With Expansion into Vermont, WindowDressers Blossoms Into Multi-State Program

One testament to the simple practicality of the WindowDressers program is how quickly the idea has taken root in communities across Maine and Vermont. This has been especially true in Vermont in the last few years. 

WindowDressers co-founder Dick Cadwgan first started visiting VT in 2018 to find contacts that might want to help spread our movement into their state. Jack Sumberg of the Glover Energy Committee was one of the first people to answer the call. After receiving a sample insert through the grapevine from Judith Jackson at Energize Vermont, the Glover Energy Committee recognized the program’s potential and scheduled a meeting with Dick Cadwgan. A few weeks later Jack traveled to Rockland to see all the steps in the process and learn to measure and use the software. Just two years later, we have eight town energy committees building inserts in VT, and over a dozen towns that are looking to start new programs in our upcoming season. 

Not only did Jack take the lead in establishing the first Community Build in Glover, he also helped support the new towns in getting their Community Builds off the ground. Jack explains our mentorship model: “In our second year, our workshop was scheduled first so people from the new towns could come see how we operated. They got their first training with us, and then I went down for the first day of each workshop to just help get people going. It all worked out pretty well.”  

Jack was inspired to spread the idea when he saw what kind of a difference the program made in people’s lives. He explained, “Glover is a small town, a little over 1,000 people. It was hard for the energy committee to come up with ideas of projects that we could do on a limited budget that would make some kind of a difference. When we heard about WindowDressers, we thought ‘ah, here is the practical, low tech project that we could do that really could make a difference in people’s homes.’ And we love how it brings people together.” 

Bob Walker was another early recruit, and he is no stranger to volunteer-driven energy efficiency efforts. Bob has been a community organizer, educator and activist in VT since moving there in 1979, and he’s been at the forefront of the energy efficiency movement for decades. He was a key driver in starting the Energy Committee model in Vermont and New Hampshire.

As Bob tells the story, “I helped to start a non-profit in the 80’s called EarthRight institute, and we worked on solid waste and energy issues. We had this idea that there are programs being developed at the state level that could be implemented locally, but there was no real body locally to take those programs and implement them. So we created these volunteer committees that could implement these programs at the local level.” A subsequent group that Bob formed in 2001, Sustainable Energy Resource Group, expanded on this model and helped build a network of over 100 town energy committees in Vermont that have been instrumental in helping WindowDressers spread in the state.

Bob explained what excites him about the WindowDressers model: “Even though windows represent a significant source of energy loss in a home, it’s not the first thing that an energy auditor will recommend focusing on because it’s pretty expensive to address. But WindowDressers makes addressing the heat loss through windows much more affordable. One, by using a volunteer workforce. I really enjoy the idea of building community around this idea of addressing climate change, especially with a focus on low income homes. And then also through the collective securing of resources, including all the work WindowDressers has done to develop custom jigs and streamline the process. All of that makes the process more affordable.”

In a recent write-up on the program, Bob shared how it was received in the community: “About 70% of our inserts went to residents who are income-qualified for discounts on the inserts. Our grants from Mascoma Bank Foundation and New England Grassroots Environment Fund helped make this possible. All of the volunteers and insert recipients really enjoyed the program, how the inserts are functioning, and the community spirit built through this great program.”     

During WindowDressers “year off” while we wait for public health conditions to improve, our up-and-coming Vermont Community Builds are working hard to build their core volunteer teams, and lay the ground for next year. WindowDressers will resume in 2021 ready to serve more homes in Vermont than ever before.

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