The Earth Day Initiative's Plan to Switch America's Utility Bills to Clean Energy

Friday, 24 March 2017 - 1:25PM
Friday, 24 March 2017 - 1:25PM
The Earth Day Initiative's Plan to Switch America's Utility Bills to Clean Energy
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Image Credit: Earth Day Initiative

From Our Friends at The Portalist

The first glimpses of Blade Runner: 2049 offered a look at a near-future LA where "[t]he climate has gone berserk—the ocean, the rain, the snow is all toxic." Well, congrats, sci-fi fans—we may be living in a similar world very soon, according to NASA's clear, concise layout of climate change symptoms. So what can we do, apart from buying trenchcoats and moving offworld? The Earth Day Initiative, which has been organizing Earth Day since the 1970s, gets the same question every year.

Their answer lies in an option you probably didn't know existed: you can call up your utility provider and ask them to switch the source of your power from fossil fuels (the default) to CleanChoice Energy, which sources its energy from wind and solar farms. That's it. Switching takes a few minutes, and the switch ends up having a huge impact—on average, each household that switches to CleanChoice Energy prevents 18,876 lbs of carbon pollution per year, which is the equivalent of:​ 

  • Taking 1.8 cars off the road for a year.
  • Preserving 8.1 acres of forest per year.
  • Preventing 9,136 lbs. of coal from being burned.

Right now, CleanChoice services Delaware, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, but they're expanding to other states. If you're in one of those eight states, you can switch immediately. If you're not, you can instead sign up through Arcadia Power. Either way, you're shifting your energy from fossil-fuels to renewable energy—and it's (almost) free.

All of this is part of the Earth Day Initiative's Count to 50 program, which is aiming to get enough people off fossil fuels that it creates a shift in the industry—and hopefully jumpstart a migration to renewable energy. We sat down with John Opperman, Executive Director of the Initiative, to talk about the program.

Outer Places: What made you decide to focus on switching utility bills to clean energy for the Count to 50 program?
John: We drilled down on electricity usage for a few reasons. For one, we didn't want to focus on a negative like "don't eat meat or don't use a car." People can sometimes tune out when we focus on what they're going to have to sacrifice. So we wanted to focus on a positive action people could take by switching to clean energy. Second, we wanted something that was measurable...with this program, our partners can track every household switched over to clean energy and the number of dollars channeled to clean energy.
This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct  measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased  since the Industrial Revolution.  (Source: [[LINK||||NOAA]])
OP: How severely do you see climate change affecting us in the next 50 years?

On our current trajectory, it's really anyone's guess. And I would venture to say that it's anyone's worst guess. Our efforts to deal with climate change are so lacking that we're really going to have to step up both our mitigation and our adaptation efforts in order to cope with what's coming.

Like the stock market, humans in general like predictability and stability. We've had a remarkably predictable and stable climate for a very long time. It looks like we won't be able to count on that in the future. Droughts, severe storms, and generally unpredictable climate conditions could very well lead to reduced crop yields, civil unrest, dire refugee situations, and worse. There are millions of people and thousands of organizations out there doing their best to take action now though, in the absence of leadership from the nation-state level. So there are ways to take action now, including by making sure you're supporting clean energy and not dirty energy on a monthly basis.
OP: Space colonization is often one of the solutions given in sci-fi to the decay or destruction of Earth's ecosystems. Why should humans care for the Earth long-term, instead of focusing on looking for other planets to inhabit?

John: I've yet to see a rocket that can get seven billion people off of this planet and onto a second Earth.  Until someone shows me that rocket, I think we should probably take care of what we have here. Also, I kind of like Earth. It's nice here.
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