Hip, hip solar
Standing in a light drizzle on a February afternoon at an urban farm in East Dayton, University of Dayton students and community leaders raised their fists in the air and let out a raucous cheer, chanting, “Solar!”
As the Mission of Mary Cooperative (MMC) strives to erase its carbon footprint, the neighborhood organization has much to cheer about, thanks to 10 UD “solar ambassadors. ” Working with the national non-profit organization RE-volv, these students raised more than $32,000 through a crowdfunding campaign to partner with a contractor and help size solar arrays for the facility’s roof.
The San Francisco-based RE-volv is leasing the 11.5 kW solar system to Mission of Mary, which will transfer a share of its energy savings to a “solar seed” revolving fund to help other non-profits embrace clean energy.
The impact, on the grassroots level, is enormous. “This now puts us on a path toward becoming the first net-zero campus in Dayton. MMC hopes to inspire and educate others to make a commitment,” said Mike Schulz, a 2007 UD graduate who serves as the executive director of the only lay Marianist-founded, operated and funded non-profit in the nation.
With the help of the Hanley Sustainability Institute, UD interns and neighbors, Mission of Mary works largely to increase food security in the Twin Towers neighborhood, where it has produced 40 tons of food in the last two years for 80 families and local markets.
“We’ve traditionally focused on food access, but environmental sustainability is an emerging focus,” Schulz said. “We want to impact the environment in a positive way and hope that we can create a model that can be replicated across the city.”
Mission of Mary recently installed geothermal heating and cooling and is giving an ETHOS intern from the School of Engineering a meaningful hands-on learning experience with the creation of a utility monitoring system that will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions and offer insights into behavioral changes.
Buoyed by the success of the Mission of Mary project, UD students launched their second RE-volv crowdfunding campaign this week to raise an ambitious $66,416 for a 26.2 kW solar installation at East End Community Center. In three days, the project has already attracted nearly $10,000 in private support.
“Being involved in RE-volv has meant a lot to me,” said solar ambassador Colin Joern ‘18, of St. Louis, who’s earning a master’s degree in renewable and clean energy. “It’s altered my career path. “By working with nonprofits, I’ve seen a real need in the community for this work. I’ve seen how I can make a difference.”