Education & Outreach Conducted by Yamileth Carachure Flores
The Latinx Energy Stories Project is a community-led effort to illustrate the ways Latinx communities interact with our existing energy system. Through education and outreach on weatherization, energy efficiency, and energy programs, we have been able to name and identify accessibility needs, and other relevant areas for culturally specific support. As a member of the Latinx community and contracted personnel for CEED, my role was to conduct energy education and outreach in the Latinx community, while engaging in discussion, storytelling, and/or survey collection to document the stories and experiences of Latinx Minnesotans and how they navigate the energy system.
From Fall of 2022, through Spring of 2023, I connected with 40 people in conversation and collected a total of 30, very thorough, surveys – some of which were completed collaboratively as individuals requested assistance writing or wanted to discuss their responses in more detail. I heard multi-generational stories from youth and elders alike as they shared their habits for staying warm in the cold Minnesota winters, how they find alternative solutions to rising utility costs, and the puzzles of working within an English language dominated system to address rising energy costs.
The Latinx Energy Stories Project captured the reality of what Latinx households experience when it comes to saving energy and managing their utility bills. Overall, some takeaways include:
- The act of “staying warm” in the winter was mainly through “free” alternatives (i.e. layering clothing or blankets, placing sheets over the windows, drinking/eating hot meals), with less access to/awareness of weatherization or efficiency solutions
- Awareness of energy saving/efficiency was obtained from observing others or taught by a parent or grand-parent
- All surveyed households noted that they are not currently enrolled in any energy affordability programs
- Many households are comprised of multi-generational and extended families
- Majority of the households were immigrant or mixed-status families
- English was not the language spoken within home and not the most accessible for most
- Household dynamics were increasingly collaborative when it came to paying utility bills, typically splitting costs amongst 2-5 individuals
- More than half of the surveyed households worked 30-60 hours a week
- More than half of the surveyed households noted that half or more than half of their monthly income went to their utility bills
- Youth and children play a large role navigating their households utility bills via translation and payment logistics
It is imperative to have multilingual access and outreach to ESL, immigrant, and low-income communities in Minnesota regarding process, timeline, and eligibility for energy affordability programs. Nearly all households surveyed were eligible, and in being enrolled in the program, many of the existing burdens and experiences could be dissolved.