Category Archives: Energy Education

Energy Masters Program closes out 2016 with recognition and awards


The Energy Masters program received awards for leadership in energy efficiency from the Virginia Governor’s Housing Conference Awards and the state’s inaugural Virginia Energy Efficiency Awards, attended by Governor McAuliffe.  

Energy Masters, a joint program of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment (ACE), Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) and Arlington THRIVE, was honored on November 17, 2016, at the Virginia Governor’s Housing Conference, with the Best Affordable Housing Energy Conservation Effort award, which recognizes innovative, effective efforts that address housing needs in the state. The program received a second award from the first-ever Virginia Energy Efficiency Leadership Awards on November 29, 2016. The program was awarded third place in the Low-Income Category. This award acknowledges demonstrated commitment to energy conservation and prudent use of resources in the renovation of affordable housing properties. Affordable housing properties that have participated in the Energy Masters program are realizing benefits from the energy and water saving services performed by volunteers through increased energy efficiency and a decrease in utility bills totaling $39,623 that was reflected in a 2016 analysis. The program serves residents in Arlington County and the City of Alexandria.

Energy Masters program coordinator, Laura Garcia Olson, acknowledged how important these awards are for the growth of the program: “The Energy Masters program is an example of actions individuals can take to impact climate change in our community. We’re hopeful that the awards recognition will help bring more attention to tactics to save energy and the importance of adopting a sustainable lifestyle.”

The Energy Masters program is a highly successful model that educates citizens how to save energy and conserve water and provides community engagement and volunteer activism. It directly addresses climate change and water conservation, improves the lives of residents living in affordable housing and builds stronger community connections by engaging volunteers in service projects. The program provides volunteers with extensive training in energy efficiency and water conservation, which they use in service to the community by making improvements to affordable housing buildings and by providing education. It also helps low-income families reduce their energy and water bills and improve the comfort of their homes. Energy Masters encourages behavior change in residents of all ages, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of the residents and conserving resources, which benefits the entire community.

To learn more about Energy Masters and how you can get involved, visit the website at


photo credit: Meredith A. Muckerman

Accolades for Virginia Cooperative Extension

It was a clean sweep for Virginia Cooperative Extension at the George Mason University Go Gaga for Green awards for its efforts promoting environmental sustainability. VCE staff and volunteers won in all three award categories, Individual, Organization and People’s Choice.

Extension Agent and Unit Coordinator, Jennifer Abel, was awarded the Arlington Green Patriot Award for her sustainability efforts both professionally and personally. Jennifer actively volunteers for several local environmentally focused organizations including the Mt. Vernon Group of the Sierra Club and ACE R4 task force. In 2011, Jennifer co-founded the award winning Energy Masters program. In the five years since its inception, more than 150 volunteers have retrofitted almost 600 low income apartments to improve energy efficiency and reduce tenants’ utility bills. The program now operates in both Arlington County and the City of Alexandria. To learn more about the Energy Masters program, visit

Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia took both the Organization and People’s Choice awards. The non profit works with Extension Agent Kirsten Conrad Buhls and supports VCE volunteer efforts to educate the public about sustainable landscape management practices and home food production. MGNV support funds 5 demonstration gardens around Arlington and the City of Alexandria. The public can visit the gardens to learn more about various plants and gardening techniques. MGNV has also developed the Tried & True Native Plant fact sheets that provide homeowners with detailed information on how to incorporate native plants into the home landscape. To find out more about MGNV and the Tried & Trues, visit

Virginia Cooperative Extension’s varied programs are all supported by community volunteers. No experience is required to volunteer; VCE provides training and volunteer resources. Interested volunteers can find out more at

Taste of Extension Showcases 2015 Successes of VCE

On December 4 more than 76 people attended VCE-Arlington and Alexandria’s annual breakfast event for local, state, and federal elected officials and community leaders. Each year we showcase the recent successes of our programs and this year we focused on new developments at VCE in 2015. There was a lot of new information to share: Energy Masters is expanding into Alexandria thanks to a grant from the city; our full-time financial coach started in March and will be with us for more than two years through special arrangement with the CFPB; our new 4-H agent, Caitlin Verdu, started in October; a new SNAP FCS agent, Van Do also started in October and will be providing nutrition education to SNAP clients in Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun Counties; and Paula Kaufman joined VCE in June as our new Master Gardener Coordinator.

Another new feature of this year’s event was that the Master Food Volunteers prepared the breakfast that was served to attendees. In past years the breakfast has been catered, but after Master Food Volunteers saw how unhealthy and tasteless last year’s breakfast was they volunteered to prepare the meal. Dishes included a leek and feta cheese frittata, chard, red pepper, and sweet potato frittata, homemade preserves, and parfaits made with yogurt, granola, and cranberry chutney. The fresh and healthy food was much appreciated by the guests.

Also at this year’s event we had the opportunity to honor Toby Smith, a long-time 4-H volunteer who received a Connect with Kids award from the Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth, and Family. Toby runs a Junior Master Naturalist club and has served as chair of both the Arlington and state Extension Leadership Councils.

Every year this event is attended by Arlington county board members, state delegates and senators, aides of federal legislators, and community leaders such as the heads of Arlington and Alexandria departments of parks and recreation. They get to talk with volunteers and staff as they visit stations set up around the room highlighting all of VCE’s programs. This is an important event to help spread the word about the exciting work that Extension is doing and we look forward to having an even bigger and better event in 2016.

Family Nutrition Program Assistant Haregowoin Tecklu demonstrated how coffee is roasted and prepared in her home country of Ethiopia.

Family Nutrition Program Assistant Haregowoin Tecklu demonstrated how coffee is roasted and prepared in her home country of Ethiopia.

4-H club members Aziza Hasen, Areli Ibarra, and Rebecca Nance joined 4-H volunteer Maria Jechoutek (center) and Alexandria 4-H agent Reggie Morris to represent local 4-H programs.

4-H club members Aziza Hasen, Areli Ibarra, and Rebecca Nance joined 4-H volunteer Maria Jechoutek (center) and Alexandria 4-H agent Reggie Morris to represent local 4-H programs.

Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation Deputy Director (DPR) Jennifer Fioretti, Emergency Services Director Debbie Powers, and DPR Director Jane Rudolph were among the guests who attended the breakfast event.

Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) Deputy Director Jennifer Fioretti, Emergency Services Director Debbie Powers, and DPR Director Jane Rudolph were among the guests who attended the breakfast event.

From Russia to South Arlington

Extension has received a $7,500 grant from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to teach Russian city and nonprofit leaders about our volunteer program modules. We will be sharing best practices for volunteer-driven nonprofit work.

The grant is through the Embassy’s U.S.-Russia Peer-to-Peer Dialogue Program, which supports projects focused on peer-to-peer collaboration. Extension partnered with the nonprofit WSOS Community Action in Freemont, Ohio, on the grant application. The total grant is worth $95,000. In addition to visiting with us, the Russian delegation will meet with nonprofits in Ohio and Utah.

Virginia Cooperative Extension celebrates 100 years, showcases Arlington and Alexandria programs

Volunteers Bill Guey-Lee and Desiree Kaul manage the Master Financial Education display.

Volunteers Bill Guey-Lee and Desiree Kaul manage the Master Financial Education display at Virginia Cooperative Extension’s breakfast showcase at Fairlington Community Center.

Virginia Cooperative Extension‘s breakfast showcase, highlighting Arlington and City of Alexandria programs, made the news.

A few 2014 highlights:

  • Staff and Master Financial Education volunteers started Money Smarts Pay, which combines money management classes with financial coaching to help participants adopt positive financial habits. Extension partnered with Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing and The Arlington-Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless to offer Money Smarts Pay to affordable housing tenants.
  • Staff and Master Food Volunteers addressed childhood obesity by organizing healthy cooking classes for teens in foster care and low-income teens, and 4-H Food Challenge events.
  • VCE–Arlington, with Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, won the national Extension Housing Outreach Award.

Read the full story here.



National and state awards recognize local work

On September 18 Arlington Family and Consumer Sciences agent Jennifer Abel accepted the national Extension Housing Outreach award at the conference of the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences in Lexington, KY. This award recognizes the work of the Arlington Energy Masters program, a partnership between Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) and Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment that began in 2011. The goal of the program is to improve the energy efficiency in low-income apartments. Teams of trained volunteers conduct energy- and water-saving retrofits. In the past three years they have made these improvements in 404 units in Arlington.

NEAFCS poster and award

Jennifer Abel shares information about the Arlington Energy Masters Program at the NEAFCS conference in Lexington, KY.

Volunteers have installed 2,463 compact fluorescent light bulbs, 5,136 outlet and switch plate gaskets, 493 faucet aerators, 221 low-flow showerheads, 272 toilet tummies, and given out 240 power strips. These improvements are saving an estimated 75,267 kilowatt hours of energy 4,551,890 gallons of water each year.

In October 25 people will get trained as new Energy Masters volunteers. Plans are in place to expand the program into Alexandria in the summer of 2015. To learn more about this program, contact Jennifer Abel:


This summer Nutrition Outreach Instructor Megan Mauer (based in VCE’s Alexandria office) was honored with the state Family Nutrition Program team award. Megan trains volunteers in Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William, Spotsylvania, and Stafford to conduct nutrition education programs in schools and recreation centers. The other team members recognized with the award are Program Assistant Ellen Matthis; Master Food Volunteers Kim Frey, Casandra Lawson, Sara Knopp, Ruth Schulman, Cindy Palmerino, and Susanne Gonzalez; Extension Agents Jennifer Abel, Reggie Morris, Nancy Stegon, Katie Strong, and Alyssa Walden; and District Director Cyndi Marston.

Megan is leaving VCE as of September 26th to pursue her dream of becoming a Registered Dietitian. She has made tremendous contributions to nutrition education during her two years here and will be sorely missed.




Fairlington Day Festivities

Virginia Cooperative Extension participated in Fairlington Day this past weekend. Agents and volunteers showcased Extension Arlington’s many faces by preparing delicious healthy eats, giving tours of the food gardens, organizing 4-H kids’ activities and providing information on the many great programs we coordinate. Getting out into the community and sharing information is what we do so if you have an event coming up that you would like us to participate in, please get in touch with our Marketing and Communications Associate,


It’s National Volunteer Week! THANK YOU! And How to Get Involved…

This week we celebrate National Volunteer Week.
It is time to say THANK YOU to all our volunteers.
Cooperative Extension relies on volunteers, and we believe that active citizen involvement in our programs ensures success.  The work of volunteers at state and local levels helps leverage our paid faculty and staff resources into a much greater impact and benefit for the people of Virginia.

For Extension Volunteer Stories see

Get Involved
There are many ways you can get involved as a volunteer with Cooperative Extension to bring your talents and skills to benefit the community.  Some of them are listed below. If you are interested in volunteering, but not sure in what way, contact our offices: Arlington 703 228 6400 and Alexandria 703 746 5546.  Staff will be happy to help you find a way to share your time and talents.

Here’s how to get involved volunteering locally with Cooperative Extension programs:

Arlington and Alexandria Extension Leadership Council (ELC)
The Arlington and Alexandria Extension Leadership Council is composed of interested residents, Cooperative Extension staff, and county and city liaisons who identify community issues and help ensure programs are responsive to real needs. Also, the ELC advocates in support of local programs and staff, and promotes greater awareness of the work of the Extension staff and volunteers.  The ELC meets every two months. If you are interested in joining, please contact the Arlington or Alexandria Extension Office and come to an ELC meeting. ELC 2014 Brochure

.4-H Youth Development
4-H stands for head, heart, hands and health.

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Every 4-H program benefits from this integrated approach to civic engagement and hands-on learning – and the dedication and service of caring volunteers.  If you are interested in contributing your time to help further the development of youth in our community, please contact Reggie Morris, 4-H agent for Alexandria or Emily Reiersgaard, 4-H agent for Arlington,

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Master Gardeners
Master Gardeners encourage and promote environmentally sound horticultural practices through sustainable landscape management education and training.
Kirsten picking greens

Here serving Arlington and Alexandria we have the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia.  Master Gardeners training will be offered in the fall. For details contact: Agriculture and Natural Resources agent, Kirsten Buhls or Arlington’s Interim Master Gardener Coordinator, Jocelyn Yee

Arlington Regional Master Naturalists
The Arlington Regional Master Naturalist program is part of a statewide corps of volunteers providing education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities. If you’re interested in becoming an Arlington Regional Master Naturalist, go to


Master Food Volunteers
Master Food Volunteers help support Extension’s family and consumer sciences (FCS) agents through education and outreach programs related to food preparation, nutrition, food safety, and physical activity. Contact FCS agent Katie Strong for information about programs and trainings in the Arlington and Fairfax area.


Arlington Energy Masters
Arlington’s  innovative Energy Masters program promotes a more energy efficient and sustainable Arlington community. We engage professionally trained volunteers in retrofitting, weatherization, and water conservation techniques serving low-income apartment residents. If you are interested in applying for the 2014-2015 program later this summer, please complete the volunteer interest form.


Master Financial  Educators
Financial volunteers receive a comprehensive training on budgeting, retirement planning, home buying, and many other finance topics, instruction in counseling techniques. Volunteers can choose to help individuals or community groups with financial education programs – including learning to reconcile debts, set goals, budget spending, and organization to improve money management skills. Please contact Jennifer Abel for details of the next training.


Volunteering Counts!
Here is how volunteering counts in Arlington and Alexandria.
In 2012: the Arlington and Alexandria staff and volunteers of Virginia Cooperative Extension reached over 50,000 people with 650+ education programs.  850+ active volunteers contributed over 32, 000 hours. That outreach was conducted with a local office staff of about a dozen people. That’s the power of volunteers!

Interested in volunteering statewide or at national level for Virginia Cooperative Extension? See:




Arlington Energy Masters celebrate award-winning year

On Wednesday members of the 2012-13 cohort of Arlington Energy Masters volunteers and members from the inaugural class in 2011 gathered to celebrate their accomplishments of the past year. These dedicated volunteers worked together to conduct energy and water-saving retrofits in 157 low-income apartments, surpassing the 100 units that received these services in the first year of the program. Volunteers received graduation certificates to acknowledge the 60 hours required of current year volunteers and 20 hours required of returning Energy Masters.

Created by VCE, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, and Arlington Thrive, the Arlington Energy Masters program was recognized with two accolades this year: a Green Giant award from Washingtonian Magazine and a state award from Virginia Cooperative Extension for excellence in new initiatives. The latter comes with a cash prize that the partners will use to purchase more energy saving supplies as the program enters its third year.

The goals of the program are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help low-income residents cut their utility bills. The next training for new volunteers begins on Sept. 26. If you are interested in becoming an Energy Master please fill out the on-line

Recognizing the 2013 Arlington Energy Master volunteers

Recognizing the 2013 Arlington Energy Master volunteers

application that you can find here: