How businesses and consumers are going green in 2020
It’s 2020! From an environmental perspective, 2019 was pretty lousy what with all the federal cutbacks in environmental regulations and backward steps regarding energy and climate change. Fortunately, many established businesses and industries have concluded they can stay in business by shaping products that suit transition to a greener economy.
Furthermore, entrepreneurs and innovators are coming up with products that suit a carbon-free future. Adapting to change is something humans have been good at, albeit very slowly.
Actions to date have not been enough. Scientists give us eleven more years before deleterious climate change impacts cannot be reversed. Still, there’s no use commiserating over what we haven’t done. The beginning of a year is a good time to set some goals and/or make resolutions to do better in 2020. How do we get ready for needed change?
Making predictions for the future is a precarious occupation but we can note existing trends and draw conclusions to inform our personal, community, state, country and global level actions. That sustains Earth and all its interrelated inhabitants.
One overriding trend to note: More and more people recognize that climate change is really happening. In this election year, certain candidates mention it with concern. It’s especially important to the rights of young people who inherit what their elders leave them. Talking to legislators, joining organizations working on this issue, and participating in rallies such as Friday Fire Drills are all valuable actions to bring awareness. Chattanooga Climate Forum is on the case for action (Next meeting Sunday at 4 p.m. at Thankful Episcopal Church).
Nature herself can convince people to adapt to changing situations. Wildfires in California and Australia surely will impact how and where people will live and what plants and animal species survive. Locally, we have seen the trend of storms and flooding is moving toward catastrophic levels. Someone once told me, “A groundhog doesn’t build his home in a wetland and neither should we.” We should not fill wetlands either as water from those trending prolific amounts of rain during a storm need more, not less, places to go to protect life and property. Get ready!
There are several trends in the energy sector. Fossil fuels for electricity generation and transportation contribute most to greenhouse gas emissions. The auto industry is already taking steps to move toward greener vehicles. Increasing demand for electric vehicles has resulted in automobile companies all designing such. Volkswagen will be producing their model in Chattanooga soon. Get ready!
TVA is slowly closing its coal-fired plants for making electricity. In place of coal, nuclear power, with its legacy of radioactive waste and high cost, plays a larger role along with natural gas. TVA is reluctantly being dragged into using solar and wind energy primarily due to price which has fallen 36 percent in five years. TVA mostly supports large scale solar contracts not residential. Demand has increased. Expect to see growth in battery storage business too.
The Solar Energy Industries Association says Tennessee is the seventh largest state for new solar generation in America for the third quarter of 2019. Locally, Volkswagen and the Chattanooga airport have large solar arrays as do many smaller business installations. Every kilowatt produced without fossil fuel or nuclear helps slow climate change. Get ready!
Waste treatment shouldn’t be big business. If we can find use for everything we now throw away, there wouldn’t be waste. All the energy embedded in creating new products plus the packaging, transportation to your home, and then to the landfill contributes to climate change as does all your light, heat and sound unless it’s solar powered. Not all waste can be eliminated but creating more energy efficient buildings, buying locally made food and supplies, and separating needs from wants to reduce consumption can really help. Reduce, reuse, recycle are good words to live by. Get ready!
Perhaps the most egregious trend is that toward loss of and/or mistreatment of land. Massive loss of birds and insects sends signals that humans have poisoned the land and are out of sync with the way nature works. Discarded plastic is killing ocean species. Urban sprawl and monoculture farming continue to cover up land that should be growing native plants or forests, supporting biodiversity, cleaning air and water, and regenerating soil. Holding carbon in soil, oceans, rocks, and trees slows climate disruption. Get ready.
It’s a new year. Given these trends, isn’t it time to incorporate likely climate change risks into our thinking? Ready! Set! Go!
by Sandy Kurtz
Sandra Kurtz is an environmental community activist, chair of the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway Alliance, and is presently working through the Urban Century Institute. You can visit her website to learn more at enviroedu.net