Sustainability Champion

Reading the community notices on a Portland nonprofit’s bulletin board, I saw an ad for the
“Tod LeFevre Gorge Sustainability Awards.” Odd, I thought. Tod LeFevre was in his late forties, an engineer who lived in the Gorge and taught a series of sustainable-energy classes with the community education service. I had taken those classes in 2005 to learn about improving our seven acres with solar, wind and/or water power.

Tod was his own little power station, buzzing with energy at the evening classes even though he, like the rest of us who were swilling coffee to stay awake, had worked a full day. He had a bunch of print-outs for us to take home, ran a PowerPoint he had created, and ad-libbed extensively and enthusiastically from his notes.

Tod had built a net-zero house in Colorado somewhere in the late 1990s, and then sold it and moved to the Columbia River Gorge with his wife. They converted their house in Hood River to net-zero-or-close-to-it by adding solar panels and making other adjustments. Understanding and limiting electricity draw is a major factor in living with sustainable energy—as he demonstrated how to track household energy use, he presented his own home as a model. For example, you typically can’t run the dishwasher and the clothes dryer at the same time.

“So,” he illustrated, “if you run your vacuum about an hour a week …” I thought, Hm—I run my vacuum about once a month. On top of everything else, his house is immaculate??

A tireless advocate of sustainable energy, Tod fought for a number of local municipal projects, including solar panels that were installed at the school in the town of Mosier. He was the kind of guy who persevered by winning people over, not just advocating for ideas.

So I was pretty shocked to read that the Tod LeFevre Gorge Sustainability Awards were in memoriam. Unbeknownst to me, Tod suffered from pulmonary fibrosis and died in March 2011, before donor lungs could be found.

Though a year late, I am lamenting the passing of a bright bulb—lit by sustainable energy!

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