As students at Warren Wilson College, Rachel Buedel and Nina Otter are a long way from their homes in Pennsylvania and Vermont respectively. But the work they and other students are doing in homes near Warren Wilson is having a positive impact on the Asheville area, as do so many of the College’s service activities.
Rachel and Nina are the student leaders of a new outreach program called INSULATE!. The program reaches out to homeowners below the poverty level and insulates their homes free of charge, thus reducing utility bills and carbon footprints. In so doing, INSULATE! tackles community needs within a framework of sustainability that considers economic, environmental and social/cultural impacts.
Working with several community agencies and businesses, Warren Wilson’s Environmental Leadership Center and Service Learning Office are coordinating efforts to weatherize homes in the Asheville area. Included in the outreach are pre- and post-weatherizing energy audits, no-cost insulation services and long-term energy monitoring. The homes are owned by seniors who have requested assistance through the Buncombe County Council on Aging.
Rachel, a senior from Williamsport, Pa., and Nina, a junior from Montpelier, Vt., are working to implement the program through a campus work crew and the Environmental Leadership Center. During a 30-minute signup session facilitated by the college’s Service Learning Office, 45 Warren Wilson students – about 5 percent of the entire student body - signed up to volunteer in the INSULATE! program. From this group a total of 18 students were selected to participate in the program initially.
In a recent interview, Rachel told the Asheville Citizen-Times that INSULATE! provides “a really great opportunity to go out and help someone in the community and also work with professionals in the field.”
The City of Asheville recently recognized INSULATE! and its multiple benefits to the local community and beyond.