ecobee Citizen

Building Hope with Habitat for Humanity

ecobee employees share their experience volunteering with Habitat for Humanity GTA.

by ecobee on 04/19/2024 in Better Planet

6 min read

ecobee team members standing outside of a house they helped build for Habitat for Humanity.

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At ecobee, one of our core values is continuous learning. Some of the best learning opportunities come from experience, and the ecobee Acts program offers ecobee employees four days a year to put towards volunteering experience. But the program is so much more than just a volunteering opportunity. ecobee employees can also donate one ecobee Smart Thermostat per year to a charity or non-profit of their choice, as well as participating in what we call Dollar for Doers, which helps ecobee employees raise funds for a cause that’s important to them.

“Having a positive impact on people and our planet guides our work every day,” said Naghmeh Rezvanpour, co-leader of the ecobee Acts working group. “That’s why ecobee created ecobee Acts: a home for all the initiatives we undertake that help us live that principle. ecobee Acts strives to make these programs more accessible and inclusive, empowering ecobee employees to get involved in the community and maximize their personal impact.”

Child in front of family holding up a key with the Habitat for Humanity logo.

Partnering with a purpose.

ecobee Acts working group and parent company Generac are proud to support Habitat for Humanity GTA. Habitat for Humanity is dedicated to fostering affordable and inclusive communities in building strength, stability, and self-reliance through affordable housing. This mission ties into Generac and ecobee’s shared goal to create comfortable, secure, efficient, and resilient homes.

Emphasizing a ‘hand up’ rather than a ‘hand out’, Habitat for Humanity prioritizes ownership and instills a sense of responsibility by requiring homeowners to contribute 500 hours to the manual labor of their homes, instead of needing to provide a down payment.

Often, Habitat for Humanity is the first form of financial education for these new homeowners. Becoming financially literate is important to help them build wealth, have a financial plan for the future, and avoid debt traps. The experiential learning opportunity provides practical insights into the real costs and efforts involved in owning a home.

In partnering with Habitat for Humanity GTA, ecobee is able to have a direct impact in the communities around us.

- Dorothy Comber, VP, Data Science at ecobee

Since Habitat for Humanity’s inception in 1988, they’ve helped more than 500 families across the GTA, and in the next five years they plan to build more affordable homes than in their entire history. This is more important than ever, since over the past 20 years, Habitat for Humanity notes it has seen “home prices in Toronto increase by 213%, and the cost of rent has risen nearly 20% over the past year alone.”

In addition to providing access to affordable homes, they also own and operate a chain of home improvement stores across the region that they call ‘Habitat ReStore’, where they sell new and gently used items at a fraction of the retail price. The proceeds from these sales support their overhead costs – allowing for even more investment and funding toward building homes. As a bonus, by extending the life of household items, Habitat ReStore reduces the consumption of new products, supporting a planet positive vision.

Hear from Toronto couple Jill and Sam on how Habitat for Humanity was able to change their lives for the better.

Habitat for Humanity’s Habitat Build Day presents a unique employee engagement initiative, allowing ecobee employees to take a day off work to volunteer and help hard-working families build a home of their own.

For a recent Habitat Build Day on Nov. 24, 2023 in Toronto, the ecobee Acts team created a competition among employees as there were only 12 spots for attendees from ecobee. Employees who donated a device were eligible for entry into a draw. In just five days, ecobee employees collected 56 new Smart Thermostat Premium devices for the Habitat homes being built in the GTA, demonstrating the enthusiasm and commitment of ecobee employees to make a difference. The more homes ecobee can reach, the more energy we can collectively save, and the greater the impact we can have towards a sustainable world.

ecobee team member participating in a build for Habitat for Humanity in 2023.

Taking matters into our own hands.

The build day started at 8:30am. After a brief safety training, ecobee employees were divided into groups, led by volunteer crew leaders. Product Marketing Specialist, Azalfa Shafiq was tasked to aid with the insulation process for the house floors. “We had to insulate the floor with foam to protect from any moisture and keep the place warm. We cleared out all construction materials, cleaned up any dirt and got to work putting down foam boards Tetris-style”. Once the insulation was complete, the other group of ecobee employees then came in with the plywood and wood for the flooring.

On their own, the Habitat for Humanity crew can get through two units over three days, however with all the additional ecobee support, they managed to complete four units in a day.

The ecobee team also got a chance to meet a family that’s about to move into a qualified low-income unit. In a conversation with Azalfa, she mentioned how she is so grateful for Habitat for Humanity and the many volunteers and organizations like ecobee working to make a difference. “It was fun to talk to someone who was actually going to benefit from it and fulfilling that we got to make an impact” said Azalfa.

There are many obstacles to affordable housing, so it meant a lot to aid in building homes for deserving families. It's an investment we can cherish.

- Azalfa Shafiq, Product Marketing Specialist at ecobee

Family on the front lawn of their new Habitat for Humanity house.

A holistic effort.

Built into ecobee’s core values are our three planet positive pillars. These consist of Sustainability Built-In, Sustainable Lives, and Community Impact. Energy represents a significant burden and expense for many families. Throughout America, low-to-moderate income households spend a larger percentage of their income on electricity and home energy costs than other households. The amount residents spend on energy in relation to their income is referred to as a household’s “energy burden”.

To help combat the “energy burden” and promote energy equity, ecobee Community Impact programs are designed to provide better access to our energy-saving devices. And engaging our employees is one way we're working to better achieve this goal. With ecobee Smart Thermostats, customers in North America can save up to 26%* on their heating and cooling costs, while lowering their environmental impact.

We view ecobee not as a static corporate entity, but as an active and integral part of our community. Just like any other community member, we believe companies hold a responsibility to enhance the well-being of the community. “Corporate giving and community involvement is also an important part of our culture at Generac. We focus on helping our neighbors and improving community conditions in partnership with our employees. ecobee employees identified a charity that could align all our interests and create an opportunity for employees to roll up their sleeves and help deliver a solution.” said Kelly Skindzelewski, Community Programs Manager at Generac.

* Based on an internal analysis conducted in April 2021, ecobee customers in North America saved up to 26% on their heating and cooling costs.

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