Washington DC Green Zone Environmental Program

The Green Zone Environmental Program (GZEP) is a program run by the District of Columbia’s Department of Energy and Environment that provides young adults aged 14 to 24 with summer careers in clean energy. Every year, over 300 youth and young adults throughout the District -- with a focus on recruitment from vulnerable, under-represented communities -- enroll in a six-week training and educational Program. The DOEE and GZEP partner with local businesses to expose participants of the Program to both classroom and hands-on training in the areas of stormwater management, solar energy installments, green infrastructure construction, landscaping, and more.

Each summer, those enrolled in the Program typically spend two days a week in the classroom learning about energy and environmental issues from experts within the District. Topics include climate change, renewable energy such as solar and wind, energy efficiency upgrades, and retrofitting. During in-classroom learning days, participants also spend time with professionals working on career-related skills, such as resume writing, basic job skills, team building, and financial literacy seminars. The remaining three days of the week are filled with first-hand, in-the-field training projects within the local community. Projects that have been completed through the Program by youth in the area include constructing and maintaining urban farms and rain gardens, planting trees and other landscaping services, removing invasive plants, and installing implements of stormwater management, like storm drain markers. These projects are offered through partnering with local businesses, such as the Anacostia Watershed Society, Earth Conservation Corps, and the Metropolitan Police Department. The projects are completed not only to increase resilience within the District, but to also provide participants with the opportunity to learn the tools by which they can compete for clean energy jobs in the future.

GZEP has also partnered with another DOEE program - Solar Works DC - to employ youth throughout the year. Three cohorts are offered throughout the year to all applicants, whereas the summer program recruits only from GZEP enrollees. The Program typically runs in the same fashion as those provided by other partners, with more of a focus on training for careers in solar installation and infrastructure. As an added benefit to this training, Solar Works DC’s partnership with GZEP helps to increase the District’s solar capacity, and decrease costs for low-income residents in the area. The Program is implemented with the assistance of GRID Alternatives Mid-Atlantic, and as of 2017, the Program had completed two cohorts, resulting in 39 graduates. Fourteen of that number are now employed within the solar industry. Additionally, “as a result of Solar Works DC, over 130kW solar capacity has been added in the District, and homeowners can expect to see a 50%-90% reduction in their electric bills, making great impact and savings.”


Publication Date: January 2016

Related Organizations:

  • District Department of Energy and the Environment (DDOE) - Washington DC

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Resource Types:

  • Case study
  • Education/training materials
  • Engagement

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