After a long winter with cold and short days, we all look forward to shaking off the chill in our bones and going outside to soak up some summer sun. However, as the summer heats up, we quickly go from seeking out the sun to wanting to hide from it. So, the question turns from “what are we doing today?” to “how am I going to stay cool?”. 

For people who struggle to pay their utility bills, summer cooling costs can become particularly burdensome. The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps people stay warm all winter; however, the program leaves Pennsylvanians with no resources to mitigate high cooling costs. Pair this with lack of trees, porches, and awnings block after block and you’ve got a recipe to bake folks until crispy. 

Esperanza recognized this problem and partnered with Community Legal Services (CLS) to create a policy brief to help convince lawmakers and decision makers to address the issue by extending financial aid grants into the summer for cooling costs. While we can push for changes to LIHEAP to fill in gaps in service, such efforts will take some time to realize; time that many community members especially seniors, young children, and those with health issues do not have. Esperanza is not only pushing for changes to LIHEAP to help with the costs of summer cooling, but they are also leading a variety of cooling efforts with more immediate results.  

One way Esperanza has been helping to increase shade in the community is by planting trees with the help of our partners at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) and TreePhilly. On an extra sunny summer day, the shade is our friend because temperatures in the shade can feel 10-15 degrees cooler even on a day with little to no wind. This means that helping people have access to shade while they are outside can drastically help them stay cool. The same idea works for homes too since a house in the shade will be cooler than one under the sun all day. 

This year alone Esperanza has planted 72 street trees and distributed 148-yard trees to community members in our service footprint. As those trees mature, they will provide the much-needed shade folks need to stay cool while outside. But some of you may ask, what about blocks that are not eligible for trees?  

For blocks that can’t have trees or lack porches and awnings, Esperanza and Drexel University decided to create a structure that could provide shade itself called a bench planter. Over the last 3 years, the bench planter project installed over 150 bench planters across 9 blocks in the Hunting Park community which provided residents with shade, a place to sit, and ample room for native plants to thrive in. 

While Esperanza continues efforts to make the outside cooler by adding shade-giving tree canopies and alternative cooling structures like bench planters, Esperanza is also exploring more and more ways to tackle heat indoors. With their partner at CLS, Esperanza’s push to make LIHEAP available all year long is just one more step towards helping our community achieve energy equity. 


Por favor ingrese su comentario!
Por favor ingrese su nombre aquí