“The first memories I have of working with solar is of putting together little model car kits that had solar panels, then going outside and playing with them in the sun,” says Evergreen senior N. Diems Haffner-Ratliffe ’17.
Solar Activist Helps Organize Climate Change Symposium
He became more familiar with the technology at age 15, when dad Kirk Haffner ’88 started South Sound Solar out of the family home. As the business grew, Haffner-Ratliffe graduated from “company lawnmower” to solar panel installer.
Haffner-Ratliffe already had several years’ experience with solar by the time he enrolled at Evergreen in 2012. As a sophomore, he applied that knowledge to a solar assessment of Evergreen’s covered recreation pavilion for the program Fire and Water: The Sun, Oceans and Atmosphere in Climate Change. Inspired by Haffner-Ratliffe’s project, faculty E.J. Zita later asked the students of her Energy Systems program to perform an energy assessment of the entire campus.
When Evergreen Director of Sustainability Scott Morgan began planning the January 2016 climate change symposium, It’s Happening. What Now? Climate Change Research and Action in Washington State, Haffner-Ratliffe was one of the first students he invited to collaborate. “I know him well enough to trust and value his input,” Morgan said. Haffner-Ratliffe offered ideas during the planning and contacted legislative offices about the event. He admires the tone set by Morgan, which was to highlight current efforts to reduce the effects of climate change. “Our goal in approaching climate change is to show students that it’s not a losing battle.”
Though Haffner-Ratliffe is eligible to walk this spring, he will stay at Evergreen another year to earn a dual B.A./B.S. degree. He later hopes to study the solar industry in Germany, which he notes is the world’s largest producer of solar energy with fewer sunny days per year than Washington state. Long-term, he envisions a career combining hands-on and policy work. “I want to continue to be involved in alternative energy and climate change mitigation,” he said. “I’m definitely a solar activist."
A Calling to Conserve
When Amanda Sargent ’10 enrolled at Evergreen she thought teaching was the right path; after all, her mom and both grandparents were teachers. But the highly sought-after Learning about Learning undergrad program was full.
She recalled relaying her disappointment to a friend, who replied, “You are always talking about climate change and energy policy, why not pursue environmental studies?”
Sargent was hesitant at first. But as she integrated her studies with economics, she realized the programs—especially her two favorites, Energy Systems and Climate Change and Techniques of Sustainability Analysis—didn’t feel like work anymore.
So shortly after graduation, Sargent took a job with Cascade Natural Gas in the regulatory department. “I started on election day in 2012,” she recollected, noting that she had concerns about fracking, a hotly debated environmental and political issue.
“But when I moved into conservation and regulatory work with Cascade, I realized these are the companies that need more Greeners, so we can be the change we want to see.”
Sargent’s position as conservation analyst (she’s also an outreach and education specialist) has her working on all sides of residential, commercial, and industrial energy efficiency. For instance, calculating the delicate balance of integrated resource planning and potential thermal savings in two-and 20-year forecasts for demand-side management.
Summarizing her job satisfaction, Sargent said, “Analysis is my favorite part. There’s a lot of truth in math, with strategy and planning as the result. I contribute to the decisions, make more impact on the changes we want to see, and make conservation a value to the business and the community.