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Climate Solutions are Health Solutions: An Evaluation of PUSH Green's Home Energy Efficiency Program

Date: Jul 6, 2022
Author(s): Colleen Kristich, Becca Bass, Clarke Gocker, Nicholas Rajkovich
Topic(s): Environment: Air Pollution, Climate Change, and Energy, Environment: Buildings and Housing, Environment: Environmental Justice, Environment: General, Housing / Neighborhoods: General, Housing / Neighborhoods: Green Housing, Housing / Neighborhoods: Housing Conditions and Repairs
Type: Report

PUSH Green, a program of People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) in Buffalo, New York, addresses housing, health and climate needs all at the same time. PUSH Green links homeowners and renters with low-cost or no cost home energy improvements, which reduce the household’s use of fossil fuels and in turn save money on utility bills. The primary environmental and economic benefits of weatherization programs have been apparent for decades; however, it is only recently that attention has been paid to the potential for these programs to improve the overall health and safety of the household, and for housing and climate issues to be seen through the lens of health equity and environmental and racial justice.

In 2019, PUSH Buffalo, Partnership for the Public Good, and the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning were granted funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Climate and Health Solutions program to study the health, housing, and climate impacts of the PUSH Green program. The research team interviewed PUSH Green participants and staff, conducted focus groups and analyzed program data provided by NYSERDA to document, understand, and evaluate the cumulative impacts of PUSH Green on health equity, climate change, and the uniqueness of its community-based, integrated approach by looking at key indicators related to individual health and wellness, community well-being, energy bill savings, and climate change mitigation.

The present study generated a variety of actionable insights that can be applied across multiple levels. The report includes recommendations for community-based organizations (CBOs) in cities facing similar challenges related to an aging housing stock, costly energy inefficiencies, limited living-wage workforce opportunities, and historic underinvestment in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. It also outlines recommendations for policy makers across the city, county, and state levels interested in implementing equitable clean energy policies that more effectively meet the needs of local communities.