Trees, Water & People
Purpose Prize Fellow 2013
Fox helps Native Americans tap into the power of renewable energy to warm homes and build renewable energy businesses on tribal reservations.
When Richard Fox learned in 2002 that some of the Lakota people living on the poverty-stricken Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota freeze to death every winter because they can’t afford to heat their poorly insulated or completely unheated homes, he was moved to action.
“No one should freeze to death in their own home because they can’t afford heat,” he says. “I made a solemn vow to do all I could to combat this terrible situation. Thus was born my encore career.”
Fox launched the Tribal Renewable Energy Program in 2002. An expert in forestry and natural resource management, he had founded the nonprofit Trees, Water & People in 1998 to improve living conditions in poor communities through sustainable practices. Fox worked closely with Henry Red Cloud, a Lakota elder, to develop a supplemental solar air heating system that produces heat whenever the sun is shining. They installed the system in 277 homes, bringing life-giving warmth for just pennies a day.
Inspired to train others, in 2006 they began the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center, a one-of-a-kind training facility that teaches tribal members the skills and knowledge they need to start renewable energy businesses on their reservations. Today the organization works with 21 tribes across the Great Plains and has seen 150 students complete RCREC’s training.
“As Henry says, renewable energy is ‘a new way to honor the old ways,’” Fox says. “With my encore career, I am providing Native Americans access to sustainable technology that improves their quality of life while respecting Mother Earth.”