THE RADICAL RENTER'S GUIDE TO RENEWABLE ENERGY
WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER
This has been a week of bone-deep grief and heart-healing determination. Faced with a xenophobic President Elect whose policies would spell climate catastrophe, we have to be vigilant about taking climate action into our own hands. We can no longer rely on our federal government to create policies that will protect us and our fragile planet. As sad as this is, it's an opportunity to nurture our self-sufficiency skills, reinvest in the local, and put pressure on the private sector to support renewable energy. If you're terrified of what a Trump Presidency would mean for our right to live in a safe, stable climate, don't wait and see—channel that fear into tangible actions you can take today to support clean energy and foster circular networks of exchange. We need to fight the fossil fuel industry that fueled Trump's rise and has threatened Native rights to land and liberation at Standing Rock. And we can do that, because we are fierce, and there is power in the people, and Trump does NOT get to determine whether we live succulent, sustainable lives. We do. And we will.
It's understandably difficult when you're renting a room and living on a budget to know just where to start. So I hope that the following action items will provide you with the resources to carve out your own contribution to growing renewable energy. Many of these ideas have been crowdsourced from renewable energy experts, environmental educators, and climate scientists. Scroll through, pick a project or two to pursue, and then pursue it, passionately. Because how much more beautiful would our world be if every one of Loam's 22,000 readers took on the task of inspiring the shift to renewable energy in their family's home, or condominium, or community? Hella beautiful. That's right.
And just so we're all on the same page, loamy loves, the coal industry is already dying—let's smash that mofo into smithereens.
- Clean energy is not a perfect technology. It's an imperfect system made by imperfect humans like everything else on this earth. So please don't wait for renewable energy to be "perfect" before you start investing. We do NOT have that time.
- Most of us have been waiting for federal policies that will make green energy more affordable and accessible. Those policies are not going to happen at a federal level if Trump is President (hoping that this petition will have some kind of an impact). That means that now, more than ever, we need to link up our individual actions with local governments. Go door-to-door in your neighborhood sharing Green-e Certified Programs. Reach out to family and friends to encourage them to sign up for a renewable energy program in the next month. Join your local 350 chapter to be part of direct action movements. Show up at local government meetings and share your voice.
- Renewable energy is intersectional. As powerful art projects such as The True Cost of Coal by the Beehive Design Collective illuminate, the fight for our environment—which is really the fight for our right to live—is profoundly interwoven with movements such as Black Lives Matter and Native Liberation. As the badass Grace Lee Boggs reminds us, "we need to awaken from the illusion of our separateness."
When you rent a room, it can be difficult to incentivize your HOA to support solar energy. The frustrating truth is that for many property managers, the enormous environmental benefits of going solar are hard to justify if they can't determine who will receive the economic benefits of going solar (the renters? the landlords?)
If you're in this tricky situation, take a deep breath (because BUREAUCRACY, MAN) and then get hustling. I've found in my own experience that it's helpful to research why making an "eco play" will boost your condo/apartment/rental home's market value. More and more, homebuyers and renters are searching for properties powered by renewable energy. We want to live in places that embody our values and heal our earth. And we're willing to pay for it.
Solar is one of the most affordable and accessible renewable energy options on the market. Consider petitioning your college campus to go solar or your condo to power the shared health club by the sun. Whatever your project idea is, feel free to reach out to my brother Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org. Making sense of solar energy options can be overwhelming and Sam can provide you pro bono help as well as connect you with solar consultants and companies in your communities when you're ready for installation. Shoot him an e-mail with the subject line LOAM LOVES SOLAR to get started.
RADICALIZE THE GRID
If you pay your own electricity bill, then you can sign up for Arcadia Power, a clean energy program that allows you to source your energy from community solar and wind programs. Going 50% wind powered is free but you should really go 100% because it's only an extra five bucks tacked onto your electricity bill each month and you, sweet creature, can buck up and do right by the planet.
You can also check out this Green Power Locator to find diverse alternative energy options. To learn more about how these indirect energy programs work, check out this great read by Grist. Every little shift matters.
The fossil fuel industry has hugely damaged our vital water resources through its energy intensive practices. What's happening at Standing Rock is truly emblematic of just how draining Big Oil is—both in terms of human and natural life. It's really freaking important then that we acknowledge that renewable energy is more than installing solar cells and investing in wind turbines. It's about treating our water as sacred and relearning to see our resources as elemental. It's about taking a whole systems and wholehearted approach to generating immediate, radical change.
There are quite literally a boatload of ways to conserve water in your home (reuse pasta water, put a bucket in a shower to collect water as it warms up) but when it comes to nurturing collaborations with your landlord, installing low-flush toilets and low-flow shower heads is an easy way to maximize water efficiency and save money.
Drive a car? Consider converting your engine to biofuel. This awesome how-to from the Biofuel Oasis breaks it down.
If going biofuel isn't possible, there are many ways you can reduce your reliance on fossil fuels as a driver. Buy secondhand cars, use public transportation, carpool with friends, and try to take long-distance trips only when you can ensure a full car. If you can resee your car as a luxury and not a core component of your daily routine, no matter the minor "inconvenience" of bussing to the grocery store or biking to work, then you'll be able to minimize fossil fuels until that affordable Tesla hits the streets or car sharing comes into your community or public transportation ups its game on the West Coast (wish that everyone could know the subaltern sweetness that is the NYC subway system).
That said, taking the bus is beautiful me time and biking is the best. Let's challenge America's environmentally destructive love affair with cars and instead embrace the lusciousness of life a pied.
CREATE AN EV SHARING SYSTEM
If you live in a big apartment complex or condo, there might be many people in your community who would love to go in on an affordable electric vehicle & charging station that community members can use for free. Ask around. Because WHY NOT?
And if you're looking to bring car sharing to life on a larger scale, consider Blue Indy a blueprint for car sharing models.
Building renewable energy is interwoven into building the reciprocity economy. If car sharing isn't feasible just yet, turn to other ways to share resources with your neighbors. Neighborhood Goods is a cool resource for mapping out connections and this primer from Yes! Magazine will fortify you for the many twists & turns of growing local networks of exchange.
I spent 99% of my college career trying to convince Physical Plant to let Wild Walls install vertical gardens directly onto major campus buildings to provide insulation and decrease energy costs. For some reason ("structural integrity") I wasn't allowed to drill hanging planters wherever, whenever, but the experience of building free-standing vertical gardens affirmed for me—and continues to affirm—the power of plants. When you're short on space and lack a backyard, a vertical garden is a gorgeous, hope-filled way to infuse your life with green. Tower gardens, hanging planters, and windowsill pots of herbs teach us how to take care of life. This is integral to radically investing in renewable energy.
Because if we're going to really explore what it means to take a holistic, multifaceted approach to renewable energy, then we have to consider the integral role of plant life in helping to mitigate the damage wrought by greenhouse gas-emitting fossil fuels. Plants capture carbon and give us life. Many of the projects in this post will take patience and persistence to come to fruition. The process might be slow moving and frustrating. So sow a garden of your own this very day to sustain you during the fight.