By Daphne Stanford
I don’t know if you noticed, but last year was the hottest year on record. Yes, you read that right: the hottest year in recorded history! In my opinion, that fact alone should be enough to indicate a climate crisis of epic proportions.
Although the situation can sometimes feel daunting and beyond repair, there are a few simple, concrete actions we can take to minimize the impact we have, as business people as well as individuals, on the environment. In the past, I’ve written about how businesses can tap into a few current trends in sustainability. Now I’d like to address how we, as individuals, can support and effect change in our homes, as well as our communities.
1. Contact your representatives about smart grid implementation
One of the most frustrating aspects of green technology is the fact that there is plenty of technology out there, but corporate interests are working hard to make sure we don’t have easy access to said technology. Why? Because they stand to lose business. Of course, they could stand to make a large potential profit if they shifted their energy toward supporting renewable technology like solar and geothermal power, but change can be slow-going when it comes to tradition.
That’s where consumers, homeowners and citizens come into play. We have the smart-grid technology and capability to implement smart-grid technology on a massive scale, but we also need the political will to push legislation along. At the end of the day, power companies are out to make a profit, so consumer demand must be loud enough to justify the implementation of new technology in order to prevent loss of profits. The current and future state of smart-grid technology is such that it is projected to cost significantly less money to power a house using solar and geothermal technology than it does to power the same house with coal or natural gas.
However, are you familiar with the saying, where there’s a will, there’s a way? If so, you may realize that unless we have the political and societal will to change our current sources of power from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy, it’s going to happen later rather than sooner.
Consider this a community call-to-action, then: Contact your legislators; call your neighbors; and reach out to friends and family. Share the benefits of smart-grid technology with them in a way that’s easy to understand, such as via some of the facts and talking points in this Consumer Benefits Fact Sheet, published by the SmartGrid Consumer Collaborative.
2. Retrofit your home
Although not all of us are home owners, even renters can find ways to help minimize their carbon footprints as much as possible. If you do own your home, consider investing in solar panels, if at all possible. Although the initial price of purchasing solar panels has not yet dropped down to budget-friendly levels, the solar tax rebate and reduction or elimination of monthly energy bills will eventually reimburse you three-fold.
If the cost of investing in solar panels of your own is still too daunting, consider renting solar panels to keep your power bills down. For example, one company based on the East Coast is making solar power available to low- and middle-income households via an affordable leasing model that requires no down payment. In areas with extreme temperature highs and lows, this option could potentially save you a considerable amount on your monthly power bill.
3. Push for and utilize alternative forms of transportation
Advocating for change in our homes and communities is all well and good, but what about the carbon emissions from something we use every day: our cars? What if we found ways to reduce our personal share of transportation-related carbon dioxide by riding our bikes, carpooling, or taking public transportation? Of course, public transportation only becomes an effective way to combat excess car usage if it is widely utilized. One way to get more people to take public transportation is by encouraging your friends and family to do so, just as you might encourage your network and community members to invest in renewable energy sources like solar energy.
One way to help ensure the increased availability of public transportation is to ask for it: call or write your local and state legislators and say you want them to invest in more and better forms of public transportation. In fact, in urban areas, transportation fumes are responsible for 25 to 70 percent of all air pollution. The more we can lobby for and support efforts to encourage the use of alternative transportation, other than the use of single-driver vehicles, the more progress we will potentially make toward reducing transportation-related carbon emissions, and the better our air quality will become.
Education is empowering, and it’s our responsibility to continue educating ourselves as citizens about green technology. The future will be here before we realize it, and it’s up to us to create a future that is clean, sustainable, and safe for our children and our children’s children.
Image credit: Flickr/Conal Gallagher
Daphne Stanford writes poetry & nonfiction, and she believes in the power of art, education, and community radio to change the world. Since 2012, she’s been the host of “The Poetry Show!” Sundays at 5 p.m. on Radio Boise. Follow her on Twitter @daphne_stanford.