“One Thing You Can Do: Join a Community Solar Farm” – NY Times

Climate change has been a hot topic recently. More people are seeing it impact their daily lives, and school-age protestors like Greta Thunberg who are concerned for their future have kept it in the news. The UN Climate Summit in September ended with a clear lack of commitments from the world leaders most responsible for global carbon output. While it is easy to become frustrated with the slow pace of change, more and more people are taking action as individuals and at the local level to fight climate change.

 A recent article by The New York Times drew attention to community solar as a relatively new and easy way we can make a big impact: “Between half and three-quarters of Americans, according to a report from Wood Mackenzie, can’t install solar panels for various reasons: They rent, their roof is shaded, or they can’t afford it. If you can’t, or don’t want to, install solar panels, there are other options to support solar energy. One is to participate in a community solar project… Most people see savings of about 10 percent to 15 percent on their electric bills, said Jeff Cramer, executive director of the Coalition for Community Solar Access. And, unlike with rooftop solar, there’s no upfront cost.”

Most people have not heard about community solar, and many are skeptical it could actually exist. The article addresses this as well: “Sound too good to be true? The catch is that community solar is still in its infancy. While most states have at least one project online, only 19 states and the District of Columbia have enacted community solar legislation, and a smaller number have statewide programs up and running. In total, Mr. Cramer estimated that fewer than 10 percent of Americans have access to community solar.”

Massachusetts is one of those 19 states. It has had community solar available for a few years now, and with the state’s new SMART legislation more community solar will be coming online within the next year.

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Emission Reduction Program Grew State Economies

Some often assert that environmental regulations hurt the economy. A new study shows another case where the opposite was true. The numbers are in for the nine states that have been participating in the RGGI, or Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. After ten years of the program, the Acadia Center released a report that reveals Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont have seen significant both environmental and economic improvements. This is a signal that regional efforts among states and cities can be powerful drivers of change, and it also disproves the old line that “going green” would be too expensive and harm the economy.

Reduced Carbon Emissions

  • RGGI states have reduced their CO2 emissions from 133 million tons of CO2 in 2008 when the program began to 70 million tons in 2018.
  • Power Plants in RGGI states reduced CO2 emissions by 47%, which beat out the rest of the country by 90%.

Electricity Prices Fell

  • Not only did carbon emissions fall, so did these states’ electricity prices.
  • Electricity rates in RGGI states came down by 5.7%, while the rest of the country’s rates increased by 8.6%.

The Economy Benefited

  • The GDPs of these states actually grew by 47%, 30% more growth than the rest of the country.
  • Reducing air pollution from burning fossil fuels generated “…over $5.7 billion in health and productivity benefits.”

A decade of data from nine states provides solid environmental, health, and economic reasons to shift to a greener economy. They’ve also done the heavy lifting of designing and troubleshooting policy and programs that work, which the rest of the country should be able to copy and tweak. 

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Going Green for Back to School

Going back to school can be a stressful time. With expensive supply lists and hectic schedules, the first thing on most people’s mind is not the environment. There are easy ways to be green and also save some money this coming school year.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

See if any schoolwork can be done paperless, and for items that have to be printed try to print double sided. Check if there are any school supplies from last year that can be reused, and when purchasing more supplies look for items made from recycled content. For textbooks and reading, check if anyone that has taken the class before has old books you can use, or check the library. Many libraries now offer an option to borrow e-books, check with your local library to see what’s available. 

Environmentally Friendly Lunches

When we’re in a rush, it’s easy to throw things in sandwich bags or to rely on individually packaged snacks. Get ready for the packed-lunch season with reusable containers, and consider foods that don’t need to be packaged like apples. You can also buy some things in bulk to save money, and pack them in reusable Tupperware as you need them. Lunch meat is a common lunch staple; consider going meat-free for lunch, or cutting out red meat like beef, to reduce your carbon footprint. You can also take refillable water bottles, rather than plastic ones.

Take the Bus, or Carpool

Try to catch the school bus for the most efficient way to get to school, or consider if biking or walking in is an option. When the bus isn’t an option, see if you can arrange a neighborhood carpool. You can do the same for extracurricular activities to save on gas and time.

Buy Outfits Second Hand

Maybe your kid has outgrown their wardrobe, or some pieces just need replaced. Many “fast fashion” stores run sales for the fall rush, but clothing production has a high environmental cost: “Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of clean water globally, after agriculture.”  Before you buy consider if the purchase is necessary, and if it is see about buying a second hand or thrifted item instead.

Be Green, Save Green

School can be expensive, especially during the back to school rush. Making the above changes is not only good for the environment, it will save you money too.

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The Amazon Rainforest is Burning: What We Can do to Help

Fires in the Amazon Rainforest have gotten a lot of media coverage over the past several weeks. Some amount of forest fires are normal, but there was an 84% increase from this time in 2018, and the increase seems to be largely human driven. The issues feeding into the Amazon Rainforest fires are complicated, but there are still actions you can take to help.

Donate

One easy action is to donate to a conservation organization such as The Rainforest Action Network or The Rainforest Trust. If you are short on cash, there are also petitions you can sign onto to investigate the cause of the burns and hold them accountable.

Eat Chicken Instead of Beef

We’ve touched on this one before – not only are other meats more sustainable than beef, (beef production emits five times more greenhouse gases than other meats like chicken.)  It also takes twenty eight times more land. A leading cause of the deforestation that feeds into these fires is clearing land to raise cattle. 

Watch Your Paper Products

Another driver of deforestation is logging for paper products. Of course, we’ve all heard to “reduce, reuse, recycle,” but for those things that you can’t reuse, first check to see if it’s made from recycled materials.  This helps drive the demand for recycled, rather than virgin, paper. If that’s not possible, check for FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) or Rainforest Alliance Certification on products to make sure they were ethically and sustainable produced.

Why We Need the Rainforests

Rainforests are a critical resource; they produce 20% of Earth’s oxygen, and have historically been an important sink for greenhouse gases. However, due to deforestation and a “thinning” of the forests, tropical forests have actually become a source of carbon rather than a sink. The good news is that this is reversible, and the first step to restoring and protecting the rainforests is awareness.

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AUBUCHON HARDWARE AND RELAY POWER ANNOUNCE COMMUNITY SOLAR PARTNERSHIP

Aubuchon Hardware and Relay Power Announce Community Solar Partnership

PRESS RELEASE

Wednesday, August 21, 2019
AUBUCHON HARDWARE AND RELAY POWER ANNOUNCE COMMUNITY SOLAR PARTNERSHIP

Aubuchon Hardware and Relay Power have entered into a partnership agreement to get the word out to Aubuchon customers and employees about the opportunity to sign up for Relay Power Community Solar. Those who participate will receive guaranteed savings on their electricity, while supporting and facilitating clean energy production here in Massachusetts. Participants will also receive a gift card to use at any Aubuchon Hardware location. The solar farms are all located in Massachusetts. All National Grid electricity and Western Massachusetts Eversource electricity customers are eligible to participate.

“Relay Power is very pleased to partner with Aubuchon Hardware on this exciting partnership,” said Bill Kanzer, Co-Founder at Relay Power. “Connecting the Aubuchon Hardware customers and employees to community solar farms provides them with additional value – both in savings and in being able to help combat climate change and other pollution.”

Aubuchon Hardware Vice President of Marketing, Mike Mattson added, “This is a great partnership. I particularly love how, through Relay Power, we now have the ability to provide our customers with a great electricity option that provides both value to their wallets and the environment.”

Qualified residents who sign up for the solar program will receive discounted credits from their solar farm on their monthly electric bills while supporting clean, local solar power in Massachusetts. Interested residents can contact Relay Power for a free consultation about the solar opportunity by visiting www.relaypower.com/aubuchon, or by calling 617-315-4980 and mentioning the Aubuchon Rewards offer.

###

For additional press information please contact:

Bill Kanzer, President, Relay Power
781-530-4525
marketing@relaypower.com

Mike Mattson, Vice President of Marketing, Aubuchon Hardware
978-874-0521 x1119
mmattson@aubuchon.com

About Relay Power
Relay Power’s mission is to engage residential customers to power their homes with clean, local renewable power using simple, accessible and affordable options. The Relay Power team has contracted residential and small commercial customers for over 30 MW of Community Solar projects to date. To learn more about Relay Power please visit www.relaypower.com/aubuchon.

About Aubuchon Hardware
Founded in 1908, in Fitchburg, MA, Aubuchon Hardware is the oldest family-owned and managed hardware store chain in America. With more than 100 stores in New England and Upstate New York, Aubuchon has been a mainstay for generations. Aubuchon relies on convenient in-town locations, personalized customer service and its HardwareStore.com e-commerce site.
www.hardwarestore.com

PR NEWSWIRE: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/aubuchon-hardware-and-relay-power-announce-community-solar-partnership-300904832.html

Commuting for the Climate

Anyone who’s had to sit in rush hour traffic, or cram themselves onto public transportation, knows the pain of commuting. And it’s a big source of pollution – in 2014, the US transportation sector emitted 1,786 million metric tons of CO2, with over 85% of commuters traveling by car. Luckily, the tides seem to be turning, and there are more choices you can make to reduce your commute’s carbon footprint.

More People are Working Remotely

There’s no better way to reduce your commuting carbon footprint than to just eliminate your commute. The rise in technology has allowed more people to work remotely. According to a study from Zug, 70% of professionals work remotely at least some of the time, and 53% work remotely more than half the week. There are real benefits to this – besides reducing greenhouse gas emissions, higher productivity and/or satisfaction can result from less time spent commuting. In addition, more remote workers also means less strain on public transit and roads. State governments are pushing for this trend – in MA, governor Charlie Baker has proposed a tax credit for companies that allow employees to work remotely. Vermont also has an incentive program to attract new residents who can work remotely.

Ride Sharing and Bike Renting

Maybe the nature of your job doesn’t allow working remotely and thinking about the subway makes your blood pressure spike. Many people have turned to ride-hailing apps for their commute in recent years, but one person being driven around still has a big carbon footprint. If you can give yourself a few extra minutes, Lyft and Uber both have a carpooling option. The app will group you up with other riders heading the same way. You’ll save some money and reduce your environmental impact.

Another trend that’s been popping up is bike renting – many people ride their bikes to work, but it can be inconvenient to lug your bike around and find a place to lock it up securely. Bike sharing apps in certain cities let you check out a bike from a rack near you, and return it near your destination for someone else to use.

Of course, you can also help reduce our collective carbon footprint by joining a solar farm…

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A Toolkit to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Most people would like to be more environmentally friendly – according to Pew, 74% of Americans polled thought “the country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment,” and 55% thought the environment should be the top priority for policy in Washington. While policy is important, the environment is one area that individuals can make a big impact with their own choices. But it can be challenging to know where to start, or what changes are actually the most impactful to make. Here is a list of some great resources to get you started.

  1. Know Your Impact

The best place to start is to find out where you stand. The EPA has a calculator to find out your carbon footprint: epa.gov/carbon-footprint-calculator/ This is a great starting point because the calculator breaks things down by categories like transportation, housing, etc. so you’ll be able to tell what’s contributing most to your carbon footprint and where you can make adjustments for the best results.

  1. Get a Guide

The issues facing our planet are overwhelming and complicated, and sometimes the advice out there can seem contradictory. Is it better to use an old car as long as possible to avoid making a new one, or to get a hybrid or electric car to reduce gas? Should we stop shopping online to reduce packaging and shipping emissions, or is it more efficient to have things delivered to you rather than driving around for errands? There are guides out there for the consumer and lifestyle choices we make, for example “Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living,” published by the Union of Concerned Scientists: amzn.to/2Y0eqCj

  1. Find a Group

Joining an organization that shares your concern for the environment is a great way to stay motivated and make a difference. Sites like idealist.org will connect you to local volunteering opportunities. You can also join groups like the Sierra Club (sierraclub.org) that do meaningful work for the environment, host local events, and can connect you to more resources.

  1. Choose Clean Energy

Depending on where you live, there are many ways to choose cleaner energy. In Massachusetts and several other states, community or shared solar is a way to support clean energy locally while sharing in the financial and environmental benefits of solar. 

 

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Reducing Your Carbon “Pawprint”

Everyone loves their furry friends. What are some simple things we can do to lower their “pawprint?” The household cat or dog is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about your carbon footprint, but producing the meat needed to feed the US’s cat and dog population puts out an estimated 64 million tons of greenhouse gas every year. There has also been a trend of heavy marketing and increased consumerism for pets; people are encouraged to treat them as a family member and services like monthly subscription boxes of toys and even caskets for pets have become trendy. Pet ownership can be done sustainably, as long as we stay mindful.

Consider What Kind of Pet to get and from where.

If you’re starting out on the path to pet ownership and haven’t decided what you want, consider a smaller pet or an herbivore. Small dogs and cats eat less than large dogs, and pets that are herbivores like rabbits or hamsters will have a lower carbon footprint than meat-eaters. If you opt for a dog or a cat, consider a “rescue” – one that needs to be adopted. Roughly six and a half million animals enter shelters each year.

Make Sure Your Pet is Fixed

This one is a good recommendation for any pet owner, even if you don’t have sustainability on your mind. Making sure that populations stay under control, and adopting rather than buying from a breeder, helps to keep the overall pet population and the resources they consume under control.

Feed Them Poultry

Eating chicken rather than red meat like beef can reduce the carbon footprint of a human by about 50%. Dogs and cats are carnivores and can’t eat plant-based diets, but you can reduce their carbon footprint by choosing less resource-intensive meats in their food. Also, watch how much you feed your pets – many in the US are overfed, which isn’t good for their health or for the planet. There’s a trend of pet owners are moving to more luxury types of foods – refrigerated meats, individually-packaged meals in disposable plastic single-use containers and the like.  Just like in our own lives, reducing the amount of packaging and energy-intensiveness is important.   

Pet Consumer Choices

Pets are becoming bigger consumers. We’re encouraged to buy everything from monthly toy and treat subscription boxes to elaborate burial services and caskets. Producing all of these things uses resources and generates carbon, so before you buy something for your pet consider if they really need it – just as we can for ourselves.

Pets in the Big Picture

Having a pet does not necessarily mean that someone’s carbon footprint is huge – the issue comes if having a pet is part of a larger consumer trend. If there’s a household with a big car, a big home, a large family and a big dog that eats beef and has similar consumer patterns to their owners, that magnifies the issue. Pet ownership is on the rise, but that may not be a bad thing for the planet. The birthrate in the US has been dropping, and 2019 marked the lowest point in 32 years. There are different reasons this could be happening; some blame the great recession and lingering economic instability. It could also be par for the course for a wealthier country. As birthrates have fallen, pet ownership has been on the rise, and it’s been suggested that many are filling their drive to nurture with “fur-babies,” which even when pampered have a lower carbon footprint than a human baby.

The bottom line when it comes to pets and the environment is to enjoy them, but keep them in mind when you’re considering your impact on the environment.

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meat is murder

A Digestible Solution to Climate Change

Climate Change can seem overwhelming. As one person, it’s difficult to know where to start, or to believe that you can make any impact on a problem so big. But many people making a series of small changes can make a real difference, and a great place to start is with what you eat.

Why Rethink Your Diet?

Over a quarter of carbon emissions come from food production. Of that, 47.6% of emissions are from raising meat; 18.9% come from dairy; 13.9% come from eggs, fish, and poultry; and only 11.5% come from veggies, grains, and fruits. At the same time, meat consumption has increased by about 20% globally over the past decade. Eating meat has ‘dire’ consequences for the planet – in the U.S. we’ll need to reduce meat and sugar consumption by 50% to avoid serious repercussions. It’s clear we need to find a solution to curb these figures.  

You Don’t Have to go Vegan to Lower Your Footprint

Just this past October, a study published in the journal Nature explored guidelines for reducing meat and sugar consumption, a “Great Food Transformation,” it outlines a wide range of strategies and the steps necessary to put such a change into place.  Similarly, A new report, published in the British medical journal The Lancet, recommends a largely plant-based diet, with small, occasional allowances for meat, dairy, and sugar.

While asking everyone to adopt a fully vegan lifestyle ASAP would certainly cut down on emissions, it’s just not realistic. For example, simply making changes such as picking chicken over beef would cut your carbon emissions in half. Climate change is a large-scale problem, and it will take participation from everyone to solve it.

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Climate Change is a Main Issue in 2020

There are 23 Democratic candidates running for President in 2020 so far, and for the first time, climate change appears to be a main topic voters want to hear about. Even Al Gore, the well-known climate activist, didn’t have climate change as his main campaign issue, and climate change was not discussed at all during the 2016 presidential debates.

Why Now?

There are several factors that might be causing voters to put their focus on the environment. For one thing, there have been a lot of news stories that put climate change front and center. The IPCC report recently gave us a deadline of 2030 to drastically reduce emissions if we want to avoid catastrophic results. The next four years are almost half of that time, and if a president gets two terms that effectively makes climate change a one-president issue. Movements like Fridays for Future (led by school-children) and proposals like the Green New Deal have kept our attention on the issue. Besides press coverage, more and more people are also seeing climate change beginning to impact them directly. Wildfires in California, droughts wiping out crops, and unusual weather patterns across the country have turned climate change from a distant concern to a pressing worry we need to address now.

Voters are Motivated

There has been a lot of lost ground for environmental protection and climate change at the federal level over the last few years. This appears to have activated many states and individuals to take stronger action independently. Voter activism around climate change has prompted many of the Democratic candidates to issue detailed proposals as part of their platform. There also appears to be a demographic shift from last election cycle, with groups that see climate change as a major issue making up a larger share of the voter pool for 2020 than ever before.

2020 Has to Be the Year We Take Action

With a tight deadline to make some drastic changes, this election cycle is the time to make sure climate change is the priority. The conditions are right, and the candidates are prioritizing it for the first time, so it’s more crucial than ever to get out and vote.

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