Native Philosophies Unite with EDF Fellow’s Objectives

EDF Climate Corps fellow | July 31, 2012

By: Erika Dahl and David King, 2012 EDF Climate Corps fellows at Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, MBA candidate at Western Carolina University School of Business and MS candidate at Appalachian State University Department of Technology and Design

Organization: Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI)

Opportunity: Impact EBCI's next generation of environmental leaders

Summary: The cultural values of the Cherokee may leverage energy savings as great as those from a lighting or HVAC upgrade, thanks to a collaboration between Sacred Path – a tribal education group at Eastern Band of Cherokee – and EDF Climate Corps.

As we left the meeting, Jonnie Walkingstick fell in stride alongside us and breathed a deep sigh.

The Sacred Path program was 13 years in the making,” she said, wiping a happy tear from her eye, "and now we're celebrating our third year."

Walkingstick, who founded Sacred Path, invited us to meet because the group's mission overlaps with ours as EDF Climate Corps fellows working in the Energy Department at the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Sacred Path preserves Cherokee cultural heritage by teaching children to practice its traditional values – such as respect, responsibility, caring and truthfulness – in Cherokee, NC.

Environmental conservation and stewardship are also pillars of Cherokee culture, and that's where EDF fits in. Walkingstick offered a vision of the EBCI in harmony with the environment, and as Climate Corps fellows, we're helping develop collaboration between Sacred Path and the EBCI Energy Department.

When it comes to energy efficiency and renewable energy, EBCI is showing real leadership amongst North Carolina local governments. It has finished energy efficiency upgrades on 10 buildings, installed a charging station for electric vehicles and invested in five, three-kilowatt solar “trees.” It has a LEED Gold certified Emergency Operation Center and a LEED Silver certified school. It is also building a bio-diesel facility, and plans to implement efficiency upgrades in 11 more buildings.

The excitement over these environmental accomplishments is growing, and Sacred Path is the way to turn that excitement into action. At their next meeting, we'll tell them about our work at EBCI on technical projects – lighting retrofits, air-conditioning and ventilation upgrades. Of course, we'll also have lots of free information about energy efficiency and conservation.

We believe that the relationships we're building with Sacred Path, and thus the broader EBCI community, will have the greatest energy-use impact of any of our projects at EBCI. After all, by teaching children the importance of saving energy today, we're building the culture that will enable a sustainable community at EBCI tomorrow.

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.