MCE Changemaker: Barbara Postel

MCE Changemaker: Barbara Postel

The Changemaker blog series celebrates MCE’s 10-year anniversary by recognizing the extraordinary people who support us and further our mission.

Barbara Postel lives in Atchison Village, a mutual homes association [cooperative] in Richmond, CA that was originally built as housing for Kaiser Shipyard workers during World War II. Today it is a diverse, 450 unit, multigenerational community with a democratically-elected Board of Directors.

Ms. Postel has been a changemaker in her local community and beyond, with an unwavering commitment to sustainability and service. Thanks to this dedication, MCE is honored to share this interview and recognize Barbara Postel as an MCE Changemaker.

Tell me about the sustainability projects you’ve been involved in at Atchison Village.
I moved to Atchison village in 2010 and was delighted to find opportunities to contribute here. These included a water-saving project locating 30 older toilets and utilizing East Bay Municipal Water District’s rebates to upgrade them to high-efficiency models, a big archiving project preserving and organizing Atchison Village’s original 1941 blueprints, crawl space work in our 162 buildings, and working with a team that applied for the village and surrounding residential areas to be a site in the Bay Area Resilient by Design program.

I also worked with GRID Alternatives in partnership with MCE so income-qualifying residents in Atchison Village could install free solar arrays, and now I’m working with MCE and the City towards installing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations.

Tell me more about your work with GRID Alternatives and getting solar installed in your community.
When GRID Alternatives program appeared on the City’s website, I applied. I wanted to see if we would qualify, and to learn what they were offering so I could take it to the board of directors and say, “Look what the city is offering, and here are the details.” But initially my application was rejected because we don’t have deeds to our units illustrating home ownership, because we cooperatively own the whole property. So I emailed our Mayor, Tom Butt, and he emailed right back saying, “I’m forwarding this to [City Manager] Bill Lindsay.” Bill Lindsay contacted Sacramento and within a week they had rephrased their qualification terminology to let us be eligible. Eventually we got through all the hoops and hurdles, and we got the green light. There are now 100 units in the Village with free solar arrays on their roofs, and 25 more are scheduled to have them installed this year.

How do you make sustainability a priority in your life?
I’m all about switching off fossil fuels. To help address the climate crisis I drive an electric vehicle, have rooftop solar, eat a plant-based diet, cook on an induction stove, and attempt to cut down on fossil-fuel dependence wherever possible.

These changes have come incrementally. My plan is that as need arises or opportunity presents, each home improvement I make will be a switch off fossil fuel and conversion to electric — electrify everything! When my water heater quits, I hope to install a heat pump which can both heat water and my little home as well.

Why did you become a Deep Green 100% renewable energy customer?
I signed up for Deep Green the first minute that MCE came into Richmond because it’s great to have the opportunity to help with the climate crisis. MCE is doing the day-to-day, step-by-step work that makes the change happen. I’m a fan and I’m so appreciative!

What benefits have you seen since installing a solar system and getting an EV?
I’ve seen the benefits money-wise, but my main goal is to stop being part of the problem. So yes, I’m saving money, the car is incredibly cheap, there’s free (or cheap) charging in many places, there are no more smog checks and no more oil changes, and I bought it used. My solar panels generate more power than I use, so the extra goes out to the grid and some money comes back. But my biggest thrill is that I’m cleaning up my carbon footprint.

What do you wish more people knew about clean energy?
Things have changed — the technology is available and prices have come way down. It’s no longer too expensive to change to cleanly-generated electricity. And electric cars are awesome, and used EVs are now becoming available at low prices. There are rebates available to encourage this transition off fossil fuels. Every step, even small ones, help. Energy conservation, too, is a contribution. A step-by-step plan to replace your fossil fuel-powered car, water heater, space heater, and stove with electric versions is a smart plan. The scientists have mapped it out for us — we must cut global greenhouse gas emissions in half in the next 10 years. So, let’s all do it. Go team earth!

What would you say to someone who is interested in learning about how they can become more environmentally active?
It can be really fun. This year I joined the East Bay chapter of the Electric Auto Association. Those folks know so much and you don’t need to own an EV to join. I volunteered with GRID Alternatives and got to help on a rooftop solar installation — super fun! A few years ago I helped on an Historical Ecology Study of Mt. Wanda, part of the John Muir National Historic Site — I learned a lot and had fun too. These projects really lit my fire. There are many, many people doing such good work and I appreciate having had these opportunities to join them.

MCE celebrates Barbara Postel as a community changemaker. Ms. Postel plans to continue her environmental work in the coming years through various projects. She hopes to work with the Atchison Village tree committee to plant trees on the streets of the Village to support the local water table. In addition, Ms. Postel reviewed plans of Atchison Village to mark potential locations for EV charging stations, and she hopes to continue her efforts to make EV charging more accessible in her community.

Learn about some of the programs Ms. Postel has brought to her community:

Pictured above: Barbara Postel and grandson.

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