Earth Month Spotlight | Simon Mahan

When I think of go-to environmental people in Lafayette, I think of Simon Mahan. The husband and father of two who hails from Missouri has become Lafayette's voice on alternative power and energy.

He's an advocate for wind and solar energy and supports local options for electric vehicle drivers. And his home is partially powered by solar panels, so he practices what he preaches.

Photo courtesy Simon Mahan.

Simon's path toward environmentalism started when he was a young fisherman. "I've fished in some exceptionally beautiful water - where you couldn't tell where the water ended and the sky began. But I've also seen waters that have been abused. I recall one fishing trip, as a kid with my grandpa, where I could see just how disappointed he was at how polluted a local creek had become - a blood-red scar, with nothing in it living. After our minnows touched the water, they died almost instantly. I learned later that Tar Creek in Northeastern Oklahoma, our fishing spot on that one trip, is considered to be the most toxic site in the country," he says.

Photo courtesy Simon Mahan.
"Over time, my love of fishing and my faith became stronger. As a Catholic, I've always been drawn to Simon Peter, maybe a bit because we share a name, but also because he was a fisherman. St. Francis of Assisi has also been a role model of mine, and his respect for Creation is something I think we can all respect and learn from. And now as a dad, I want to make sure my boys have some good waters to fish in."

He first became involved in alternative power back in 2003. "My local electric power company in Missouri announced plans to build another coal-fired power plant. As an avid fly-fisherman, I became concerned about pollution and began working on energy analysis and policy. At the time, there weren't any wind farms in Missouri, but I worked on some case studies from other states to evaluate opportunities and present alternatives. My electric company decided to build the coal-fired power plant anyway, but today, a different electric company has announced plans to develop a $1.5 billion wind farm where I had originally evaluated over a decade ago," he explains.

Photo courtesy Simon Mahan.

Simon got more involved in the Lafayette community back in 2012, when he began working with residents on issues related to Lafayette Utilities System. Over the years, that discussion evolved into the formation of Lafayette Electrical Discussion, a very robust and active Facebook group dedicated to ideas and case studies about solar and wind power and electric vehicles. The group has hosted public meetings and is still looking at vision development for LUS.

Photo courtesy Simon Mahan.

In addition, Simon pitched at last year's 24 Hour Citizen Project to start a project to install public electric vehicle charging stations in Lafayette. Although the project was ultimately not funded, it led Simon to begin Lafayette's local electric vehicle club, known as Bayou Electric Vehicles.

"Pardon the pun, but we're driven to help advance electric vehicles in Acadiana. BEV is an educational resource, but also promotes all things EV," Simon says.

"I also worked with Blair Miller to launch Lafayette's monthly Green Drinks events. Blair is an environmental steward who enjoys community service and involvement, and has been great at spearheading activities," he says.

Green Drinks is a well-known monthly social event in other cities around the world, considered to be an informal, environmentally minded gathering, but anyone can come to meet new people, discuss current events and enjoy a relaxed atmosphere - usually downtown on the last Thursday of the month. He adds, "That's all volunteer work and I couldn't do it without all the help I'm getting from folks - it takes a lot of effort!"

And somehow, Simon still finds time to volunteer for litter cleanups, like this one in Downtown Lafayette for Project Front Yard last year. Even a year later, I still love that he wore a wind power baseball cap for the cleanup.

To close out this feature, I'll share Simon's favorite environmental-related quote!

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