By Jenevra Wetmore
This fall, Sustainable Woodstock will host a Window Dressers community build to construct insulating window inserts for low-income community members. The inserts function like custom interior storm windows, insulating a home to improve the warmth and comfort of interior spaces, lower heating costs, and reduce carbon dioxide pollution. They will be given to 20 community members in the Woodstock area, and we will need the community’s help to make this initiative successful.
For the past couple of years Window Dressers (WD) builds have been popping up across Vermont. WD is a nonprofit that started in Maine and has since expanded to NH and VT. They bring volunteers together to build low-cost (or free) insulating window inserts for a participating town’s residents. More info is at: https://windowdressers.org/. The WD community builds last 5-8 days, and are based on an old-fashioned barn raising model, where folks come together to construct the inserts. Each insulating window insert is made of a custom-made pine frame wrapped in two layers of tightly-sealed, clear polyolefin film and finished with a compressible foam gasket. The foam allows enough give for the inserts to be easily slid into place in the fall and removed in the spring, while holding firmly enough to provide a tight, friction-based seal that stops drafts and adds two more insulating air spaces. Window Dressers supplies all the necessary materials and training for volunteers.
This program is a great hands-on experience for anyone wanting to help those in our community reduce energy load, save money, and create a warmer living space during the cold months of the year. The Community Build where the inserts are assembled is also a great way to bring neighbors together to participate in a bonding and rewarding process. I participated in the 2021 Window Dressers community build organized by the Strafford/Thetford energy committees. It was an incredibly rewarding experience to visit homes and measure people’s windows, and I wound up meeting neighbors I had never spoken to. When I attended the community build, I saw the inserts come together for the windows I had measured. Because folks receiving the inserts are encouraged to come to the builds, I was able to help some people build inserts for their own homes!
Window Dressers is also an important way of addressing energy burden for low-income Vermonters. Energy burden is the share of a household’s income spent on heat, electricity and transportation. According to Energy Action Vermont, some Vermonters spend over a quarter of their income on energy costs. Even worse, most of those expenses are for fossil fuels, which have volatile prices like those that we are seeing now for heating oil, propane, and at the gas pump. A tighter, well-insulated home is one step towards reducing a home’s energy burden, and to making it a more comfortable space.
Sustainable Woodstock is looking for volunteers of all commitment and skill levels to help us run this program. We would like to find one or two more coordinators to help this summer and fall. This is a great opportunity for anyone interested in working in the environmental world, or anyone motivated by climate/sustainability or issues of justice and equity. We are also looking for kind, dedicated folks to measure the windows in homes this summer to prepare for the build. Measurers can expect to spend two afternoons visiting a total of 4 homes to measure windows, in addition to an hour-long training beforehand. Lastly, we will need a large team of folks to come together and assemble the inserts during the week of the build this autumn. You do not need to have any building experience to be successful at a community build but if building isn’t in your comfort zone, we will also need folks to bring snacks and other food and drink.
We would also like to hear from you if this program sounds like it could benefit you and your home. Are your windows single-pane, or just old and drafty? Window Dressers inserts are a cheap or no-cost way to improve windows, and last for years if taken care of. We only plan to build inserts for folks who identify themselves as needing assistance. Please do not hesitate to reach out if this sounds like you! We plan to build a maximum of 10 inserts per house this year.
A Miniature example of a Window Dressers insert. Photo by Jenevra Wetmore.
What You Can Do:
If you are interested in volunteering for Window Dressers or in receiving inserts, please contact Sustainable Woodstock at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-457-2911