Nicholas School Internship Blogs

Final Thoughts
by -- August 25th, 2015

Recently I finished my internship at the Rocky Mountain Institute and I’m back in Durham for another year of school.  I wanted to write one last post to sum up my thoughts from the summer.

As I described in my first post, RMI is a place full of creatively-thinking, driven, and visionary people, and working with all of them this summer was inspiring.  RMI is known as a leader in sustainable energy by many across the field, and being a part of that was fantastic.  The work I did for the buildings team, writing case studies about outstanding deep retrofits, I know will be used to move more of the building industry forwards towards sustainable energy use.

Despite this forward-thinking culture, though, my behavioral energy efficiency work was more difficult than expected.  I realized this summer that the inertia towards behavior change exists universally, even in individuals who sincerely care about the cause that the behavior change would help.  At the end of my internship, I wrote up my proposal for the behavioral energy efficiency program, including suggested strategies to incentivize plug load reductions and promote sustainable commuting, as well as best practices for hoteling.  I achieved my end goal, but the path there wasn’t as smooth as I’d expected.

I was thinking about this as I climbed my last mountain of the summer, the weekend after I finished my internship.  With a group of five others, I embarked up Kelso Ridge on Torrey’s Peak, a Class 3 scrambling route that required some technical climbing and most definitely the use of climbing helmets.  The trek up this 14er didn’t go as well as my last one; I was climbing on four hours of sleep and so wasn’t feeling my best.  Pictured below is the “knife edge”: the most difficult part of the route, where we had to cross an ten to fifteen foot edge of rock by scooting across it.

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The Knife Edge on Torrey’s Peak

The climb did not go as pleasantly as planned, and neither did my behavioral energy efficiency work at RMI.  What matters, though, is that in both cases I reached my goal.  I can dream big and aim high in my career and personal life, and just need to be prepared that the way to those goals won’t always be pretty, but if I’m determined and thoughtful I can do what I want to do!

Thanks for following my blog this summer.  I hope you all learned a little bit about behavioral energy efficiency and enjoyed seeing the pictures of colorful Colorado!

1 Comment

  1. Tawnee
    Aug 25, 2015

    Great last post, Jenny. I especially appreciated your frank appraisal of the challenges involved with inducing sustainable behavioral change, even in the most well-intentioned individuals (these plans always seem so straight-forward on paper, don’t they?!). I’m glad the RMI experience gave you a well-rounded picture of both the opportunities and obstacles we face in this particular area of the environmental field, which will no doubt be immensely informative to your work in the future. I’ve certainly enjoyed following your journey in CO this summer and I know many others have too!

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