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Climate Action Must Continue Before The Opportunity To Change Disappears

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The Chicago Climate Action Plan is released by Center for Neighborhood Technology via flickr

How can the climate change movement adapt to coincide with a post-authority World?

The appointment of the new US president elect was understandably viewed by many I spoke with at the COP22 climate summit as a door closing on the opportunity to protect future generations from the pervasive and irreversible impacts of climate change.

The big question remains whether the US will retreat from the Paris climate agreement. Although the incoming President previously called climate change a “hoax”, the potential to create global markets for the clean energy technologies, which the US currently leads, makes it a hard race to walk away from, especially with China promising to step into the void.

However, although the cost of renewable and effective energy efficiency technologies is approaching parity with traditional energy in many markets, globalisation itself is slowing. The World Trade Organization (WTO) cut its forecast for global trade growth this year by more than a third. And as globalisation shrinks, anti-globalisation sentiment is rising.

Against this backdrop, a new degree of protectionism is setting into the cultural consciousness – which is at odds with the global mission to address climate change. In our current times an international view risks disengagement with most the population.

This is evident in the US, where Trump’s slogan, “Trump Digs Coal” hit the mark across many states, despite the solar industry employing more than four times as many Americans as coal. Similarly, in the UK this summer, 48% of the population believing in internationalism, was outvoted by a majority of 52% ‘locally-minded’ voters in the decision to Brexit.

Given the urgency to initiate a safe trajectory to 1.5 – 2°C by 2030, (the equivalent to cutting the combined emissions of the USA and EU in their entirety for that period), how can the climate movement retain relevance?

A key communications strategy of the climate action movement up to now has been to make “totems” of enlightened business leaders; demonstrating to the middle ground that a profitable, independent low carbon community is achievable. This was a logical approach in the old world where influence flows downwards from the top of the pyramid, but that influence is now inverted. In reality, this has led to an echo chamber, in which the alarm on climate change has rung constantly, without being heard by the outside world. In the post-truth, post-authority world, the gap between the leaders and the laggards causes, rather than prevents climate action inertia.

The climate movement must rapidly engage with the new world. Rather than polarising audiences into allies and enemies, it’s now vital to shape a narrative befitting both locally-minded and internationalist values. New leaders now need to emerge, who can articulate a low carbon future that does not leave communities isolated and resentful.

Despite the divide between localism and internationalism, we are generally united in our concerns about climate change. The European Commission’s latest report on climate action shows that 91% of Europeans see climate change as a serious problem, and the vast majority support national action on improving energy efficiency (92%). In the US, nearly two-thirds of Americans say that they are moderately or very interested in climate change.

The statistics indicate a major opportunity to unite disparate and conflicting populations behind a common action and purpose to address climate change. But first, we need to overcome the ‘value action gap’, or the difference between high stated concerns on climate change and low level behavioural responses to the problem. At a basic level, human beings show their support for causes via visible actions; hence why recycling is second nature across Europe, yet most people have not taken switched to a renewable energy supplier. As human beings, we are sensitive to social feedback –we want our neighbours and peers to see that we act in the interests of the group.

The same values apply at a macro scale for brands operating in the climate space – to build advocacy, brands in the climate space need to become visible vehicles for addressing climate change. We need to show, not tell, what a low carbon trajectory offers at a local level, to spur on innovation, jobs, and independence. The rise and rise of the UK community energy is a clear example of how audiences can be engaged in imagining a low carbon future, and be brought on board to build it.

People are best motivated when an action reinforces their identity and sense of belonging to their social group. We must show that climate action can make us proud to be who we are. This is about choosing the right frames. For example, businesses find it hard to overlook that companies involved in addressing societal issues report a 20% rise in employee advocacy & commitment.

Climate action represents national security and order – versus chaos and loss, productivity and innovation versus stagnation. Yet, these deep-seated values have been underused as triggers for action up to now…

The climate movement should not forget the achievements made by its deep alliances across successful business, NGOs and Governments over the last two decades. Events such as COP22, which hosted 20,000 people in Marrakech, are a powerful means for instilling a sense of belonging for those within the club. Yet, now more important than ever, it’s vital to ensure the door is left open for newcomers to enter the tent to collaborate and prosper.

Energy

Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?

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sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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Energy

7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees

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As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.

After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:

Financial Advising

One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.

Life Insurance

While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.

Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies

Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.

The Ability To Work Remotely

It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.

Health Insurance

Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.

Unlimited Time Off

This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.

A Full Pantry

Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.

Final Thoughts

Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!

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