We arrived in Washington, D.C. late Thursday evening and split up in pairs to stay with Dartmouth alumni living in the metro area. The alumni we stayed with were extremely welcoming and hospitable.
Our day on Friday started early because we had a full scheduled lined up. After getting coffee to combat the early wake up, we headed to our first meeting at the Solar Electric Power Association. The Solar Electric Power Association works with utilities to incorporate renewable energy into their portfolios. Many states have passed renewable energy mandates in recent years so there are many utilities that have been looking to expand their use of renewable energy.
Next we headed to the League of Conservation Voters (LCV). LCV is very involved at the intersection of environmental policy and politics. It was exciting to hear about LCV's success in getting environmentally progressive politicians elected in 2012, especially in Senate races.
Our next stop was at the White House Council on Environmental Quality(CEQ). The CEQ is within the executive branch so it is located across the street from the White House. We were able to squeeze in a quick photo in front of the White House right before our meeting. The CEQ advises the President on environmental issues and helps coordinates environmental policy across various government agencies that have overlapping jurisdiction. It was really interesting to gain insight into an office that closely advises the President.
We continued our trek across DC to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). There we met with two alumni working in the Office of Sustainable Communities. This branch of the EPA is very different than other branches in that it is not focused on environmental regulations. The Office of Sustainable Communities works with local governments and communities to design their communities in a way that makes walking, biking, and public transportation infrastructure accesible. They also promote economic development by making downtowns walkable and encouraging mixed used development in city centers. It was cool to see how environmental policy could be coordinated and implemented at such a local level.
After a quick lunch stop, we took the metro over to Arlington, VA to visit Opower, a private sector company that works with utilities to help individual households reduce their energy consumption. The average person only spends 9 minutes per year thinking about their home energy usage and energy bills can be difficult to understand so Opower seeks to change that. They make people's utility bills really easy to understand and compare people's usage to similar sized homes in the area in order to give them perspective of their use. It was exciting to see ways in which the private sector could promote better environmental practices. Opower looked like a really fun place to work- there were no cubicles, people rode razor scooters to get around the office, there were ping pong tables to encourage office interaction, they had a fully stocked food pantry and dining area, and there were lounge areas where people could work. Additionally, every Wednesday they have free massages!
Our final meeting of the day was at the Office of U.S. Representative Anne Kuster who is the representative for New Hampshire's 2nd district. We met with her energy/environmental legislative assistant. We told the legislative assistant about our trip, discussed some of the current legislative challenges to better energy/environmental policy and learned more about how their office determines what issues constituents are concerned about. They record every letter and phone call they receive so keep contacting your representatives!
Our day in Washington, D.C. was very refreshing after wrestling with the issues we saw in West Virginia. The issues we saw in West Virginia were overwhelming at times, but it was exciting to learn more in DC about career fields that are focused on improving our nation's energy and environmental policies. It was frustrating at times in West Virginia that we only saw the problems associated with the coal industry, but didn't get to consider solutions. Our day in DC was very helpful in getting us to start thinking about solutions.
- Mark '15
Photos and captions: Fredrik Eriksson (with some help from Mark )
Office of League of Conservation Voters.
" 'Murica! " -Mark
I think the tradition of awkward group photos minus Jenna is fairly well-established by now.
I was going to roll with the usual dry humor routine for this not-so-serious picture here, but rather than being cynical, I'll stick to simply acknowledging that it was a really nice evening (and day, and week). Thanks for a great trip, everyone. -Fredrik