Faces of The Energy Co-op: Zach Lytle

By Ronald Fisher – 8/3/2021


What do you do at The Energy Co-op?  

I am a member services intern, which means I spend most of the time supporting any public-facing work that The Energy Co-op does. On a day-to-day basis, that translates to a lot of emails, member phone calls, and communications work.


Why did you sign up for the internship here?  

I just graduated from college this spring, and after spending my whole time preparing to do academic research after graduation, I decided that I wanted to work in industry. I focused on environmental economics and have always been a huge fan of cooperatives, so The Energy Co-op was the perfect opportunity to participate in a cooperative and build expertise in renewable electricity.


What have you enjoyed about the training and work you have done so far?  

Every week, Noah (my supervisor), Fanta (my fellow intern), and I discuss a group of readings covering a different topic of the energy industry. Fellow staff members also take turns coming in and leading discussions on their specific domain expertise. It’s been an incredible way to simultaneously learn about high-level issues and how those issues translate into day to day business practices.


What fact or circumstance about The Energy Co-op was the most surprising for you?  

I was most surprised by the number of vendors and partners The Energy Co-op works with. I did not realize how many different steps and processes are involved in supplying electricity. On the partner side, it’s been cool to see how all the different cooperatives in the Philly area work together to support each other’s missions.


Tell us a very interesting fact about yourself that we don’t already know.  

If you ask my younger cousins, it’s that I can lick my nose. If you’re asking me this at a dinner party, I will go with that I am an avid agricultural hobbyist. I spent last summer working on a farm. This year, I am doing a container garden in my backyard with plans to start a mushroom growing operation during the winter months.


What’s it like working with people whom you have never met in-person?  

On one hand, after over a year of virtual school and work, it feels strangely normal. In some ways it is very liberating – I now know I can collaborate with people from anywhere in the world and complete meaningful work. On the other hand, one staff meeting devolved into a discussion of how tall we are in real life. So I am definitely looking forward to meeting my coworkers in person in the next few weeks!


What’s the most memorable interaction you have had with an Energy Co-op member?  

I can’t think of any one interaction right now. However, a general theme has been that whenever I hop on a call with an Energy Co-op member, I have to be ready for a thorough cross-examination. Our members love asking follow-up questions and try to truly understand the renewable electricity market.


Tell us about the funniest call or situation you have had to deal with at The Energy Co-op.  

I’ve definitely gotten a few funny calls at this point, but the highlight for me was an email from a member looking for help maintaining her property’s grounds. Not only was she asking for help with landscaping, but she turned every possible company and project into a pun. Unfortunately, I had to write back and inform her that we were not qualified to help with landscaping.


What was the best series you binge-watched during the confinement period? Why?  

This past winter, I binge-watched Call My Agent on Netflix. After spending months sequestered in my parents’ house, a comedic show taking place in everyday life provided comedic relief and a reminder of normal life. Also to be clear, it’s really funny.


What does sustainability mean to you and how do you put it into practice day by day?  

I believe sustainability to be an overall life philosophy that I integrate into all aspects of my life. I’ve focused my career on developing sustainability. In my hobbies and day-to-day life, I try to focus on creating a sustainable lifestyle. For example, I eat a plant-based diet, I garden, I am involved in environmental justice focused community groups, and I try to use the least carbon intensive methods of travel. I try to avoid being too preachy to those around me, but I do believe sustainability requires us to reimagine many aspects of modern life.


What’s next for you following your internship at The Energy Co-op?  

I wish I had answer to that question… I am trying to both stay in the Philly area and find a next step for a career in clean energy. So right now, it’s a lot of cover letters and phone calls. I am always open to suggestions!