Andrew Willens | June 15, 2012
Nearly a hundred enthusiastic Generation Y professionals recently gathered in Charlotte, NC to soak up decades of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) expertise at the fifth annual EDF Climate Corps Training. After a week of lectures, group exercises and building tours, these fellows are now scattered across the country, championing the financial and environmental benefits of energy efficiency in 88 companies, cities and universities.
This cohort has big shoes to fill. Since EDF started the program in 2008, fellows have identified $1 billion in potential energy savings, enough to power nearly 100,000 homes and avoid the C02 emissions of 200,000 cars. Beyond identifying even more tangible savings at host organizations this summer, this new class of fellows will multiply the growing influence of the program and carry this experience with them throughout their careers.
"Think of a pebble falling into a pond and making ripples," said Victoria Mills, Managing Director for EDF Climate Corps. "The initial ripple is the savings each fellow finds in his or her host organization. Then there are all the ripples that hundreds of EDF Climate Corps alumni make throughout their careers. Our alumni are taking leadership positions in corporate America and public institutions, and bringing their EDF Climate Corps experience with them."
That expertise is built upon the initial training fellows receive. After attending this year's training in Charlotte, I left knowing more about lighting systems than I ever imagined possible and with three unexpected takeaways:
1. The EDF Climate Corps Training is finely tuned and incredibly effective
The crux of the success of the EDF Climate Corps program is this comprehensive, hands-on educational summit informed by the EDF Climate Corps team's experience with more than a hundred organizations over the past four years. And it's clear that four years worth of fine-tuning has allowed EDF to shape this event into an extremely powerful tool. During the week, the fellows toured super-efficient buildings including Duke Energy's corporate headquarters – one of only two LEED-Platinum certified high-rise office buildings in the United States. They grappled with mock energy efficiency dilemmas, cutting their teeth on exactly what they'll be doing this summer. And perhaps most importantly, they got to know and learn from one another.
2. Don’t underestimate the power of connections
This year's 98 EDF Climate Corps fellows connected around lunch tables grouped by region, sector and project focus, and during formal receptions, informal breakfast chats and interactive group tasks. While EDF provides these fellows with an abundance of support and resources during the course of their fellowships, it is this network of relationships that will perhaps be the most powerful resource for them this summer and beyond. They’ll share learnings, challenges and "aha! moments" with one and other, magnifying the impact of their work. This year's class of fellows is our largest yet, growing the network of all current and alumni fellows to date to 285.
3. Even the most seasoned professionals find value in the fellowship experience
The expertise provided by the EDF Climate Corps training adds a valuable credential to the already impressive resumes of fellows, who hail from the nation’s leading master’s programs. They come to us boasting years of experience in fields like energy efficiency consulting, chemical and mechanical engineering, and international relations. Yet they opt to supplement these established careers with an EDF Climate Corps fellowship, which offers a unique opportunity to work across an organization to incorporate environmental and energy concerns into business strategy and catalyze tangible results.
"Many fellows told me that to actually go into a firm, run the numbers on specific investments and make recommendations," Mills said, "is a unique, and extremely valuable, career-building experience."
EDF Climate Corps places specially-trained MBA and MPA students in companies, cities and universities to develop practical, actionable energy efficiency plans. Sign up to receive emails about EDF Climate Corps, including regular blog posts by our fellows. You can also visit our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter to get regular updates about this project.