A short discussion by Maria Vargas of EERE – Department of Energy that fits our Ladies Monday articles.
Maria Vargas has been with the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) since 2011, but she’s been in the federal government for more than 30 years; previously at the Environmental Protection Agency. As a leading woman in energy, she has seen many changes in the efficiency arena and believes saving money on energy efficient buildings is just the beginning. Vargas has seen Americans (both at home and at work) become much more aware – and interested – in energy efficiency. Through the Better Buildings Initiative, she has helped organizations implement their energy efficiency goals.
Q. As a woman entering the workforce, what were some of the challenges you faced?
A. As a young woman entering the work world, many of the challenges I faced were related to the complexity of the issues themselves. Whether it was working on the issue of ozone depletion or helping to drive greater energy efficiency across the U.S. economy, the work required a thorough command of the facts as well as the barriers and opportunities to solving the problem. These issues required innovative thinking and creative problem solving. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges was not taking “no” for an answer and to keep working until there was a solution that worked for everyone.
Q. What did you want to be when you grew up?
A. Growing up, I didn’t have a specific career or job in mind, but I always knew what meant the most to me was helping others and making a difference on a big scale. Those of us working on energy efficiency and renewable energy here at the Energy Department are lucky because our work does both of those things.
Q. What is your advice for young women entering the workforce?
A. Work hard and take every opportunity to learn and become an expert in your subject area. Pay close attention to details and ALWAYS follow through when you say you will do something – it makes a big difference and will set you apart. Also, don’t be afraid to help lead the way. To quote Margaret Mead, “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.”
Q. How can we help Americans be more efficient?
A. As an office committed to helping Americans be more efficient, we are helping them save money and be more comfortable at home and at work. Whether its businesses, states, buildings, or homeowners, it is rewarding to help people recognize what part of their energy demands they can meet through energy efficiency and renewable energy. There’s a tremendous opportunity in this country because, on average, homes and businesses can save 20%-30% on their energy bills. We know that many can save far more than that, it’s just that they have to make a bigger investment. Twenty to 30% nationwide in our buildings and homes is $100 billon dollars a year we can save this country.
Q. What do you like to do when not fighting for a clean energy future?
A. I spend as much time as I can outdoors. I like to run, bike, and hike. Anyone who knows me also knows I like to walk. There is a joke among those that work with me that if you’re going to go to a meeting with Maria, you better make sure to bring your walking shoes. I agree with the saying “everything’s within walking distance if you have the time.”