Friday, February 5, 2010


I haven't written much lately, partly because I was involved in organizing what we refer to as a 'Weatherization Barnraising' last weekend.

The name comes from the rural tradition of neighbors gathering together to put up a barn. When a family needed a barn, they gathered the supplies (wood, nails, tools, etc) and then gathered their neighbors and with a lot of folks working together, the barn was built in no time. (These were major social occasions as well, with lots of food and conversation.) The Mennonites and Amish still do them.

In the 1970's there were 'Solar Barnraisings' done around the Boston area, where people gathered together to put up passive solar panels. (Actually, the house that I currently live in has one of these panels which can heat our third floor well on a sunny winter day.)

A couple of summers ago, there was a discussion organized in Cambridge around the idea of forming an energy co-op (which is being done in Boston). I went to it out of curiousity. At the event, someone brought up the idea of Solar Barnraisings and suggested that we should do them again. Someone else complained that solar power was sexy but largely symbolic. It really didn't make as much difference in energy usage as weatherization did. A third person grabbed the two ideas and suggested that maybe we should start doing Weatherization Barnraisings. The idea excited a number of people and an event was planned. It was haphazardly publicized and the organizers thought that maybe 15 folks would show up. Forty people turned up for the barnraising, and things were off and running. Someone came up with the name Home Energy Efficiency Team--acronym HEET--and a lot of people liked it. Now these barnraisings have become very organized.

HEET has weatherized over 30 houses and institutions in Cambridge alone. As it grew, other cities and towns began adopting the idea. The HEET website now lists twenty 'affiliates' including Albany, NY, Providence, RI, and Portland, OR--not to mention Massachusetts sites from Boston to Worcester.

The cool thing about these barnraisings is not only the fact that people cooperate to help weatherize someone's house. Even the thirty plus places in Cambridge that have been weatherized is a drop in the bucket. What is great is that people who volunteer for these events learn skills that they can use at their own houses, even if their house never has a 'barnraising'. I went to one event over a year ago when my housemates were about to start our preparations for the winter and was told, for once, not to do registration--my housemates wanted me to learn about windows, because the ones in our house were so leaky. I came back from the barnraising and told them about V-Seal. That year we V-Sealed all our windows. Recently I saw Tyz-All used on some windows at a barnraising and now I'm wondering if that could replace the plastic we've been putting on the windows. And then there is Q-Lon for doors, and who knows what else. It's amazing what you learn at these things. And people have fun doing all this. There is often pizza or other food afterwards, and sometimes music. It becomes a work party--not that far from the social occasions that happened with the original barnraisings.

But the model goes beyond weatherizations. The community I am in has started 'GardenRaisings' where a bunch of us get together and build a raised bed garden in someone's yard. I hope that this idea is as successful as the weatherization barnraisings. Imagine how many more vegetable gardens there could be if this idea spreads.

And what else could we do together? As we work together and work with each other, we become powerful. We become a force for change. We move from only thinking about ourselves to thinking about the community. And from the community, who knows...

Quote of the Day: "On the surface, one house a month doesn't make a big difference. But... people learn the skills to weatherize their own homes, and our hope is that it has a multiplier effect." - Steve Morr-Wineman


ethicalsusan said...

Nice, post. Thanks for helping with my barnraising. Here's what I wrote about the one in my house in December -

I think I started a trend - the next barn-raising had Zing's pizza too - I'm happy to support them - a locally-owned business that uses as much local and organic stuff in their pizza.

MoonRaven said...

Thanks for your comment.

I enjoyed being part of your barnraising. That's where I learned about the Tyz-All. (I hope that people can paste the link that you provided in. For some reason, links function well in my email but don't work directly when it's part of a comment on the site.)

And thanks for supporting a local business--and better yet, getting others to support them.