“We like to call ourselves the mighty little nonprofit that could,” Elenor Hodges, executive director of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, says of the largely volunteer-based organization.
The nonprofit only has three full-time staffers, but it’s gotten a significant swath of the community involved in educational and stewardship projects that support its overarching mission: combatting local environmental issues such as litter, invasive plants and energy use. Last year, ACE attracted nearly 400 volunteers who logged approximately 2,700 service hours.
“Arlington is becoming more of an urban community, and it all comes down to how our spaces are being protected,” Hodges says.
To prevent harmful ecosystem disruptions, ACE works with local schools to teach students about environmental topics that coincide with the classroom’s curriculum. The lessons, which are led by high school students interning with ACE for a four-week project during their senior year, typically take place around mid-to-late May and throughout June when there is a little more flexibility in the class schedules.
“These lessons often teach a topic that might be a little more challenging for teachers, such as where does energy come from, what kinds of energy are there and what are their impacts on the planet,” Hodges says. “One lesson that stands out is our Energy Carnival, which goes through the differences between renewable and nonrenewable energy.”
Usually, around 12 elementary schools sign up for the program, but teaching youth isn’t ACE’s only education initiative. ACE also encourages adults to become Energy Masters by completing a five-week, 16-hour training program on energy efficiency. Upon completing the program, Energy Masters are committed to giving back 40 hours of service to the community, mainly by working with affordable housing providers to make low-income housing more energy efficient. Energy Masters often install low-flow showerheads and energy-efficient lighting, seal windows and doors and add power strips to easily cut energy use when devices no longer need to be charged so owners don’t need to unplug them.
ACE’s largest annual service event, spearheaded by the Alice Ferguson Foundation, is the Potomac Watershed Cleanup, which takes place each April. This year’s event took place April 8, but for those who missed the cleanup, ACE will screen This Changes Everything, a film on climate change, at Arlington Cinema and Draft House April 19 from 6:30-9:30 p.m.
“This is this fourth film that we have done, but this one is particularly cool because we are doing it in line with the Climate March, which takes place on April 29,” Hodges says.
Hodges says climate change is the larger issue ACE wants to address.
“The umbrella issue is climate change,” she says. “This is more than just an Arlington issue, but change can start with our own individual energy use and then our community’s energy use.”
Those looking to either learn more or get involved with ACE can do so by subscribing to ACE’s monthly newsletter, which features other environmental events in beyond ACE’s programs. All interested volunteers are asked to fill out the volunteer form on ACE’s website.