The Sustainability InstituteThe Sustainability Institute

About Us

What started in 1999 as a small, grassroots organization has blossomed into one of the region’s most trusted and respected nonprofits. The Sustainability Institute has a 15 year+ history of producing groundbreaking work to prepare, protect and sustain housing during a time when many Charleston neighborhoods are eroding, facing unprecedented pressures from development and growth, and experiencing increasing vulnerabilities from a changing climate.

The Sustainability Institute Team

Our Work


1000+ homeowners in the greater Charleston area have been empowered with new skills and robust education that has helped them reduce their home energy bills through simple home repairs and behavioral modification.


750+ homes have been energy-audited by our certified professionals, helping provide homeowners with a roadmap for making efficiency improvements and helping them access incentives and rebates.


240+ low-income homes have been fully weatherized and upgraded with energy efficiency repairs and improvements, saving most families 20% or more on electricity costs.


125+ at-risk youth and veterans have participated in our AmeriCorps workforce training program, the Energy Conservation Corps, with a 92% job placement rate for graduates.

Move Over, Climate

The Sustainability Institute Is Also Making Change


The Sustainability Institute spearheaded one of the country’s first “EcoDistricts” – a pilot project that incentives sustainable practices for redevelopment of the City of Charleston’s Upper Peninsula area.


Better Buildings Neighborhood Program

The Sustainability Institute managed a 3 year Better Buildings energy efficiency program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance which served more than a 1000 customers, retrofitted more than 200 Charleston homes, trained building professionals, and qualified families for utility rebates for efficiency upgrades.


Home Depot Foundation's Sustainable Cities Institute Pilot

The Sustainability Institute managed a pilot project for the Home Depot Foundation’s Sustainable Cities Institute which conducted 200 energy assessments and retrofits on Charleston houses and produced a specialized curriculum on retrofitting historic structures.

Pathways Out of Poverty: Green Jobs Program

More than 200 disadvantaged individuals were trained and certified through a green jobs initiative that we co-managed with Trident Technical College as a part of the U.S. Department of Labor’s “Pathways Out of Poverty” program.

What Concerns Us Most

1. Housing Insecurity & Affordability


  • Housing disrepair is rampant in low-income communities.

  • Families lack access to safe, efficient and affordable housing.

  • Families suffer economically from historically rising and unaffordable energy costs.


More than 50,000 homes in the Charleston area are in urgent need of energy upgrades. Electricity bills for many families in Charleston have risen more than 30% since 2010. Cost-effective efficiency improvements in low-income households in our state can reduce electricity consumption by 29-32% on average.

2. Inequity


Low-income households spend a larger portion of their income on home energy costs (as much as 3x other households) and thus carry the highest energy burden, often causing them to choose between paying energy bills and paying other essential expenses.


South Carolina ranks fifth for the highest low-income energy burden, with low-income families using 36% more electricity than the low-income national average. The low-income energy burden for many low-income families in our state is above 10% (they spend more than 10% of their income on energy), more than $350/month in electricity costs for many of the families we serve.

3. A Changing Climate


The Lowcountry region’s poorest communities are the most ill-equipped and vulnerable to severe climate-related environmental challenges, including excessive heat, flooding, air pollution and major storms.


These communities are disproportionately impacted by having a higher rate of adverse health conditions, increased exposure to environmental hazards, and take longer to bounce back from natural disasters.

“Empowering families is the heart of the Sustainability Institute. By mobilizing the region’s most vulnerable neighborhoods, we address their overlapping challenges with a combination of innovative programs, collaborative projects, strategic planning, and research.”

Bryan Cordell

Our Board

The Institute is guided by an active Board of Directors as well as active Advisory and Working Groups.

Our Staff

Our daily work is led by a staff of professionally-certified sustainability and energy experts.