One solar system, multiple impacts: WSP gets to work in San Francisco

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August 23, 2017

Some look at a solar panel and see the promise of a low-carbon lifestyle -- bluer skies, cleaner water, healthier people. And there are others that see the promise of greater financial stability for their families -- caring for elderly family members, providing for young ones, recovering from trying situations. Here at GRID Alternatives, these two visions meet at each and every one of our installations, yet it was no more apparent than on one overcast July morning with a San Francisco family and a group of volunteer fundraisers from WSP, a global engineering and professional services consultancy.

As the nine volunteers stood in their driveway adjusting their hardhats, homeowners Loimatafia (or “Mata”) and Nicole brought out snacks and water. Mata, a San Francisco bus driver, explained that his experience with contractors in the past has been a major pain point, and that GRID was a breath of fresh air. This was the family’s second home in the city -- due to a number of failed repair efforts on the part of a hired contractor, they were forced to move and demolish their previous home, and are still dealing with the fallout. Mata and Nicole had worked hard to build a life for themselves while caring for extended family on a limited income, and seeking help during this unexpected and overwhelming time in their lives was “not the situation we ever wanted for ourselves,” shares Mata. “Thank you for helping us out.”

Homeowners Nicole and Mata with their solar installation volunteer team from WSP
Homeowners Mata and Nicole (2nd and 3rd from right, respectively) with their solar installation volunteer team from WSP
Their new solar system will give them one less thing to worry about with an expected $29,600 worth of clean energy produced over it’s lifetime.

The installation was completed with the helping hands of a volunteer crew from WSP, organized by WSP’s project director for sustainability and energy, Julie Sinistore, Ph.D. Julie, a self-proclaimed data and sustainability wonk, had spent the week prior to the installation crunching numbers and calculating specific environmental impacts of Mata and Nicole’s new solar system. In addition to the thousands of dollars in projected savings and 61 tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions prevented, Julie also equated the reduction in GHG emissions to 155,000 miles driven in the average passenger vehicle, the Blue Water Consumption (BWC) savings to nearly 5,000 showers, and the avoided smog and particulate matter emissions equaling 313,000 miles driven in an average car and 32,000 miles drive in an average diesel truck, respectively.

Julie had wanted to volunteer as an individual with GRID for a while, so she jumped at the chance to get her WSP colleagues on the roof as well when she heard about our sponsored workday opportunities.

The WSP team raised an incredible collective total of $8,600 to support GRID’s work and make clean energy a reality for Mata and Nicole’s family. For many on the team, this was their first time fundraising from their networks, but they soon saw how eager their friends, family, and colleagues were to lend their support. Using GRID’s easy-to-use peer-to-peer online fundraising platform, they were able to surpass their goal through email asks, social media, creative in-office events (such as a “Penny Wars” change collection competition and a “Sweets and Heats” combination chili-cook-off and dessert bake-off), and a generous matching grant from the WSP foundation.

As someone who works in sustainability, Julie said it is important to her to focus on ways she can help reduce human impact on the environment. “By participating in this kind of event, I feel like WSP is ‘walking the talk’ in a way that combines our firm’s focus on sustainability, energy and built ecology,” she said.

On behalf of Mata, Nicole, and all GRID families, we thank WSP and their incredible solar installation volunteer team for wearing their values on their sleeves -- and rolling up those sleeves to create more opportunities for both community and environmental sustainability. See more photos from their workday here.

Interested in bringing your team out for a fun and rewarding rooftop team-building event that results in tangible benefits for local families and the planet? Contact Ashley at amalyszka@gridalternatives.org to find out more about our sponsored workday program. GRID is happy to work with teams of all sizes and backgrounds on a custom sponsorship package to fit your employee and community engagement goals.