September, 2014 – Issue #10
Message from Cyane Dandridge
For 17 years we at SEI have incorporated insight, experience, and trial and error to discover barriers that block sustainable solutions, and leap over them. Our strategy for success comes from a design thinking approach. Design thinking combines empathy for the context of a problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality in analyzing and fitting various solutions to the problem context.
Our goal is to first understand the problem that faces our clients and community. We ask ourselves, what are the barriers to solar adoption on public buildings? What challenges do schools face in adopting environmental education? What are the difficulties of college graduates seeking work in the sustainability sector?
Next, we work with people who are facing those challenges. We meet with local governments, schools, affordable housing agencies, and businesses to gain a deep familiarization and understanding of them and their problems in context. Taking the time to sit down with clients to understand who they are and where they are coming from creates an invaluable advantage in working together to create change.
From here we work to prototype solutions. As an example, to address the barrier to solar adoption on public buildings, we worked with our partner Optony to design the Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Fund
, an opt-in program to empower public agencies to evaluate and participate in a regional group purchase of municipal solar PV projects. The fund leverages regional financing to defer upfront allocation of funds for project planning, site assessments, or procurement activities. These costs are paid back through solar contracts developed with vendors to create a revolving fund for future work.
The final step in our process is to learn, then go back and make revisions. Revising programs is critical to our quality, efficiency, and long-term success as an organization. As we are currently planning for the second round of the SEED Fund, we are finding that we are getting better at learning faster and incorporating feedback.
Design thinking empowers us to strategically develop grassroots high impact solutions to social and environmental problems. We value design thinking as a company, and believe that all organizations can adopt a design thinking strategy to advance their missions, empower their teams, strengthen relationships, and support their communities. To learn more about design thinking and to access resources, check out the website
for the d.school: Institute of Design at Stanford.
School Sustainability Policy
SEI works with school districts throughout California to help them achieve their energy and sustainability goals through many avenues, including strategic Proposition 39 investment and catalyzing positive behavior change via education and conservation initiatives, and sustainability policy setting. In support of our efforts to bring sustainability policies to school districts, SEI was awarded two grants that enable us to both develop replicable sustainability policies as well as to implement them at schools and districts.
The San Francisco Foundation (SFF)
increased their support of SEI in 2014, funding us to develop strong energy, waste, procurement and water policies that can be replicated and adopted by school districts throughout the Bay Area. We work in collaboration with district leaders to design district sustainability policies, and we work at the school level to help them successfully manage and implement the approved district sustainability practices.
The Marin Community Foundation (MCF)
also provided another round of funding for our efforts this year. With their support, we have drafted a sustainability implementation guide that includes policy templates. With this guide, we are able to easily disseminate best practices to school districts. Policy setting can be a challenging and lengthy process for a district, so by sharing a defined and tested set of best practices, we enable school districts to set enduring energy and cost-saving practices.
SEI has had a lot of experience with school sustainability policy setting over the years, and enjoys bringing our expertise forward to many more school districts through the contributions of SFF and MCF. With this additional support, we are thrilled to be able to provide many more districts with access to the benefits of district-level sustainability policy setting.
Rolling in SMUD
SEI Interns Get Their Hands Dirty During Energy Audits
The 2014 SMUD
Auditing, Conservation, and Training (ACT) Program interns are in the process of completing their audits at 8 high schools in the Sacramento area. SEI led a successful program last year, and was invited back this year to support a broader program: 64 new high school interns and eight lead teachers at eight new high schools.
Through two week-long courses on energy auditing, efficiency and conservation, and environmental sustainability, SEI trained the new cohort of intern auditors and teachers to identify and report on potential upgrades to aging equipment in Sacramento schools. The recommendations contained in their reports could produce annual savings of over $10,000 at each site. Each group of interns will present their findings to their school district board, which can utilize Prop 39 funds to act on the intern’s recommendations.
Marcella Edwards from Grant High School writes, “This whole program was a big eye-opener for me both personally and professionally. I never realized how much energy can be saved with just the simplest of measures. It really just leaves me wanting to make a difference.”
The interns are not the only ones that gained a great experience away from this year’s program; "I am thoroughly impressed with the next generation of engineers and scientists about to enter college and the workforce. I had a great time working on the ACT Program and cannot wait until next year!" – Axel Pearson, SMUD Project Coordinator at SEI.
Meet Our Community
has been a valuable collaborator with SEI in the arena of green workforce education and school to career pathways. A progressive community college located in San Bruno, south of San Francisco, Skyline is part of the San Mateo County Community College District, offering more than 80 Associate Degree and Certificate programs.
Over the past few years, SEI and Skyline staff have collaborated on green workforce development projects, from scoping sustainability degrees and certificates, to designing a Climate Change Protection Professional Certificate for our Climate Corps Bay Area
Fellowship program, to most recently, piloting a new high school internship program for the Marin School of Environmental Leadership.
“We owe much of the continued success of our Climate Corps fellowship program to the bravery of our Skyline College partners. They readily took the leap of faith with us to launch the Climate Protection Professional Certificate, which has provided an invaluable market differentiator to our most recent fellowship graduates.” – Stephen Miller, Climate Corps Program Director at SEI.
Skyline has provided similar value to the Marin School of Environmental Leadership’s
grade Internship Program. “The opportunity to offer college credit provides our students with a jumpstart to their college careers and allows us to model the expectations and course environment they will soon experience. We are excited to connect students to the college learning environment, and to such a progressive educational institution.” – Emily Quinton, MarinSEL Project Coordinator at SEI.
Skyline is a clear leader in sustainability education amongst the community colleges. Throughout the institution, and in particular within their Science, Math and Technology department and Workforce Development division, Dean Ray Hernandez, along with Rajesh Lathigara, Aaron Wilcher, Carina Anttila-Suarez, and Carla Grande collectively lead a portfolio of innovative and impactful programs for students. We’re honored to be working with Skyline from the high school to post college level, and excited to see how our partnership will continue to grow in years to come.
SEI Is Hiring!
SEI is seeking a Green Communications Fellow
, as well as several volunteers to support our work in each of our primary focus areas: Eco-Smart Education, Green Housing, and Sustainable Communities. For more information and to apply, click here