The Faces of EDF Climate Corps: Part 1

EDF Climate Corps fellow | March 11, 2013

By: EDF Climate Corps Fellows

“Knocking down a brick wall by yourself with your bare fists is next to impossible. But organize a team equipped with sledgehammers and a plan, and it gets a whole lot easier,” said Gwen Ruta in a Fast Company Op-Ed explaining the concept behind EDF Climate Corps.

This blog post is the first in a series, highlighting our team of ‘sledgehammers’ – the 2012 EDF Climate Corps fellows– and their plans for breaking down the barriers to energy efficiency at their host organizations.  


Sara Brown Name: Sara Brown

Host Organization: Ascension Health

School: Presidio Graduate School

Opportunity: Brown found more than 400 Ascension operating rooms across the country would benefit from efficiency upgrades.

Barrier: The climate of an operating room is extremely delicate, not only because of the medical procedures carried out in them, but also because they need to satisfy the requirements of the surgeons working in them. Hospitals often have different kinds of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (“HVAC”) systems, in part because buildings renovate independently of one another. This can be the case even between operating rooms in the same hospital.

Solutions Identified: One technology that could simplify the process would be digitally controlled HVAC systems.

Potential Savings: By modifying climate settings, Ascension could save $8,000 to $12,000 per room in 417 operating rooms.

Quote: “The healthcare industry is at a transformational point in its history. It is scrutinizing energy use just as closely as bottom line costs exclusive to healthcare.”  


Name: Sean Grundy

Sean Grundy

Host Organization: Hilex Poly

School: MIT Sloan School of Management

Opportunity:  Grundy recognized energy-savings opportunities at nine plastics-manufacturing facilities nationwide, including the world's largest closed-loop plastic bag recycling facility.

Barrier: Experts typically estimate that 20 to 30 percent of compressed air never reaches its destination, instead escaping through openings in pipes and pneumatic tools. As a result, the motors powering the compressors work harder, driving up energy consumption and costs. Unfortunately, Leaks are tough to predict – they can occur anywhere in a plant, at any time. Keeping them under control requires diligent monitoring by all staff, a time investment that can be discouraging for companies.

Solutions Identified: Regularly auditing the number and size of leaks in a plant is an ideal measure of a team’s commitment to improving energy efficiency. It's a metric that applies to teams, production processes and whole factories, and could form the foundation for explicit energy efficiency policies and employee incentives.

Potential Savings: Over 10 years, the combined projects could save over $1.3 million, 26 million kWh, and 24,000 tons of CO2 emissions. Ten Hilex Poly facilities are beginning to review plans to replicate some of these initiatives.

Quote: “If Hilex continues to follow my recommendations, it should be the first step towards two celebratory dinners – one for a second year of zero injuries, one for a measurable energy efficiency victory.”  



Piper Kujac Name: Piper Kujac

Host Organization: New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)

School: Presidio Graduate School

Opportunity: Kujac found an opportunity to engage and educate NYCHA tenants on energy use in the buildings where they live.

Barrier: In NYCHA’s 2,597-building portfolio, there is only one development where the energy consumption of individual apartments can be measured – Castle Hill Houses in the Bronx. In some developments, multiple residential buildings are on a single electric meter; in others, single buildings have up to three utility meters covering indeterminate amounts of floor space. Many have utility meters installed half a century ago!

Solutions Identified: NYCHA with the help of EDF Climate Corps is developing a strategy to show residents how much energy they are using compared to their neighbors – at least, the "average" neighbor. They are also outlining simple steps that residents can take to reduce their energy use.

Potential Savings: About 65 percent of all the electricity consumed at the Castle Hill Houses development is consumed by the apartments. If that's true at all the developments where NYCHA pays the electricity bills, reducing residential tenant electricity use by just 10 percent would save NYCHA $11.5 million every year!

Quote: “While inspiring NYCHA tenants to conserve energy remains a challenge, informing them of their energy consumption and demonstrating simple ways to cut it is a promising strategy.”  


About EDF Climate Corps

EDF Climate Corps ( taps the talents of tomorrow’s leaders to save energy, money and the environment by placing specially-trained EDF fellows in companies, cities and universities as dedicated energy problem solvers. Working with hundreds of leading organizations, EDF Climate Corps has found an average of $1 million in energy savings for each participant. For more information, visit Read our blog at Follow us on Twitter at and on Facebook at

About Environmental Defense Fund

Environmental Defense Fund (, a leading national nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. For more information, visit Read our blog at Follow us on Twitter at