Middlebury Institute International Environmental Policy students Trang Trinh MAIEP ’21, Lawrence Garber MAIEP ’21, Corbin Panturad MAIEP ’21 are being hailed as “Clean Energy Heroes” by Central Coast Community Energy. The recognition is for an ambitious class project where they make the financial case for clean, renewable, and affordable housing solutions for Monterey.
“For us this project really solidifies the best elements of the MIIS education,” says Panturad who began exploring issues related to affordable housing in Monterey when he wrote a paper exploring what a sustainable dormitory for the Institute might look like for a class with Professor Fernando DePaolis in his first semester. The following semester he teamed up with Garber and Trinh to explore the issue from another angle; this time the inspiration was the rezoning of the Garden Road area in Monterey for residential housing developments. As a study for Professor Gireesh Shrimali’s class the three students teamed up to build a financial model successfully making an economic case for clean, renewable, and affordable housing solutions.
“These ambitious and innovative thinkers hope that our current leaders can implement lucrative ways of living and doing business that benefits people, profits, and the planet,” says in the Central Coast Community Energy commendation. The agency was established by local communities to source clean and renewable electricity for Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties and now parts of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.
All three students are specializing in Sustainability Management. Garber says working on this project helped him narrow his focus in the field. He is very excited about the prospect of raising public awareness about the financial and social benefits of all-electrification, rooftop solar, and water efficient technologies. “There is a groundswell of local activism, especially here in California, and people are starting to see what is best for the planet and human health can also be the most-sound solution economically.” Panturad adds that these solutions and this way of thinking should be applied to any area of the economy.
Trinh notes demands are high for affordable housing, especially for people of color, not only in Monterey, but all of California where cost of living is exceptionally high. This semester she, along with Panturad and Garber, is taking a class on Sustainable Cities with City of Monterey Sustainability Coordinator Ted Terrasas. “It is super exciting to get to work with and learn from people who are experienced in the field and explore these issues further.”
In the midst of the upheaval related to the Covid-19 pandemic and the devastating wildfires in the Western United States, the team sees opportunities. They point to growing calls for a green recovery and policy changes encouraging investment in green infrastructure. “Every time there is a new construction or retrofit and you don’t do electrification or water reclamation it is a lost opportunity,” says Panturad. “Every new construction should be viewed as an opportunity.”
In the conclusion to their study, the team recommends that political leaders and policy makers focus recovery dollars and political capital on policies to invest in California’s carbon-free building sector by electrifying the state building code, setting state-wide decarbonization goals, and increasing funding for local energy efficiency programs.
The Middlebury community gathered for an evening of storytelling and networking in San Francisco on February 3rd, celebrating Middlebury’s longstanding commitment to environmental leadership and sustainability.