Summer internship with Ready for 100 Columbus

ENR 7191 is the required internship course for the Master’s in Environment and Natural Resources. Students can fulfill this requirement through their jobs in an environmental field, through a formal full-time internship, or through part-time volunteer opportunities.  I chose the third way to do this by working on the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign in Columbus.

Although I have been working on the Ready for 100 Columbus campaign for the past 1.5 years, I had not made it the center of my activities due to work and other courses. This summer I had the chance to spend my coursework time on the campaign. It was a great experience, and I learned that I love doing this kind of work.

Tom Foley, sustainability manager for Cuyahoga County, speaks at the Clean Energy for All Ohio Training on June 2, 2018.

Mike Foley, director of sustainability for Cuyahoga County, speaks at the Clean Energy for All Ohio Training on June 2, 2018.

The objectives I had for the summer were:

  • Hold a successful 100% Clean Energy for All Ohio training on June 2. We achieved that goal, training about 50 people who heard from energy leaders in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Oberlin, as well as Tom Foley, sustainability manager for Cuyahoga County. As a result, five new Ready for 100 campaigns got started around the state.
  • Restart the grasstops part of the campaign by doing power mapping of the mayor and members of city council, and community mapping in neighborhoods of Columbus. We got this done with the help of two other interns for the campaign.
  • Identify and start a new communications chair. We promoted Brittany Converse, a longtime volunteer who works for the city.
  • Speak about Ready for 100 at community and neighborhood events. I spoke at the Clean Energy for All Ohio training, a projection art event at Flowers and Bread in Clintonville, and led the panel discussion following a showing of Reinventing Power. I was also invited to be part of the city’s application for the Bloomberg Climate Challenge Grant, pulling together information about tax abatements for sustainability.
  • Hold tours of several renewable energy facilities in Columbus and Ohio. I was not able to do this. But I did make it to the Growing Local Solar workshop on August 1 at Denison University, where I learned about aggregation in Ohio, the carbon tax in Athens, how to overcome barriers to solar, and toured the Denison solar array.
We held a showing of Reinventing Power with a panel discussion on August 9, 2019. About 45 people attended.

About 45 people attended our showing of Reinventing Power with a panel discussion on August 9, 2018.

One of the best things about the summer was getting to work with two other interns for the campaign, one from the Glenn College and one from School of Environment and Natural Resources. Suddenly work that we had been wanting to do for months, like power mapping and community mapping, got done. We couldn’t pay these interns – we could only offer course credit – but it was amazing to have them on board. I wanted to get more interns in the fall, but national Sierra Club changed its policy and now requires paying interns $15 an hour. We don’t have money for that.

It is not an exaggeration to say this summer was pivotal to the direction of the Ready for 100 Columbus campaign. When we started, we were trying to get sign-on letters from local businesses in Clintonville and the Short North. It was a disaster. Employees couldn’t sign, managers were never there or too busy, and most were hesitant about signing. Quickly we realized that approach was not working and switched to gathering signatures on our AddUp petition to the city. We got 300 signatures at Comfest alone, about 1600 during the summer.

We also did some serious campaign planning work, identifying our theory of change, targets, tactics, partnerships, and budget. This laid the groundwork for our campaign moving forward.

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