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The Climate Win: Turning the Home Into a Voice for Sustainability

Sustainability News National Parks
by Tim Wenger Apr 3, 2020

This is The Climate Win, the most positive sustainability news around the world every week.

Welcome to the seventh installment of The Climate Win. This week we look at the domino effect of solar panels, the massive uptick in home gardening, and answer (for many of you) a burning question — what is the easiest way for renters and homeowners to power their home with renewable energy? Apparently, many have seeds and chickens to attend to, so let’s dive right in.

A backyard garden boom

We start this week with a silver lining. While we can’t eat in our favorite restaurants right now, that doesn’t mean we don’t have delicious dinners to look forward to this spring and summer. The farm-to-table movement is coming home, in the form of a major uptick in home gardening. Google Trends shows that searches related to “home gardening” nearly quadrupled in March, while seed sellers, including major brands like Burpee and smaller, localized seed banks like Seeds Trust, are reporting a massive increase in demand this spring as people look to fill that extra home time with something productive.

The ripple effect of solar power

While the sun shines on your backyard garden, it’s also shining on solar panels. Solar power installation now accounts for 9 percent of total power generation worldwide, up from just 1 percent in 2010 according to a report in Wired. The same article found something quite interesting. It turns out that when one home in a neighborhood puts up solar panels, others tend to follow in a domino effect of sustainability. In addition to being great for the renewable energy movement, this can also be a good way to chat it up with neighbors with whom you have at least one thing in common.

Additionally, the International Renewable Energy Association released a report last year showing that one-third of total global energy is now derived from renewable sources. Those who have seen Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth may remember his “hockey stick graph” theory, in which he claimed that as demand for renewable energy increased, industry would follow, and the adoption of clean energy use would rise rapidly and consistently like the adoption of the cellular phone in the 1990s.

Soon, you may be able to drink part of your carbon footprint

Journalist Christopher Flavelle reported for The New York Times this week on the Carbon XPrize, a competition launched by NRG and Cosia challenging innovative entrepreneurs and inventors to turn carbon pollution into sellable products in hopes of a massive prize purse. One entrant into the COVID-delayed competition has figured out a way to make liquor from captured carbon dioxide. Air Co., based in Brooklyn, does just what its name suggests: It makes vodka from air, no large-scale agriculture required. The question now becomes how much carbon is too much — would a squirt of soda water be overkill?

Action task: checking the box for renewable energy

To take action this week, we encourage you to look into whether or not your local utility offers the option to purchase renewable energy to power your home. While most renters and even many homeowners simply cannot make a split decision to install solar panels on their roof, the US government offers data showing that 50 percent of Americans can purchase renewable energy directly from their normal provider. The process is often as simple as filling out a form on your energy company’s website. A typical $100 monthly energy bill could increase by around $10, depending on where you live and how much power you use. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, “Efforts to sell clean power are aimed at consumers who will choose to pay slightly more for renewable energy products and services that reflect their environmental values.”

In most cases, the extra money you pay will either buy direct clean power for your home or contribute to the green power that is “mixed in” to the power supply of your area by the provider. In cases where the power supplier does not or cannot supply documented renewable energy, residential users can purchase a “Green Certificate,” which certifies that you are contributing money to renewable energy production, even though it isn’t directly powering your home.

The more people that do this, the more the energy utilities know that this is what the consumers in their service areas want. This, in the long run, can directly contribute to the development and sourcing of renewable energy by major utilities. Your dollar speaks volumes.

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