Volunteer Opportunities for Energy Professionals

Peter F. Hoffman, C.E.M., LEED AP, Zondits guest, 10/17/2023

This article is excerpted and edited from a version that is posted on LinkedIn.

Volunteering is a tool that can provide mental and physical health benefits, as well as a sense of purpose and a way to nurture new relationships. With the growing threats of climate change, there are additional benefits that provide positive outcomes for the community and the volunteer. Clean energy professionals in particular can seek out opportunities that allow them to leverage their expertise in ways that promote a more sustainable future.  

The benefits of volunteering

Energy professionals gain valuable experience that goes beyond a traditional education while providing expert services as a volunteer. One example is Operation Weatherize Albany, a volunteer-led effort created by the State University of New York at Albany. They provide weatherization services and implement residential energy efficiency measures in the Albany, NY area. In a recent project, there were significant issues related to temperature control. The home was routinely reaching 90° F despite the thermostat being set to 68°. Typically, the thermostat would be suspect, but it was determined that a recently installed boiler had a water temperature setting that was too high. A volunteer with HVAC expertise was able to readily diagnose and resolve the issue.

Volunteering also helps professionals gain perspective. The challenges faced by low to moderate income (LMI) families are often not familiar to professional implementers and policymakers. Meeting with homeowners and renters about the challenges they experience increases the levels of understanding that leads to the development of better programs and processes.

Both consultants and policymakers benefit by getting directly involved in implementing measures through a volunteer role. Deeper connections to our work and goals builds personal satisfaction that helps sustain enthusiasm throughout our careers. 

Volunteer opportunities in the clean energy field

Local colleges and universities frequently have community activities that tie into their sustainability clubs. Reaching out in advance can help you be aware of what activities are open to the larger community and involve energy efficiency.

Habitat for Humanity build days are a great way to learn handyperson skills while getting to work, hands-on, with the details of building assemblies and systems. Habitat strives to use high energy standards when building its homes, and there is much to be gained by seeing how building envelope components are layered to produce a very efficient home.

Here are links to just a few of the many organizations offering volunteer opportunities. This list is focused mainly on the Northeast U.S. but similar opportunities exist throughout the country.