Fellow Chester Thrower: Retrofit Homes, Shift the Paradigm

Authors: Maritza Martinez, Fellowship Program Manager “It’s all about self-motivation.”
Chester did not only get involved in green economy work for himself, he sees the work as an avenue for reducing violence in his hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. He believes that training young people for solar panel installation is a concrete way to break the cycle of poverty. "If low-income people are not aware and are not exposed to these opportunities right now, two, three years later it may be too late. We may get shut out of the process again,” says Chester. Contrary to what the media says, he knows green jobs do exist. "It is about positioning oneself in order to take advantage of the opportunities that will come down the pike! [Jobs] will not be handed to you, you have to grab them," he says. “You have to want to be involved in change.” Earlier this year, Chester received funding through Green For All’s Fellows Fund to launch Project Seal-Up, a start-up green business designed to retrofit old housing stock with simple Do-It-Yourself and cost effective updates. In the last 4 months, he held training sessions for low-income residents explaining the benefits of CFL lighting compared to incandescent and how to put a household on a diet by doing the small things that make a difference on monthly bills. Last month, he also began installing blower doors and draft finders for program participants. Chester’s vision for Project Seal-Up goes beyond the individual houses he has helped retrofit in his community. “Ultimately this will result in the success and empowerment of a community, as well as a vital paradigm shift for historically disadvantaged minorities,” he says. Chester and Project Seal-Up were recently featured by Pop City Media. (Read more about the project.) “I would recommend that people spend a few years working for someone else in the same field before starting their own business.” Recently, Chester started a new job at EIC Comfort Homes as an Energy Auditor. Each day, he drives an hour and a half to Castle, PA to evaluate the energy efficiency of homes for low-income residents. Through a program at the utility company - Penn Power, residents can receive the necessary retrofits to make their homes more energy efficient. The work is challenging. On a typical day, Chester may find himself climbing into an attic or crawling under a mobile home to find energy inefficiencies. “I feel good when I go into someone’s home and they are grateful for the savings we provide,” says Chester about his work as an energy auditor.

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