outreach and marketing, on site logistics, and post-event communication.  This year’s scholarship winners were selected for their diligence in producing these events. In addition to thanking these volunteers for their hard work, the GreenHomeNYC scholarship award aims to enrich their knowledge and career potential, and build on their strong commitment to further the organization’s mission to create an energy efficient, resilient, and sustainable New York.   Sarah Bloomquist: Forums Planning Committee Sarah first got involved with GreenHomeNYC in 2013 as a way to expand her sustainability studies and network. She used her deep knowledge of waste management in 2016 in her role as lead speaker coordinator for the sold-out Waste Management Forum. Sarah recently joined the Forums Planning Committee, where she looks forward to working with the team to develop a stellar program for 2017.   Sarah is a recent graduate of the Master’s in Sustainability program at The City College of the City University of New York and works as a Project Manager in IT and Business Operations at ASCAP. She’s very active in the sustainability community in NYC, especially in the sustainable materials management domain and through her role as Board Member for the Brooklyn Solid Waste Advisory Board (SWAB).   Sarah says the BuildingEnergy NYC conference deepened her understanding of the latest building energy issues, especially as they pertain to how NYC will work to achieve the 80×50 goal set forth in Mayor De Blasio’s OneNYC sustainability plan. Resiliency was a common theme throughout the sessions she attended; particularly salient was Joy Sinderbrand’s discussion of how her agency, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), is working towards preparing tenants and the buildings they occupy for environmental impacts from global warming and storm surges.   Sarah added that the conference was a great place to meet with leaders in the field, from established environmental consultancy firms to startup energy hardware firms, and companies experimenting with novel ways to use technology to alleviate the burden our buildings place on the world.   (Check out Sarah’s blog Bronzicorn for her musings on sustainability, along with a calendar of sustainability events primarily in NYC. Follow her on twitter at @SBloomquist.)   admin-ajax-php   Gregory Thomas: Forums Co-Lead Gregory has been a GreenHomeNYC volunteer since early 2014. In his current role as co-lead volunteer of the Monthly Forums Planning Committee, he has been a key force in the success of a number of Forums events throughout the year. Gregory has also assisted with the running of Green Career events in the past and has participated in joint Staff and Board strategy meetings. He is actively engaged in process development and documentation.   Gregory is a born and raised New Yorker with a background in chemical engineering and project management, as well as a passion for the sustainable energy industry. With the help of GreenHomeNYC’s Green Careers group, he made his way to his first position in the industry in July 2014, becoming a project manager for residential solar energy provider, Sunrun.   Like Sarah, Gregory gained insights into the city’s resiliency efforts: “NYC could experience a Superstorm Sandy-like event every two decades, but there are incredible resilience and adaptation efforts being made all around the greater NYC region to combat the impact.”   On the energy front, Gregory’s key takeaways were: – While solar and storage generally get attention on the West Coast, these technologies have already reached the East Coast, and are finding their place here along with friendlier policies. – The REV strategy is definitely helping to make New York state a leader in sustainable energy. – Improving tenant/occupant behavior in regards to energy use is less about big ideas and more about getting people to pay attention to the smaller details.   Jennifer Urrutia: Forums Planning Committee Jennifer has been a  volunteer for about 18 months, and coordinated our 2016 Corporate Sustainability Forum, helping to broaden GreenHomeNYC’s educational outreach in the business community. Jennifer accepted the scholarship “with much honor” and thanks GreenHomeNYC for providing knowledge about and pushing for more sustainable building practices. “The organization significantly supports its volunteers and community, and I am very grateful to be a part of an organization that is true to achieving their mission.”   Originally from California, Jennifer brought her experience to New York over two years ago. She is currently Program and Communications Manager at Empire Clean Cities,a  501(c)(3) not-for-profit environmental organization aimed at reducing emissions within NYC and the Lower Hudson Valley. Jennifer’s role with the organization consists of forming public-private partnerships to phase out vehicles not operating on alternative fuels, organize/host events that foster partnerships and stakeholder engagement opportunities, and managing grants that promote the reduction of emissions within the region.   Jennifer was intrigued by what the conference speakers had to say about how high-performance buildings perform over time, especially in NYC. “I wanted to understand if buildings in compliance with building standards, such as LEED and Passive House Certification, perform consistently over time and what specific factors contribute to lasting energy efficiency.” She learned of the importance of combining materials and technology with building community programs in order to achieve and maintain lasting results. “The key takeaway after attending the seminars was that it takes a holistic approach to achieving such goals.”   admin-ajax-php-1   Ryan Hughes: Green Careers Planning Committee Ryan,  who has been a volunteer since 2014, spearheaded two key events for the Careers Group in 2016: Sustainable Career Tracks: Green Education and Corporate Social Responsibility. He enjoys working with eager minds and sharing his passion for sustainability. Ryan’s contributions have resulted in increasingly robust Careers events that balance detailed information about specific jobs with invaluable career advice on how to pursue them.   Ryan works at Vidaris as a Green Analyst in the sustainability department. He assists with the management of the LEED certification process from design development through construction phase of projects. He also provides technical support to the project team, overseeing the documentation and completion of LEED credits from initial feasibility studies, through the actual implementation of sustainable design strategies, and advises design teams on strategies for sustainable best practices of commercial, residential, cultural and institutional spaces.   Ryan is currently enrolled in the Sustainability in the Urban Environment masters program at The City College of New York, a program that blends architecture and engineering courses and centers the curriculum around green practices such as Low Energy Buildings and Sustainable Building Materials.   For Ryan, the breakout sessions provided valuable ways to learn more about high performance building, energy strategies, resiliency, and sustainability. He was glad to have had the opportunity to speak directly with exhibitors like Roxul and Passive House Institute US (PHIUS). Says Ryan, “The networking opportunities were unparalleled and there were many familiar faces throughout the event. Overall, the experience was invaluable – a way to expand industry knowledge, build contacts and understand how various groups are working together to overcome challenges in the sustainability and energy efficient market.”