Drawdown’s Neighborhood is a climate solutions short documentary series passing the mic to climate heroes who often go unheard.
New Orleans, LA: Episode #
6
Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Ashley Thompson:
Net Zero Affordable Housing for the People

In this Episode
Ashley Thompson
She/Her
Resident Services Coordinator
Matt Scott
He/Him
Manager, Storytelling & Engagement
“The biggest thing for me is, I enjoy waking up coming here every day because I know I’m going to do something that’s going to help someone, that’s going to put a smile on someone’s face, that may change their perspective.”
In this Episode
Ashley Thompson
She/Her
Resident Services Coordinator
Matt Scott
He/Him
Manager, Storytelling & Engagement

Ashley Thompson’s Story

Ashley Thompson is the resident services coordinator at New Orleans–based St. Bernard Project (SBP), a nonprofit addressing the need to reduce suffering and increase resilience in U.S. communities by shrinking the time between disaster and recovery. Ashley’s role is to support residents in their everyday needs while helping to reach drawdown through efforts that power a Just Transition to a clean energy economy. St. Peter Apartments is the first net-zero affordable housing building in Louisiana, located in the heart of mid-city along the route of the famous Mardi Gras Zulu Parade. There, Ashley teaches tenants how net-zero affordable housing is a benefit for cost savings on their monthly electricity bills while also benefiting the greater good of energy conservation, which is necessary for drawing down emissions that contribute to climate change.

Discussion Questions

One of the most important things you can do regarding climate change is talk about it.

  • St. Peter Apartments are mixed-income housing for families, women, children, singles, veterans, and people who are disabled. These homes are also a climate solution. Tenants save money by living in a net-zero building and benefit from the added security of a solar-powered battery backup system that holds strong if hurricanes and climate-disaster events knock out the traditional energy grid. “During the time of the hurricane, our tenants still had light here when the rest of the city was out for probably two and a half weeks.” What are the limits of our existing built infrastructure, like buildings, for addressing climate change? How might we reimagine our built systems to be designed for decades (versus years)? What are your ideas for incorporating green technologies and social impact strategies (like St. Peter Apartments) that exemplify climate solutions?
  • Ashley talks about missed opportunities for property management companies and developers to demonstrate compassion and improve the lives of residents. She advocates for the housing industry to play a more proactive role in breaking the vicious cycle of poverty by increasing tenant education and skills in areas like money management, meaningful employment searches, and understanding homeownership. “There is so much more to [housing] management than just collecting rent from people every month.” What do you think about the idea of social impact through affordable housing? What are other examples of industries traditionally focused on increasing profits? What kinds of businesses and services might you advocate for to increase equity and show more care and compassion for the people whose lives intersect with their services?
  • As the newly minted genealogy expert in her family, Ashley has reconstructed a family tree by researching her ancestral roots. She speaks about the importance of knowing where your family comes from, and the wisdom that can be passed from elders to the next generation. “There are so many untold stories.” Do you know your ancestral history? What stories or lessons learned from your life, do you hope will be passed on to the next generation? What is the significance of sharing these stories?
  • Ashley has found her purpose in people-centered work and her role at SBP, intentionally cultivating a positive mindset about her daily impact. “[Sometimes] people go to work, just to go to work. They are not going because it makes them happy, and they enjoy it… The biggest thing for me is I enjoy waking up, coming here every day because I know I'm going to do something that's going to help someone, that's going to put a smile on someone’s face, that may change their perspective.” How do you show compassion and care by helping others in your life? When you help others, how does that impact you personally?

Learn More

Learn about the solutions in this story.

Explore Climate Solutions 101, the world's first major educational effort focused solely on climate solutions. This video series combines Project Drawdown’s trusted resources with the expertise of inspiring, scientifically knowledgeable voices from around the world: drawdown.org/climate-solutions-101.

Visit the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, a resource that shares research, communications strategy and opinion polling on climate communications.

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