Social Justice efforts in El Paso colonias: Energy Efficiency to Colonia Homes  
Originally written for the May, 2009 UUCEP (Unitarian Universalist Community of El Paso) newsletter.

We've had two projects this winter/spring in a colonia hear Horizon, and another one in the Hueco Tanks area (both in far east El Paso county).  The Boston Unitarian Universalists came to El Paso around Valentine's Day, and Janet Kincaid and Sharon Cornet of UUCEP, and the El Paso Solar Energy Association (EPSEA) got together to work on quality-of-life needs for two households.

The first project was at a lady's trailer home, which we weatherized since she had no electric service from El Paso Electric Company (due to restrictions with colonia laws), and was very successful.  The Boston kids learned a lot, as did the rest of us.  Plastic was put on her windows, weatherstripping around her doors, and tar paper was placed over the weathered wood on the bathroom addition.  The lady (whose name is being kept confidential as part of the original colonias survey agreement) had her mom's old solar water distiller (that Sharon installed with EPSEA grant project back around 2001), was sitting out back so it was cleaned up and put into position to face solar south, and was beginning to form droplets of water, even on a cloudy afternoon!  The lady was very happy since she hauls in her own water and will be able to produce purified/distilled water on-site without the need for running water or electricity!   The weather was cold at night, and the next day she said she noticed a difference in the warmth of her trailer due to the weatherization efforts.  You know there has been a level of success in helping someone when tears form in their (and your) eyes when the work is done.

The second project was another weatherization project, working towards home energy efficiency for a couple with two children in the Hueco Tanks area.  After living in a small trailer for many years, this family finally began building their house made of raw (gray-colored, with no insulation or paint) cinder blocks.  For two cold winters, and hot summers, they have lived in the house, even when it had no ceiling, and no insulation.  Energy Star standards for an insulated home requires R-30 insulation, which is the highest R-value off-shelf insulation batts available at the local hardware stores.   They have installed their ceiling, but haven't had the money for insulation, so our UUCEP social justice team, along with EPSEA and the Boston group funds (many thanks to them - what an awesome team effort!) allowed us to purchase the needed insulation to install it in their ceiling.  Since the majority of heat is lost through the ceiling/roof in winter, and the summer's heat radiates down through the roof to the inside of the house, this family is going to be living more comfortably, as well as saving electricity costs for heating and cooling for the rest of the lifetime of their house!   The husband was so happy, as was the lady of the house was, so they fed everyone - who volunteered to help install the insulation - homemade food/burritos for lunch as a thank you.  Wonderful!  What an experience!