Volume 9 | September 10, 2020

Welcome Back to the Sustainability Hub Newsletter!
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, the Sustainability Hub remains temporarily closed. We feel it is pivotal to continue social distancing, but as always, we will continue to offer our services and connect with the community.

This is our ninth bi-weekly newsletter, and in this edition we will be sharing another interview in our Sustainability Professional Profiles segment, discussing National Preparedness Month and International Cleanup Month, and sharing a story written about some of our work this summer at the Hub. We will also be providing another series of educational videos.

Enjoy, and thanks for tuning in to this week's Sustainability Hub newsletter!

Sustainability Professional Profile
The Hub Newsletter has been embarking on a series of multimedia interviews with professionals in the sustainability field. We hope these interviews provide insight into what it’s like working in this space, what challenges professionals face today, and how the future may unfold. In our third week, we had the pleasure of interviewing Niko Dunk, founder of Sunboxlabs.com located in San Francisco, CA! Sunboxlabs.com provides information on how to install your own DIY solar energy plus storage kits, and they began selling them in early 2020. Sunboxlabs’ products and mission fall perfectly in line with National Grid’s commitment to being an advocate of solar generation. We are very excited to be able to share Niko’s expertise with our readership. 

Q: Briefly, what are your personal responsibilities at Sunboxlabs:
A: I’m chiefly responsible for marketing and supply chain, and then I manage the team who helps out with content, shipping and SEO.

Q: In your own words, what is the mission of your organization? How is your work helping people and/or the planet?
A: The mission of sunboxlabs is to help solarize the US from the bottom up: What if solar was just another consumer electronic you could order online and was delivered in the mail? What if you could install it yourself, or – better yet – it didn't need installing? And what if you could buy as much as you needed now, and then upgrade it later? That is the vision we're trying to achieve.

Q: What do you wish you had known about sustainability, energy efficiency, conservation, etc. before working in the field? Are there common misconceptions people have about this work?
A: I wish I'd known how far we as a sustainability movement still have to go. Quite a few of these problems seem solved from the outside (oh! X company is doing that already), but when you talk to everyday people there's very little awareness for the solutions out there.

Q: What do you find challenging about working in this field?
A: It is definitely hard to find something that both has an impact and profit. For example – for some people a gas generator can still be a better solution on a purely cost basis than a solar generator. Do we start selling gas generators and help our customers? Do we stay true to the mission and find a better solution? These are questions a non-mission-based company doesn't have to answer.

Q: What are the most helpful and reputable resources for people to take advantage of to stay current in this field (websites, literature, organizations, visual media, etc.)?
A: I love greentechmedia and electrek. I am a part of the local electric vehicle club, and I strongly recommend Mark Tarpenning's thoughts on how Tesla actually started (like most companies, what they were thinking about then was very different from what it is now).

Q: Do you believe your organization can do more to further your mission? How is Sunboxlabs working to ensure continuous improvements in line with its mission?
A: We are at the very beginning of some exciting times for solar and especially batteries – the coming EV revolution is going to drive battery prices down significantly for everyone, and we want to make sure to move as quickly as possible to offer the clean generation and home solar solutions customers want and need.

Q: Is there anything you do personally to live sustainably?
A: I bike everywhere (which is easy in a city like SF), I try to reduce my flying, and I am vegetarian (working on vegan, but we still need vegan cheese for me to get on board with that). I have various businesses that are trying to forward the cause and inform people about the sustainable options they have out there – like Sunboxlabs.com and electrade.app.

Thanks to Niko for taking the time to answer our many questions about his role in the solar power industry. We hope our readers learned something new in today’s edition of Sustainability Professional Profiles and that it achieved our perpetual mission of amplifying the conversation around sustainability!
National Preparedness Month
During National Emergency Preparedness Month in September, National Grid continues its own efforts to improve its emergency preparedness plans and wants to remind customers to plan ahead and prepare for emergencies. Taking action now, before an emergency strikes, can help customers efficiently and safely manage crises that can upset their daily routines.

In addition to emergency preparedness efforts and working around the clock to restore power in an outage, National Grid works closely with the American Red Cross to prepare the communities it serves for natural disasters. As part of the American Red Cross Annual Disaster Giving Program, National Grid operates behind the scenes with the Red Cross and first responders to address the basic needs of its customers, such as food, shelter and water, during an emergency. The Annual Disaster Giving Program allows the Red Cross to help communities prepare for and recover from natural disasters. With support from National Grid and other companies, the Red Cross is able to respond to nearly 70,000 disasters each year.

National Grid recommends the following tips to help customers prepare for emergencies:

Build an emergency supply kit - Water, nonperishable food, first aid materials, prescriptions, flashlight and a battery-powered radio are a few of the items that are critical to include in an Emergency Supply Toolkit.

Plan for locations - Emergencies and disasters occur without warning, which is why it is important to have a plan, as well as supplies, for the different locations you and your family may frequent. These locations include home, work, school, vehicles, places of worship, shopping areas and entertainment/sports locations like theaters and arenas. How will you get to a safe place? How will you get back together?

Plan for risks - Think about where you live and identify the hazards that have happened or could happen in your area. Depending upon the nature of the emergency and your circumstances, one of the first important decisions is whether to stay where you are or evacuate. 

Know your community’s plan - Find out from local government how it communicates with residents in an emergency. This could be in the form of radio/TV broadcasts, telephone, door-to-door notifications or a community siren. Get informed now so you can stay informed when it counts.

Stay connected to National Grid - Customers that access nationalgrid.com on their mobile devices can stay connected and learn safety information through the site. The mobile site features a section with important safety tips and frequently asked questions along with contact information for National Grid’s customer service team. In addition to National Grid’s mobile website, customers can also stay tuned to information through social media. Customers can follow National Grid on Twitter @nationalgridus, or Friend us on Facebook.

Embrace new technologies - With the proliferation of smartphones, many people turn to apps and social media to learn about disasters, seek help in an emergency and to share information about themselves and others during an emergency. The American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Association offer downloadable mobile apps for first aid, finding shelter and disaster assistance to help the public. Visit www.redcross.org or www.FEMA.gov for more information or to download an app now.

For more detailed information on National Preparedness Month, and how you can get started with a plan and emergency toolkit, visit www.ready.gov or www.redcross.org
Hub Ambassadors Go Virtual to Deliver National Grid Messages
Despite being closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the ambassadors at National Grid’s Worcester Sustainability Hub remain active and engaged, connecting with constituencies in formats and manners that will likely become the new normal.

The Worcester Hub, on the campus of Clark University, has been shuttered since March, but its college-age interns have adapted to the unprecedented conditions, offering up virtual presentations on the topics of energy efficiency, climate change, renewable energy and sustainability.

“It’s just changed platforms and formats,” said Customer Response Manager Tim Rondeau, who oversees the company’s Sustainability Hubs. “Hubs are spaces that elevate the conversation. We had to think outside of the box to deliver our messages.”

The Sustainability Hub reached out to different school-aged summer programs, including the Beach Sisters, a STEM-based collaboration between Girls Inc. of Lynn, Massachusetts and the Northeastern University Marine Science Center. The Beach Sisters team runs a variety of programming, coordinates events, and completes community service projects in Lynn. The Beach Sisters operated online this summer, with much of the program centered around climate change and human impact on the environment.

In late July, the Hub interns instructed Beach Sisters’ Peer Leaders on how to concisely and appropriately present information about renewable energy. The following week, the Hub interns sat in on the virtual presentations as the Peer Leaders delivered the information to groups of younger girls.

During the presentations, the peer leaders had several questions for National Grid’s interns, making inquiries on electric vehicles, hydropower and wind energy, among other topics.

“The Beach Sisters Peer Leaders really enjoyed working with the Hub team to learn the content and practice their roles in the presentation,” said Allee DeFronzo, supervisor of STEM programs at Girls Inc. “The middle school participants were engaged and took advantage of the chat feature on Zoom to ask questions and participate in discussions during the presentation. These virtual presentations are a great supplement to our virtual programming and could be utilized moving forward if we remain in a virtual setting.”

Taylor Loubris, a Hub ambassador and Clark University graduate student, said today’s young people are eager to learn about sustainability and other climate change issues. “There’s such a hunger for knowledge on these topics,” he said.

His fellow ambassador, Nate Pajka, a Clark University graduate student, said he came away impressed from his interactions with the students. “This was a powerful experience,” he said. “Seeing these kids act on this material gave me a lot of hope.”

Rondeau said once the pandemic passes, the brick and mortar Hubs will reopen. But the Covid-19 crisis has also taught the team the value of having a virtual method of interacting with customers and communities.

“This doesn’t go away,” he said. “We’re going to continue to offer online learning.”

Written by Robert Kievra Wed, Sep 2, 2020 10:20 AM
International Coastal Cleanup Month and Volunteering With COASTSWEEP
Each fall during September and October the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) sponsors a statewide beach cleanup known as COASTSWEEP. This volunteer event is part of a larger, global beach cleanup effort organized by The Ocean Conservancy with states and countries taking part via their own local programs. In fact, September is International Coastal Cleanup month!

To participate in COASTSWEEP volunteers put together a group of participates, choose a time and place, and submit information on the beach they plan to work on. While COASTSWEEP is still underway this year, it is important to note that there are safety restrictions that must be observed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, groups are limited to 12 or fewer individuals, hand sanitizer must be available, and mask wearing along with social distancing must be practiced while working.

Once on the beach, volunteers clean up the coast by picking up marine debris which include common trash items such as cigarette butts (the most commonly collected item in past years) and plastics, fishing line, and other human-made waste. In addition to collecting trash, volunteers also log information on what they find so that researchers can identify and study the biggest sources of coastal debris. In 2019, 3,501 volunteers worked to remove 20 tons of trash from 241 miles of Massachusetts shoreline. What a wonderful way to give back!

COASTSWEEP is a great way to get outside and enjoy one of the many gorgeous Massachusetts beaches while practicing sustainability and making sure our coast stays debris free. Even if you can’t get involved in a coastal clean up this fall, you can help protect our beaches by properly disposing of all your trash whenever you visit, staying off of fragile sand dunes, giving wildlife plenty of space, and reducing your use of fertilizers and pesticides at home.

For more information on COASTSWEEP and how to participate, click here:
Earth School
What is Solar Power?
In light of our Sustainability Professional Profile this week, we wanted to share a simple video explaining solar power.

What are solar cells, and how do they work? National Geographic teaches us how this renewable resource harnesses the power of the sun into usable energy.
When the Clouds Form
In order to encourage Americans to prepare themselves, their families, and their communities, FEMA, in partnership with The Advertising Council, has sponsored PSA videos that educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to all kinds of emergencies. This selection discusses what you should do when experiencing heavy rains.
Sea Turtles Taking a Sunbath!
It's International Coastal Cleanup Month! Hopefully this video of green sea turtles taking a sunbath reminds everyone how amazing these animals are and why it is so important to protect their health.

Fun fact: a green turtle can drink seawater, thanks to a pair of glands near its eyes that remove excess salt. These glands sometimes give the sea turtle the appearance of crying.
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We are also working to provide free virtual presentations for groups of all ages to learn more about energy efficiency and sustainability. If you are interested in our virtual sessions, please let us know! We would be happy to discuss this in more detail and answer any questions you may have.
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