Save Energy, Save Lives: Announcing ACEEE’s newest program, Health and Environment

Blog | May 31, 2017 - 12:21 pm
By Sara Hayes, Program Manager, Health and Environment

Spring is peak season for allergies and asthma. As a result, May has been declared National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. While our air is getting cleaner overall, the number of people with asthma keeps growing. One out of every 13 people in the United States has asthma, now the most common chronic disease that sends our kids to the hospital. Each year, we spend more than $50 billion treating asthma.

We don’t have a cure for asthma, but we do know what causes attacks. Mold, exposure to cold air or sudden temperature changes, air pollution, and pollen are all culprits. Fortunately, these triggers can be managed, reduced, and in some cases even eliminated through energy efficiency measures. Sealing holes that let moisture into a house helps prevent mold, reduces the influx of outdoor pollution, and eliminates exposure to drafts and sudden temperature changes. Changing your furnace’s filters ensures that particles in the air don’t circulate throughout your house. And in addition to the direct health benefits of efficiency measures, evaluating a home’s performance allows you to address key health and safety issues. Do you have a working smoke detector? Is carbon monoxide in your home? These simple questions can save lives.

Energy efficiency doesn’t just protect indoor health; it cleans outside air by reducing pollution from fossil fuel combustion. Power plants and vehicles create pollution by burning fossil fuels, causing hospitalizations and premature deaths. Energy efficiency policies have reduced the pollution of hundreds of power plants and improved the fuel economy of tens of millions of new vehicles. Yet four out of every 10 people in the US still live where the air is unhealthy

At ACEEE we recognize that increasing energy efficiency doesn’t just save us money; it improves public health. Today ACEEE is launching a Health and Environment program with a team dedicated to helping people understand how energy efficiency affects our health--both indoors and out.

Meet the team

JR Denson, Sara Hayes, and Cassandra Kubes

Sara Hayes manages the Health and Environment program. Sara oversees a research team focused on identifying strategies and opportunities to use energy efficiency to reduce pollution and improve human health. She serves on the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act Advisory Committee.

Cassandra Kubes is a senior research analyst of environmental policy. Cassandra leads the team’s efforts to support advocates and policymakers in states and cities working to use energy efficiency to reduce pollution and protect health.

JR Denson is an analyst focusing on public health, including programs that address people’s health and energy needs. JR supports policymakers, advocates, and ACEEE programs as they consider energy efficiency policies and programs that address health and justice in communities across the nation.

While the links between health, environment, and energy efficiency are compelling, they aren’t yet broadly understood by elected officials, public health experts, or air pollution regulators who design programs and develop policy. ACEEE’s Health and Environment program will conduct original research and educate policymakers about how energy efficiency improves health.

Looking for exemplary programs and good news stories

We’re asking you to help identify exemplary programs that are currently improving health while saving energy in buildings. Anyone can nominate a program, and the process is simple.

We also want to hear your stories. Have you done an energy efficiency upgrade in your home or workspace that improved your well being or uncovered unknown dangers? For example, have you noticed less coughing or fewer drafts? Do you feel safer or more comfortable because your home performs better and has lower energy bills? If you have a good news story to share, please email us at EEStories@aceee.org.