Make Like Woody Allen


June 11, 2012

A Millenial’s experience at San Diego Solarthon 2012 by San Diego Volunteer Lauren Lindner

I briefly wondered what I’d been thinking in signing up for the 2012 GRID Alternatives Solarthon when my alarm went off at 6am on a Saturday. As a young professional working an ad agency job during the week, I looked forward to sleeping in on day like this one. The more ambitious (and decidedly better) part of myself demanded that I get up and get ready for a day of hardhats, power tools and solar panels. I had no idea what to really expect…I’d signed up on a whim and had done my best to fundraise for the task at hand. All I needed to do now was show up.

My initial exposure and eventual participation with GRID Alternatives wasn’t a complicated process. As a relatively new California resident post eight years of living in Chicago, I often felt as if I was wiping a film off my eyes when I heard about or discussed the environment here. Though it’s no excuse, it’s easy to possess a level of ignorance when you live in a concrete jungle and “sustainability” is often discussed simplistically on the individual (Recycle! Light bulbs!) or corporate (Starbucks Fair Trade! Tom’s Shoes!) level.

But then along came a move to California and with it a barrage of material, people and causes that appeared entirely devoted to the betterment of our environment and thus, our world. The beauty of the beaches was stunning, the hiking trails enthralling and the overall green mindset out here truly, truly impressive. And everywhere there was a buzz about renewable energy technology and implementation. I wanted to know more and I was excited to get involved somehow. A quick Google search brought up a slew of environmental groups and non-profits, but GRID stood out from the get-go. The beautiful simplicity of its business model and obvious success in local California communities were indicators of an organization that was truly impactful and really knew its stuff. After an exceedingly well-run informational session, I put my name on the Solarthon sign-up sheet and went home to draft my fundraising email.

Solarthon San Diego was held in National City and started off with coffee, speeches and splitting the participants into teams. It was great to see such an eclectic and diverse assortment of people out there, ready to climb on roofs and give the gift of solar to some very deserving families. Corporate groups, construction workers looking to gain new skills, GRID employees and interested individuals such as myself were all there, ready and eager to embark on a project that would give back to the grid and benefit the local community. I was fortunate enough to be on the Women’s Build Team and had the pleasure of meeting some incredibly smart, passionate and savvy females.

I admit it. …Solarthon was my first build. As someone with limited construction knowledge, it was somewhat challenging to work with the solar panels and ensure they were installed properly. Thank goodness for our team leaders – their never-ending patience and gentle instruction made for a morning of learning, collaboration and yes…fun. I never once felt like I couldn’t participate due to my utter lack of a skill set and I have to say…there’s something that feels pretty badass about being up on a roof with a wrench and seeing your work slowly come to fruition. To anyone who sits behind a desk for most of the workday, it’s an experience I highly, highly recommend.

Once the install was complete, we all stood to watch the homeowner we’d worked with switch on her meter. I’d heard that seeing the device start to wind backwards was a special moment, but nothing prepared me for the sheer joy I saw in her face when it happened. To witness the immediate impact our work was having on her life was moving, and knowing that it was contributing to a larger movement towards sustainability made it even better.

Solarthon San Diego 2012 brought solar energy to an entire block of homes in the course of a day and simultaneously added to a small (but mighty!) army of renewable energy advocates. Am I glad I got up to that 6am alarm so I could experience it? You bet. Do I plan on using that day to influence my future career trajectory and hopefully convert friends and contacts into fellow clean energy believers? Absolutely.

GRID positions itself as an organization committed to bringing solar to low-income communities and, in turn, training a new renewable energy workforce. I don’t know if they’ll want to somehow incorporate “educating and inspiring millenials” into their mission statement, but if they do I’d be more than happy to vouch for this addition.

My generation is oftentimes discussed in the context of the recent economic downturn. We’re supposedly worse off than our parents in terms of income, job opportunities and even lifespan. Yet I see an incredible amount of social responsibility and a strong desire to work for the public good in us millenials. An organization such as GRID, with its incredibly bright and ambitious founders, effective business model and involvement in local communities, is a great platform to do it from. As Woody Allen once said, “Eighty percent of success is just showing up”. I’d encourage anyone remotely interested to “just show up” at an upcoming GRID informational session and think about getting involved in next year’s Solarthon. Trust me…it doesn’t take much to become part of something much greater than yourself, and the rewards you’ll reap will be more than worthwhile.