C3 plows path in winter weatherization education

By Contributing Writer

by Peter Mandas, Contributing Writer

The Chicago Conservation Corps held its fourth annual graduation ceremony on Dec. 2, celebrating its students’ efforts toward environmental protection. Mayor Richard M. Daley was in attendance to congratulate 1,500 student participants from more than 80 Chicago schools for their work in environmental service projects.

As a nonprofit organization aimed at educating city residents on energy conservation, each winter the Chicago Conservation Corps, part of the City of Chicago Department of Environment,holds a course on home winterization.

“C3’s mission statement is basically to recruit, train and support a network of volunteers who want to work together in their neighborhoods to improve environmental issues,” said Kristen Pratt, C3’s student club project coordinator.

The Chicago Conservation Corps has recruited more than 300 adults to its Adult Environment Leadership program as well as 80 schools that lead after school conservation clubs. C3’s conservation efforts this year include winter weatherization workshops, which are designed to save attendees money and to teach participants how to properly winterize their homes.

“People say, ‘I don’t want to change everything. It costs a lot of money,’” Daley said. “But we’ve proved we can save money, and it’s better invested in [the environment] than in anything else you’re doing.”

Winter weatherization events are held by C3 leaders in an effort to educate residents on how they can seal their homes to keep the winter chills out and the heat in.

“I wanted to do something more casual, but I knew a lot of my friends couldn’t commit for a certain time,” said Kim Werst, a C3 leader-in-training. “Because of that, I [decided] I would do an open house, drop-in event.”

Chicagoans who attend one of C3’s weatherization events can expect to leave with knowledge of basic weatherization tips, including how to use a caulking gun to seal cracks around window and door frames, how to insulate windows properly and how to utilize adhesive foam to insulate and seal door jambs, window trim

and baseboards.

People who attend a C3 workshop are given a weatherization kit to get them started in their homes. The kits include a caulking gun with caulk, weather stripping, clear poly tape, plastic film, adhesive foam and energy efficient light bulbs. The total cost of the kit is approximately $20.

“This is meant to give you a sampling to see what tools work the best in your own home,” Pratt said. “The goal isn’t to try to weatherize everyone’s whole home. It’s to help you figure out how to use these tools, what works best in your home and then go out and make an informed decision.”

Twice a year C3 holds five core class sessions on consecutive Saturdays. A class of 30 students learns the conservation skills needed and how to pass them to

the community.

“It’s a time commitment,” Werst said. “You don’t get to sleep in on Saturday, [but] I really liked it.”

While in training, C3 recruits are supported by partner organizations and companies like Greencorps Chicago, eZing Inc. and the Low-Cost Weatherization and

Education Program.

“Executive directors of nonprofits you hear about actually come and answer your questions,” Werst said. “They really do delve deep into all the different opportunities you [have] to help increase sustainability.”

The C3 leaders have been working for the last six years to make Chicago a more environmentally friendly city, and each year, their numbers climb.

“Citizens can make a difference. I for one believe citizens do more to move government and do more to think outside the box than most people in government,” Daley said. “That’s why it’s important as leaders; you’re not only educating yourself, but you’re educating others in the community.”

It’s important to have no restrictions and believe you have a real stake in this world, he said.

More information about C3’s conservation projects can be found on its website, ChicagoConservationCorps.org. All of its information and “how to” guides are free.