The Green New Deal is something that’s been in the works and the news for a while now. So I’m kind of embarrassed to say that I don’t really know what the proposal is all about. Seeing how part of the mission of my blog is based on environmental advocacy and sustainability, I feel I should at least be abreast on some of the major talking points. I’ve heard it being spoken about in brief news clips. But haven’t done any real digging to find out what it’s all about. So for the past week I’ve been looking for news articles to get a feel for what it entails and maybe find ways I’m able to support it on an individual level.
Green New Deal Scope & Design
What I’ve found is, that the plan itself is pretty ambitious. The scope of which the Green New Deal may cover, according to this article from The Intercept, may be anywhere from agriculture, plans for relocating coastal populations from flood zones, ensuring democratic participation in clean energy planning and ending eminent domain. A universal basic income, wildfire management, transportation upgrades and trade policy. And this is only a portion of what it may contain.
Also, according to this article from Vox, the Green New Deal is a take on Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal from the 1930’s. The Green New Deal also covers going carbon neutral in the time frame of ten years. To providing careers, livable wages and pensions to families in the lower income bracket. Closing some of the gaps in the entrenched wealth divide between social classes in the states.
Why The Green New Deal Makes Sense
This was something that was a bit confusing to me at first. But as I continued to read, I realized that most likely the people who would be most incapable of switching to renewable sources, would be those who are having trouble finding these resources to begin with. I.e. lower income and vulnerable populations.
If you’re having trouble paying for the electric bill already, then there’s a good chance that you won’t be able to find alternative sources of energy. Such as installing solar panels on your existing house or apartment building. If you already have the means, then switching to a renewable source shouldn’t be an issue.
And furthermore, the Green New Deal isn’t a set of laws or legislation. It’s a large scale plan to invest in renewable energy sources. Decarbonizing our economy and infrastructure while making society a more fair and just one. The plan makes a lot of sense. But as I said above, it’s ambitious. It can be a little overwhelming for a person on the individual level to feel as though they are having an impact.
How Can an Individual Make a Difference?
If you don’t have the time to write congress, protest or knock on doors to gain support, what can an individual do to help the goals of the Green New Deal? The scope of this expansive proposal is large. So in an attempt to help the average person feel as though they can be doing their part to help, I’ll be listing some ideas on how we can make a difference on an individual level. Ones that are in line with the goals of the Green New Deal.
The first, and probably most pertinent one is, our current energy consumption. One way of changing this is to ask your electric company to switch your power supplier to a company that provides energy from a renewable source.
For example, I live in Massachusetts. So I would need to call National Grid, who purchases power from varying sources throughout the state and ask them to purchase my power from a renewable company. Such as one who uses wind or solar as their main harvesting methods. The energy all travels through the same grid. So there’s no need to upgrade anything in your delivery system.
This has the effect of increasing demand for energy that is provided from renewable sources. And since we live in a capitalist economy, we are voting for cleaner energy with our dollars when we switch to sources such as wind or solar.
Buying Local & Growing Your Own
Buying local is another option. As is growing your own food if you have a green thumb. Some of the focus of the Green New Deal is around trade policy. This may include aspects such as shipping packaged produce from remote parts of the world. While most companies have their logistics down to a science, i.e. filling their shipping containers to maximum capacity for best fuel optimization, buying local produce supports local farms. These farms most likely have fair wages for workers and ethically grown produce. You’ll also be investing money into your own community.
And you can’t get much more local than growing your own! Whether it’s in your backyard, a community plot or in containers scattered around your apartment. Growing your own veggies is most definitely a satisfying and tasty endeavor. You’ll also be eating your produce when it’s at peak ripeness. This means that you will be getting most all of the nutrients your veggies have to offer. So not only will it be better for the environment via food miles, but you’ll also be eating healthier as well.
Finances & the Environment
Unfortunately there isn’t much we’re able to do when it comes to livable wages for workers. But there are some things we can do when it comes to how we choose to spend our dollars. There are credit cards that are marketing themselves as environmentally friendly by offsetting the carbon footprint your purchase has when you swipe your card.
While this is a step in a greener direction, and any attempt to help reduce the carbon being released into the atmosphere is a welcome one, it’s not as clean as it sounds. As Sara Rathner from “The Nerd Wallet” put it, most banks that are issuing these cards are more than likely investing heavily in fossil fuels. Our safest bet when deciding to make a purchase is, deciding if we really need to make the purchase.
This makes a lot of sense. But the reality is, we will sometimes need to make a purchase using a credit card. And in my opinion it’s better to do so with a company that is actively trying to offset the carbon footprint. By making a donation to an organization that is doing green works. Alternatively, we can also look to donate to a charity of our choice. And if we look to shop as locally as possible, we may develop healthier purchasing habits along the way. We’re also waning ourselves off of instant shipping that has become so commonplace.
Transportation & the Environment
Speaking of shipping, transportation is another place where we can make an impact. One of the aspects of the Green New Deal is updating and expanding high-speed light rail for travel needs. This can be approached from a few directions.
First, from a recreational perspective. I live just outside of Boston Mass.. We have a light rail system that is reliable. But we also have trains and buses that connect Boston to other parts of New England and the East Coast. So if you’d like to leave Boston for the weekend you have options. There’s no need to pack yourself and stuff into your car for the trip.
For example, I don’t own a car. But I’d like to take a long weekend in Portland Maine. To go to some of my favorite places and just enjoy coastal Maine for a few days. There’s a tea house, Dobra Tea, that has a few locations up and down the eastern seaboard. The one in Portland Maine and Burlington Vermont are two of my favorite places to visit and a must on my trip.
Luckily there is a train line that runs from Boston’s North Station, that stops in Portland. It’s called the Downeastern. So if I’m feeling like taking a weekend trip, I can hop on a train and be there in a few hours.
Busse, Commuter Rail & Trains
Second, if I want to head south of Boston, I can easily head to South Station which has trains and buses which will bring me to all points south. I believe they go as far South as D.C.. So If you’re looking to get out of your city for a few days, it’d be worth it to check to see what your local travel options are first. That way you won’t have to deal with weekend traffic or other road trip hassles.
If you live in a city that has reliable public transit, commuting via commuter rail, train (more commonly known as the subway) or busses are all great options to help reduce some of your carbon footprint. I take the commuter rail and bus/train to get to work now. Sure the commute may be a little longer, but it gives me a chance to ease into my day. I check emails, do some research for articles I’m writing and just to relax for the first portion of my morning.
Also it costs less to take public transit that it would to drive into work everyday. You save on gas as well as wear and tear on your vehicle. If you go carless and take a Lyft or Uber when you need a ride, your transportation budget becomes exponentially cheaper. As you don’t have a car payment or insurance payment to figure in.
Of course these options are mostly only available to people living in a city with established public transportation. But it’s worth your time to look into if you’re thinking of making a switch to something a little greener.
There are also other small shifts you can make in your daily routine that will help you to do your part that are in line with the Green New Deal. As we all know, planting trees is still one of the best ways to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, state rep. and a major spokeswoman for the Green New Deal is planting a rooftop garden. She plans to fill it with greens to help promote the cause. But if you don’t have a rooftop to turn into a garden, there are other options available to you.
For example, there are websites like Ecosia. Ecosia is a search engine that uses its profits to plant trees in parts of the world that need them most. They boast, every time you search, Ecosia generates income from ad revenue that they then use to plant trees. This is a great way to take something you do every day and turn it into something helpful for the environment.
Donating Directly to the Cause of your Choice
Alternatively, you can also donate directly to projects and organizations that are doing the type of work that aligns with your personal preferences. This list from Green Dreamer has 34 different types of groups and organizations that are doing sustainable work. They range anywhere from ocean conservation, to social justice. Green Dreamer is community supported. Which means they independently cover green topics without special interests from large agricultural or oil companies.
Are there organizations that you’ve heard of and always wanted to donate to? Or find out more about their work? For me, I’ve historically been drawn to groups that take care of our resources. Such as our oceans and mountains. A few of the organizations I donate to are, 4 Oceans, The Sierra Club and Oxfam.
Well, I don’t actually donate to 4 Oceans. They are a certified B corporation that prides themselves on pulling a pound of trash from the ocean for every purchase made. So every time you buy something from them, you donate to their trash collection cause. They have single use plastic alternatives for purchase, but what I’ve gotten in the past are bracelets made from recycled plastic pulled from the ocean. I usually buy them as gifts for people who may be difficult to buy for. This way you and the person receiving the gift can feel good about doing something to help keep our oceans a little cleaner.
The Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is an organization that focuses on protecting our environment from pollution and maintains trails and green spaces. Be it from helping to make the switch from coal power plants to renewable sources. Or to protecting our national parks. The Sierra Club is doing work to help us continue to enjoy the great outdoors. They are also a place where environmental protection meets social justice. By advocating for groups that work with vulnerable populations.
Oxfam international is an organization that aims to help bring an end to world poverty. They do this by advocating for communities that are experiencing conditions that are near or at poverty levels. They help to train, bring in necessary technologies to, as well as help communities grow nutritious foods. Also to gain access to clean water, land and access to fair wages. They do a lot to look after the welfare of the communities they work with too. They help by providing care for communities experiencing conflict or reeling from a disaster.
These three organizations and the list of causes above are only the tip of the iceberg. When it comes to organizations that are out there making a difference, there are many. There are sure to be plenty of people doing the work you would like to be a part of. All you need to do is get out there and look for them. Who knows what you may find. It can be overwhelming, to think of all the areas that needs our attention. Just remember to take it slow, one step at a time.
Also it’s helpful to realize that it took us a while to get into this mess, it may take a while to get ourselves out. So instead of beating ourselves up for not being as green as humanly possible, let’s take an honest look at where we are. Ask, what have we gotten ourselves into and make steps, however small, to get ourselves out from where we are. And don’t give up! It won’t be easy, that’s for sure. But it’s possible. We only need to be diligent in our efforts and work faithfully towards our goals. Peace : ) and thanks for reading.