Cruz Collin: A visionary environmental champion dedicated to transforming Native communities through sustainable energy solutions.

Dreamstarter works on Sustainably Powering Rural Native Communities

 In Pine Ridge, where over 60% of homes lack basic amenities like water, electricity, insulation, or sewage systems, the challenges of extreme temperatures can be overwhelming for families living on the Pine Ridge Reservation. To aid families through the winter months, when heating bills can exceed $400 a month, Running Strong developed our Heat Match program to swiftly assist families in need.

Recognizing the importance of both immediate relief and long-term solutions, Running Strong invested in Cruz Collin, an Oglala Sioux and Environmental Justice Dreamstarter, in 2023. Cruz is utilizing his $20,000 Dreamstarter grant to pioneer a sustainable energy solution for Native Communities. Inspired by Lakota principles of harmony with the earth and community reciprocity, Cruz is developing solar panels made from 80-100% natural materials, avoiding hard-to-recycle elements like glass, aluminum, and silicone.

After months of research, data collection, and dozens of prototypes, Cruz’s environmentally friendly solar panels have proven not only effective but more energy-efficient than current market options. Currently, Cruz is working on maximizing efficiency of his prototypes and streamlining the fabrication process. Based on the success of the project so far, Cruz feels he will be able to have a full-scale prototype ready by February.

Cruz’s invention holds the potential to transform lives on reservations by providing a sustainable energy source. By harnessing solar power, tribes and individuals can gain critical energy independence for heating and cooling, reducing reliance on municipal suppliers and alleviating the financial burden of utility costs.

Running Strong remains committed to empowering Native youth, realizing dreams, and ensuring families have the power they need to thrive.

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