Impact Giving: The Mountaineers Goes Solar

In this piece from Mountaineers Magazine, read about members Charlie and Carol Michel and their decision to help The Mountaineers go solar.
Amber Carrigan Amber Carrigan
Development Director
September 09, 2018

Within five minutes of meeting Charlie and Carol Michel, it’s clear that they care very deeply about three things: sea kayaking, The Mountaineers, and our collective carbon footprint.

For both Charlie and Carol, a love of the outdoors is embedded in their bones. Charlie grew up in an active family, spending countless days a year skiing and boating in Lake Oswego, Oregon. As a teen, Charlie and his parents spent their winters rescuing fallen skiers at Mt. Hood as a part of the mountain’s volunteer ski patrol team. Carol grew up hiking, backpacking, and camping around the PNW. Her father, Tom Campbell, was an avid outdoorsman, and even introduced the legendary Whittaker brothers, Jim and Lou, to climbing.

As adults, Charlie and Carol’s love of the outdoors continued to grow and they began climbing, mountain biking, and cycling. It wasn’t until nine years ago, when a friendly neighbor invited Charlie out for a day of sea kayaking, that their love of paddling truly began. That trip inspired the couple to participate in some local group outings, and eventually join The Mountaineers to take courses and learn proper paddling technique.

Charlie paddles at Deception Pass. Photo by Kym Ahrens.

Flash forward nearly a decade and he's earned 20 badges, including Super Volunteer in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. Charlie has led or assisted on over 100 sea kayaking trips, including a voyage along the Vancouver Island Pacific Coast that spanned 21 days and 197 nautical miles. They’re also Peak Society members, with Charlie being a qualified youth leader and sea kayak committee chairperson. They affectionately refer to The Mountaineers as their second family, having made some of their closest friends through trips on the water.

In addition to their love of The Mountaineers and the outdoors, Charlie and Carol share a passion for conservation – specifically reducing their carbon footprint. The roof of their Bremerton home boasts 46 solar panels, which provide enough energy to power their entire home and electric car—a car that efficiently transports them, their kayaks, and their bicycles to all of their favorite PNW destinations. They have chosen to significantly cut down on travel by plane and travel by bicycle and public transportation whenever possible.

THE MICHELS STAND NEXT TO THEIR HOUSE’S SOLAR PANELS. PHOTO BY AMBER CARRIGAN.


Their interest in conservation and carbon footprint reduction began at a young age. In the 1970s, Charlie’s father became an early adopter of solar and wind power. Carol’s father also cared deeply about our populations' collective impact on the planet, and the couple have shared many evenings with him, discussing the reality of climate change. For Charlie, the epiphany came in 2001 when he was looking down on a vaguely familiar glacier in Grindelwald, Switzerland. He had worked and hiked the area in 1976 and couldn’t believe that the shorter, thinner, and diminutive glacier below him was the same one that he’d stood on 25 years earlier

It was the Michel family’s combined passion for the outdoors, The Mountaineers, and carbon footprint reduction that spawned a generous idea: provide a significant tax-deductible charitable donation to empower their second family to go solar. An investment in solar at our Seattle Program Center was a surefire way to further their conservation outcomes by reducing The Mountaineers’ carbon footprint and empowering the organization to be one that exemplifies sustainable practices. For Charlie and Carol, this gift was a way to realize a positive change that they wanted to see in the world.

CHARLIE INSTRUCTING FOR A BASIC SEA KAYAKING CLASS. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHARLIE MICHEL.

When Charlie and Carol first approached The Mountaineers in December with their idea to put a full solar system on the roof of the Seattle Program Center, they couldn’t have come at a better time. The organization was in the midst of a strategic planning process in which our community showed strong support for investments in conservation and carbon footprint reduction.

Switching to solar power at the Seattle Program Center will produce immediate energy-reducing results. In the short term, we will significantly reduce our organization’s carbon footprint. Longer-term, The Mountaineers can expect to save thousands of dollars a year on energy costs that can be repurposed for conservation efforts. A clear win-win!

When asked if Charlie and Carol are hoping for any other positive outcomes as a result of their gift, they are quick to respond that they’d love to inspire others to go solar and think seriously about how their actions can help reduce their carbon footprint. ‘Leave No Trace’ is a familiar concept to Mountaineers – why not expand that concept to include one’s overall environmental impact?

The Michels with their electric car. Photo by Amber Carrigan.

The Michels note that it’s easy for a problem as big as climate change to feel overwhelming. Fortunately, there are many easy and cost-friendly (and even cost-reducing!) ways to significantly reduce your carbon footprint. While you may not be able to visibly see the environmental benefits of your efforts in your lifetime, you can be assured that efforts truly make a difference for generations to come. Using LED light bulbs, carpooling or biking to work, reducing how often you water your lawn, eating local foods, composting and recycling – all these things will result in a positive impact for the environment.

Installation of solar panels on the Seattle Program Center began in August 2018, and we anticipate the project will be completed by mid-October. For updates on the project’s status and to learn more about The Mountaineers’ conservation priorities, visit www.mountaineers.org/conservation.

In the meantime, if you see Charlie and Carol out on the water please give them a friendly wave and a big thank you. Solar power will become a reality for The Mountaineers in just a few short months. Here’s to keeping on the sunny side! 


This article originally appeared in our Fall 2018 issue of Mountaineer  Magazine. To view the original article in magazine form and read more stories from our publication, click here.


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Kristina Ciari
Kristina Ciari says:
Tue, Sep 11, 2018 8:55 PM

This means so much to all of us at the program center. Thank you Charlie & Carol!