The beauty of empowering another human being is that we never lose our own power in the process.
Barbara Coloroso

Earlier this month, Elizabeth made a quick mention of the Energy Empowers Web site in her blog post following the State of the Union Address. If you didn't get a chance to visit the site then, I really encourage you to spend a few moments surfing the site sometime soon. Through videos, slideshows, and the Energy Empowers blog, the site highlights the work of real people across the country who are using energy efficiency and renewable energy, much of it funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), to make a real difference in their businesses, their communities and in the lives of those around them.

One of my favorite recent blog posts details how the Department of Energy collaborated with local builders in Washington, D.C., for an episode of the popular television show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." The resulting building is described in the blog as one of the most energy-efficient ever built on the show. Even better, the building will benefit The Fishing School, a youth development group that runs a number of after school and summer programs for children in the D.C. area.

Having an energy efficient building isn't just a luxury for The Fishing School; the reduced utility bills that will result from this efficiency will mean less of the school's money will go towards energy costs and more will go towards the children who use the school's programs.

Stories like this highlight what is for me one of the unsung benefits of energy efficiency. Efficiency projects are not just about positive environmental impacts or using less fossil fuels (although those benefits are important, too). Sometimes, these projects can also mean real and profound impacts in the lives of everyday people.

You can read dozens more stories just like that of The Fishing School through the Energy Empowers website. And, if you've got a story of your own related to energy efficiency, renewable energy and the Recovery Act, you can even share your story through the site. Now that's empowering.

Amy Foster Parish is on staff with the Washington State University Extension Energy Program and answers inquiries through the EERE Information Center.