carbon

The rapid rise of the global fossil-fuel divestment movement is a very promising and heartening sign of real progress.

A growing number of people are trying to “put their money where their mouth is” (i.e., where their values are). They want to stop giving their unintentional financial support to destructive, polluting companies and industries, such as the fossil fuel industry, and to shift their support over to clean, forward-thinking companies and industries that aim to have a positive impact on our world.

Putting your money where your mouth is might involve more than just being selective about which stores you go to and which products you buy. You could be unwittingly giving some of your money to companies you don’t want to support, through your accounts and investments: e.g., mutual funds, retirement accounts (IRAs, 401Ks), or any other stock-based accounts or investments. If you look at the list of company holdings that are part of your accounts’ portfolios, you might discover that Exxon and other oil/gas companies are in there, or Walmart, or Monsanto, or Koch Brothers-owned companies (also see the Buycott campaign/app), or McDonald’s or Coca-Cola or cigarette companies… Even if you don’t have any stock-based accounts of your own, there’s a good chance that your city, your college’s endowment fund, your church, or your pension provider invests in companies that don’t align with your values. Institutions like these are increasingly being confronted by local and national divestment campaigns.

_DshqZRQ_400x400Fossil Free maintains this list of the hundreds of institutions (including colleges and universities, cities and counties, religious institutions, and foundations) that have committed to divesting from fossil fuels. They include: Rockefeller Brothers Fund; the City and County of San Francisco; Seattle, WA; Dane County, WI; Ann Arbor, MI, and many, many more. Countries committed to divest billions of dollars at the UN’s 2014 Climate Summit, and many world leaders have spoken out in support of the divestment movement; they include Desmond Tutu, Ban Ki-Moon, Christina Figueres, Mary Robinson, and even the President of the World Bank. People and institutions are divesting from fossil fuels for a variety of reasons. In addition to the values motivation, or to limit the political influence (lobbying budgets) of oil and gas companies, some are simply divesting because they feel that we’re approaching (or have already hit) “peak oil” and/or that fossil fuel reserves will soon become “stranded assets” and fossil fuel stocks are going to rapidly or drastically drop in value.

942A5VXM_400x400At the Divest-Invest site, you can pledge to divest from fossil fuels or to invest in clean stocks, and learn more about the issues and options. (Also see the links below.)

Whether or not you have any accounts that can be divested from fossil fuel or other harmful companies, you should think about investing some money in clean energy or other socially beneficial companies. If you want to switch your mutual fund or retirement accounts over to—or start a new account with—a “socially responsible investment” (SRI) fund, there are many to choose from. Going this route does not necessarily mean that you have to settle for a lower return on investment. SRI funds often perform as well as (or even better) than market averages. (See some performance stats here and here and here.) And socially responsible investing has become much more popular in recent years: U.S-based SRI assets jumped 76% between 2012 and 2014 and reached $6.57 trillion, according to US SIF. You can learn more about fossil-free funds and other SRI funds at the following sites:

A few funds that are fossil-fuel free (to date) include: Green Century Fund (both of their funds: Balanced and Equity), Green Alpha FundsParnassus Endeavor FundCalvert Investments’ Green Bond FundPortfolio 21 Global Equity Fund, and Pax World Global Environmental Markets Fund.  A couple of fossil-fuel-free indexes have been developed, as well:  FFIUS Fossil Free Indexes, and FTSE ex Fossil Fuel Index.

Note: In addition to the relatively new fossil-fuel-free criterion (which most SRI funds do not yet meet), there are a number of other environmental and social issues and criteria that SRI funds can screen for, in areas such as: pollution/toxics, nuclear power, defense/weapons, human rights, animal welfare, executive pay, labor relations, diversity, tobacco, alcohol, and many others. (When you click on the link above, select the Screening and Advocacy tab to find out how/whether various funds address each issue.) Note: It’s important that you look at each fund’s holdings and portfolio policies, as many SRI funds do include some companies that are widely seen as problematic (including oil and gas companies); some but not all of those funds explicitly try to influence and improve those companies’ policies through shareholder activism.

If you would like to have an investment advisor assist you in selecting a fossil-free or other SRI fund, these are a couple of advisory firms that I am aware of:

(You can also do a web search to find firms or advisors who specialize in SRI or clean energy investment or fossil-fuel divestment and who are also based in your area.)

logoAnother way to invest your money is to make a direct investment in a social impact venture, AKA a social enterprise. One place to find some social enterprises and funds that anyone can invest in is CuttingEdgeX. Among their current offerings (which are called Direct Public Offerings) are the RSF Social Investment Fund and the Calvert Foundation’s Community Investment note at Vested.org. For a list of some other funds that are available to everyone (but with a focus on food and farming-related enterprises), also see the top section of this page.

Some people are also able to invest their money in local, distributed solar projects in their area or elsewhere (on housing, schools, etc.). These are two platforms that allow people to do that—though unfortunately, for now, most of these platforms’ offerings are only open to California residents, due to current securities regulations (which could change in the future):

(Note: Having solar panels or a small-scale wind turbine installed on your own property is another good way to invest your money and get a solid return on investment.)

Most direct investment opportunities are only open to “accredited investors” (who, basically, are people wealthy enough to endure the risk of losing a considerable amount of money on investments: an accredited investor is currently defined as someone with an individual income of more than $200,000/year or a joint income of $300,000, for the past two years; or a net worth exceeding $1 million, individually or jointly with one’s spouse). If you are an accredited investor, there are all sorts of social enterprises you can invest in, e.g., through groups like these:

And there’s yet another way that everyone can make a difference with their dollars: Move your regular (checking/savings) accounts (as well as any credit card accounts) out of the huge, greedy, bail-out banks (e.g., Bank of America, Citibank, Chase, Wells Fargo, etc.) and into a local credit union (credit unions are non-profit cooperative banks that share profits with their members) or a small community bank that won’t charge you ridiculous fees for basic transactions with your own money; won’t gamble with your money, your mortgage, and the economy for short-term gains; and that will give back to its members and your community. There are also a few banks that have an explicit social and environmental mission (and are certified B Corporations), such as:

The Sierra Club offers a credit card with Beneficial State Bank. (Most affinity cards are affiliated with the big, bail-out banks. This is one of the few that isn’t.)

Efforts are also underway to create Clean Energy Victory Bonds, which would be treasury bonds where all the funds raised go to support clean energy in the United States. Click that link to learn how you can support this initiative.

 

Other general resources for further information:

Related posts:

Green Business, Corporate Social Responsibility, Ethical Finance, and Sustainable Economies

Climate and Energy-Related Solutions and Resources

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February 27, 2015
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Many new electric vehicles have hit the marketplace in the past few years, and their popularity is growing fast. This post lists some of the non-car—two-wheeled or three-wheeled—electric (or hybrid) vehicles that are now available or are expected to be available soon. These vehicles have a wide range of prices, from very affordable to pretty pricey. Think of how much gas you could avoid buying (and burning) if you were to use one of these instead of driving a car!

The following vehicles are currently in production and are available to buy:

BMW
C Evolution electric maxi-scooter
(only manufactured and sold in Europe, so far)

Brammo
High-speed electric motorcycles: Empulse and Enertia models

KTM
Freeride E off-road electric motorcycle

Mission Motorcycles
Mission R and Mission RS models: High-performance, high-speed, high-priced electric motorcycle

Segway
Two-wheeled, standing, “Personal Transporter” electric vehicles
(an off-road version is available; and a three-wheeled version is available for law enforcement patrol use)

Switch Vehicles
Three-wheeled electric vehicles

Trikke
Three-wheeled, electric “carving vehicles”—essentially standing scooters (but with sort of a roller-blade or ski-like feel)
(Trikke also makes non-electric, human-powered scooters)

ZAP Jonway
Various electric motorcycles, scooters, and foot scooters
(as well as electric cars, trucks, and a minivan)

Zero Motorcycles
4 models of high-performance electric motorcycles

 

In addition, there are also many brands of electric bicycles and electric bike DIY kits. (Click on that link to see listings of a wide range of other Light Electric Vehicles (LEVs), as well, including other motorcycles and scooters, and various types of velomobiles.)  The ELF is a particularly cool, solar-electric and pedal-powered hybrid, covered tricycle that has cargo room.

 

The following are alternative vehicles that are currently in development; they’re in the prototype phase, and they’re expected to be mass-produced in the near future. Some of these companies are currently taking reservations from people who want to be the first to buy these vehicles when they become available.

Elio Motors
Three-wheeled, enclosed electric vehicle

Green Lite Motors
Three-wheeled, two-passenger, 100MPG, enclosed, hybrid vehicle

Harley-Davidson
Livewire electric motorcycle

Lit Motors
Two-wheeled, enclosed electric vehicle: C-1 and Kubo (cargo) models

Sparrow Motors
Three-wheeled, enclosed electric vehicle

Sway Motorsports
Three-wheeled, tilting, scooter-like electric vehicle

Toyota i-Road
Three-wheeled, enclosed electric vehicle
(currently in limited production in Japan and being used for a car-share fleet in Europe; not for sale to individuals at this point)

 

Have you tried riding/driving any of these yet? Do you know of other two- or three-wheeled electric or hybrid vehicles?

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July 31, 2014
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Saving energy saves money. Reducing your energy use will reduce your gas and electricity bills (which frees up funds for other, more meaningful things). It also benefits the environment and your health in a variety of ways. For example, using less electricity reduces power plant emissions from burning fossil fuels, which reduces air and water pollution, and that helps protect everyone’s health and our shared natural resources. It also reduces the emission of greenhouse gases that are contributing to climate change.

This checklist outlines a number of ways that you can conserve energy at home (or at work), by changing your household (or workplace) products and practices related to Heating and Cooling, Appliances and Equipment, Lighting, etc. Most of these strategies are easy and low- or no-cost, and saving energy helps save you money down the road.

HEATING AND COOLING

  • Program your thermostat to provide less heating or cooling at night and during the daytime hours when your home/building is not occupied. If you don’t know how to change the settings on your programmable thermostat, read the manual or ask someone for assistance. (If you’d like to have an easy-to-program, energy-saving thermostat with an elegant design, take a look at the iPod-like Nest thermostat.)
  • On hot and sunny days, cover your windows by closing the shades, blinds, opaque curtains, or shutters; and turn off any lights that aren’t needed (especially any lamps that are using conventional incandescent bulbs, as they emit a surprising amount of heat). And if you live in an area that regularly has hot summers, consider adding shade trees, awnings, or overhangs (particularly outside of west-facing windows) and putting a light-colored roof on your home when it’s time to replace the roof.
  • Avoid or minimize your use of air conditioning, when possible. Air conditioners use a lot of energy, making them expensive to use. In warm weather, try using ceiling fans, floor fans, or a “whole house” attic fan (or in dry regions, an evaporative cooler) instead of AC. These options can often provide adequate cooling.
  • Follow the recommended maintenance procedures for your heating and cooling systems. Replace or clean air filters as specified in the owner’s manuals. Have your furnace or air conditioner serviced if it isn’t operating properly or efficiently.
  • Keep your heating/cooling vents dusted.
  • Keep furniture, curtains, and other objects away from heater/air conditioning outlets, to allow conditioned air to flow freely into the room.
  • Make sure your windows close properly. Fix any broken window panes, seals, or latches.
  • Don’t leave the heat or air conditioning on if you open a window.
  • Weatherize your doors and windows by using weather stripping or seals to minimize air leaks and drafts.
  • Make sure your home is well insulated. Insulate your hot water pipes and water heater, and add insulation (if needed) to your attic, walls, or basement.
  • Hire a home performance contractor to do a home energy audit; they will inspect your home and identify any inefficiencies and seal up air leaks. In many homes, fixing air leaks can save more energy and money than installing a high-efficiency furnace. (One very experienced company that offers these services in California is Advanced Home Energy, formerly called Recurve.) You can search here for a contractor near you who has been accredited by the Building Performance Institute. If you live in California, check out the information provided by Energy Upgrade California.
  • When purchasing a new furnace, air conditioner, ceiling fan, water heater, windows, or doors, choose products that have a high Energy Star efficiency rating. (For windows, at a minimum, make sure you choose double-paned glass.)

Please continue reading. The rest of this post includes tips on lighting, appliances, electronics, and more:

[CLICK HERE to CONTINUE]

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May 29, 2013
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This is a listing of green-themed films that came out in the last few years (between 2006-2011). I have not seen all of these films, so I can’t say that all of them are worth seeing, but many of them have won awards or been critically acclaimed. Click on the links below (or go to IMDB.com) to see previews/trailers, reviews, and descriptions of each film. Scroll to the bottom of the post to see a list of some green film festivals; those sites provide videos and information on even more films.

UPDATE: Also see our newer post on Films on Green Topics, 2012-2014.

Films on energy, fuel, and/or climate change:

Films on food and/or farming:

Films on other topics (e.g., health/toxins/pollution, water, localization, dolphins, etc.):

If there are other relevant films that you’ve heard of or seen and would recommend to others, please add those in the Comments section below.

* Films that are marked with an asterisk are films that have a more positive or funny bent than many of the others. There are only so many bleak films about reality that people can watch in a row without getting depressed or angry and feeling helpless to make a difference. I find that it’s best to take in some positive stories, solutions, and humor now and then, to keep myself sane and motivated…

UPDATE: Also see our newer listing of Green-themed Films from 2012-2014.

 

Green Film Festivals

These are a few of the annual film fests that I’m aware of. Please let everyone know about others by contributing a Comment! Many of the festivals’ websites feature video clips or entire films (short and full-length films), and they list many additional, new, independent films, beyond what I’ve listed above.

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August 1, 2011
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In the past couple of years, several documentary films have come out that are focused on the folly of fossil fuels (such as oil, gasoline, and natural gas), and new films have also been made to bring attention to the broader climate crisis. Most of these movies have been critically acclaimed.

Recent fuel films include:


Gasland (2009): about drilling for natural gas by “fracking” (hydraulic fracturing) (Gasland is currently airing on HBO and via HBO On Demand.)


Crude (2009): about the lawsuit on Chevron/Texaco’s contamination of an Amazon community in Ecuador


Fuel (2008): about biodiesel made from waste vegetable oil


A Crude Awakening
: The Oil Crash (2007)

Also, in the years since the release of An Inconvenient Truth, several new films have been made about climate change; these include:


Climate of Change (2010: Coming Soon): This film was created to present inspiring, uplifting stories of regular people around the world who have spearheaded a variety of local initiatives to combat climate change.


The Age of Stupid (2008)


Climate Refugees (2009)


The 11th Hour (2007)

Click on the links to see trailers or to learn more about each film. Check sites such as IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, and Netflix for reviews.


If you’ve seen any of these films, let us know what you thought of them by posting a comment below.

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July 26, 2010
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In these times of unnatural disasters—such as BP’s oil-hemorrhaging drill “spill,” as well as extreme weather events caused by increasing climate volatility—more people are seeking ways to reduce their carbon footprint: i.e., their consumption of fossil fuels (petroleum, coal, and natural gas). We are all essentially junkies—or oiloholics—who don’t know how to live without these substances.

Power plants (especially those that burn coal), transportation (particularly emissions from cars, trucks, and jets), and energy use for homes and buildings (e.g., for heating and cooling) are the primary sources of carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases, such as nitrous oxide and methane. [For detailed information on the percentage of emissions from different sectors, see the U.S. Energy Information Administration: Energy Consumption Data and Architecture 2030’s data analysis.]

Until government and industry help shift our infrastructure and economy away from dinosaur fuels and into clean, renewable energy sources, we’ll never be able to get really “clean”—so we should all be pushing for government to end the huge subsidies and tax breaks for dirty energy industries and to support cleaner energy sources (e.g., local solar, wind, tidal power, biomass, and some types of biofuels—a topic for a future post). But we can also do a lot right now, in our everyday lives, to start weaning ourselves off the junk.

In addition to the most obvious steps that can be taken to reduce our direct use of fossil fuels and electricity generated by fossil fuels — such as driving as little as possible and conserving energy and water at home/work/school— there are lots of other ways that each of us can lessen our dependence on filthy fuels. You can do so in every area of your life, from choices you make for your home and household and yard and garden, to your vehicle/transportation, travelfood, and other consumer choices. For example, plastics and many household products (such as common cleaning products and personal care products) contain petrochemicals, most of which are toxic to humans and other animals, so it’s best to choose alternatives to such products (e.g., glass instead of plastic bottles/containers, and natural rather than synthetic chemical ingredients for household/personal products).

I’ve compiled this compendium of several other online resources that list other specific ways that we can start tackling our individual and collective carbon addiction, to gain a decent measure of independence from dirty energy sources:

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July 6, 2010
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If you’re thinking about doing a major renovation of your home or building a new home, I hope you’ll avail yourself of the growing number of resources on how to design and build houses that consume very little energy and that produce at least as much energy as they consume (i.e., net-zero-energy homes).

One of the most recent books on this topic is: Energy Free Homes for a Small Planet: A comprehensive guide to the design, construction, and economics of net-zero energy homes, by Ann V. Edminster (Green Building Press, December 2009). The publisher says: “Energy Free is designed to equip building professionals and homeowners alike with a toolkit for creating homes that use no more energy than they produce—this means homes that are free from the vagaries of energy-price fluctuations and that help to free society of the high political and environmental costs of fossil fuels. The author includes…step-by-step guidance on how to make decisions that will yield an energy-free residential project, whether a single-family home or multifamily building, new or existing, in an urban or a rural setting.” For more info about the book, click here.

One approach to designing and renovating homes so that they use very little energy is the Passive House approach, espoused by the Passive House Institute. The Passive House (or Passiv Haus) standard was originally developed in Germany. Passive houses are designed to reduce energy consumption by 80-90% compared to conventional houses. The first new home being built as a Passive House in California is a project of the Community Land Trust Association of West Marin (CLAM). The home, known as the Blue2 House, is an affordable second unit behind another home in Point Reyes Station; the main house was also renovated using some Passive House techniques.  CLAM is chronicling the home’s construction process and progress on a blog.

Other resources worth checking out include: GreenBuildingAdvisor.com, which has published several case studies of net-zero and near-net-zero energy homes; the Home of the Future program from the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD); the Department of Energy’s Building America program; and Affordable Comfort Inc.’s Thousand Home Challenge and Deep Energy Reductions programs.

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June 3, 2010
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