Las Cruces, New Mexico is a poor community facing increasingly high energy costs and more extreme seasons. Green Las Cruces recognizes that by using our natural resource, the sun, to produce power, the city can address its energy needs in a sustainable fashion. On October 10, 2010, we installed the first two (of a planned total of twelve) solar panels on housing for the chronically homeless owned by the non-profit organization Abode, Inc. (part of the Las Cruces city shelter, Community of Hope). We worked with local organization Positive Energy Solar, who donated their labor and gave us a discount on materials. Another local company, Energy Savers, donated a full energy audit. Our group did all of the fundraising and organizing work as unpaid volunteers. Our efforts serve as a symbol, showing community support for green energy and helping to leverage city-wide implementation of renewable energy. Our city councilors need proof of community support in order to enact legislative change requiring all city buildings to be solar powered by 2012.
Green Las Cruces - Las Cruces, New Mexico, United States
Our community gets 350 days of sunshine per year and yet spends a lot of money on energy from non-renewable sources. We hope that by 2012, Las Cruces, New Mexico will be the first city in the United States to have all city buildings run completely on solar energy. This would be a significant victory for Las Cruces, a low-income area with a large minority population. According to the most recent Census, Doña Ana County (where Las Cruces is the major population center) is statistically the fifth poorest metropolitan area in the United States. The county is 65% Latino, and over a third of children under 18 live in households below Federal Poverty Standards. Historically, the county has lagged well behind the rest of the U.S. in terms of environmentally-friendly practices. For example, Las Cruces has not until very recently had any form of curbside recycling, which is a common practice in most communities of its size.
We knew that a big part of accomplishing our goal of promoting sustainable energy is getting the word out, so we met with local progressive organizations and spoke at several events. We developed a website and advertised on the New Mexico State University campus. The local press took an interest in our story as well. We found that people were eager to join, and it has not been difficult to find support from our Senators and city council members as well. Our mission is to make the city of Las Cruces environmentally sustainable. We intend to finish putting solar panels on the homeless shelter and leverage this success to inspire city-wide green development.
We met with other organizations, recruited community volunteers, and gathered funds at community events. We made connections with local businesses. We volunteered time for other local non-profits promoting similar causes and combined forces so that we made a unified statement demanding change. We welcomed everyone who was willing to help and worked to build points of consensus around a vision of community grounded in altruism and environmental awareness.
We kept track of what fundraising activities were successful and replicated their success. We also had to re-evaluate the fundraising tactics that did not give us great results and then refocus our efforts. Essentially, we learned that action oriented steps were far more effective than awareness oriented efforts.
We organized our volunteers so that each member has a clear task and is responsible for their own results. During our weekly meetings we assess each other and fine-tune our practices. We also take the opportunity to learn from one another and build on each other’s practical successes. We adhere to a common vision and are maintaining the project by continuing to fundraise for more solar panels. When this house for the chronically homeless is fully sustainable then we will have a successful model to replicate in other areas of the community.
The homeless of Las Cruces are one step closer to living economically and in an environmentally sustainable way. The evidence of our impact is clear through our steadily growing group of volunteers and activists. We reached out to so many community members that in three weeks we amassed $3500 through grassroots donations ranging from $0.50 to $350. We are tipping the scales of popular support for green energy and showing widespread community interest in actively supporting renewable energy. We participated in 350.org’s global work-party. There was at least one chapter in every U.S. state and our group was highlighted as being in the top ten in the nation. Senator Tom Udall wrote a personal letter of support commending our efforts. Our city councilors and a state representative came to our work-party to dig a trench, caulk leaky window sills, and install new insulation for the homeless shelter among other energy efficiency tasks.
Green Las Cruces' Website: http://locallascruces.com/