Making a Change: From Consumer Choices to Social Movements

Individuals

There’s a lot you can do right now to stop wasting and start saving!  Here’s my own top ten list of energy-saving tips.  You probably know about a lot of them.  But why reinvent the wheel?  Explore TreeHugger.com’s Back to Basics page for in-depth guidance.

Public Policies

There are many mechanisms by which governments mandate or provide incentives for energy efficiency and conservation.  These include things like fuel efficiency standards for cars, tax breaks for using less energy, and forcing power producers to pay to pollute, otherwise called the “carbon tax.”

In New York City, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s PlaNYC is thinking ahead to the needs (energy and otherwise) of the city more than twenty years from now.  Impatient with the slow pace of climate change mitigation on the federal level, local governments have joined forces to catalyze action on their own.  Ten northeastern and mid-Atlantic states have joined together with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to reduce emissions from power plants by 10% in the next few years.  One way or another, the government has to devise policies and laws to meet ambitious goals for increasing energy efficiency and renewable energy capacity.

Social Movements

Our society is based on dirty energy consumption and waste, so change will take time and concerted effort.  Citizens join forces with others to advocate for government action on efficiency and conservation, for example by calling for more bike-friendly cities, or putting pressure on the local government to enforce recycling laws.  In recent years, citizens have fought against hydraulic fracturing natural gas extraction.

Market-based Approaches

These include measures like making electricity cost more during periods of peak use so people will use less during those times.  Carbon credits are another interesting approach, in which you invest in other people’s energy efficiency or renewable energy projects to offset your own carbon footprint.

Putting It All Together:  The Green Economy

The green economy combines all of these approaches.  In a green economy, local, innovative renewable energy and sustainable industries employ skilled workers trained in advanced renewable energy and zero-waste technologies.  Consumers purchase locally, sustainably produced goods that don’t contain dangerous chemicals, and use services that promote our collective well-being.

More Solutions:  Clean Energy

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