Over the past several years, the debate on renewable energy and climate change has gotten increasingly relevant and important. In 2016, a Pew Research Center study found that 89% of American citizens support expanding U.S. solar power efforts and 83% support increasing the use of wind power.
In early January of 2017, China announced their plans to invest $361 billion into renewable energy projects over the following three years, prompting then President Barack Obama to explain that the increasing use of clean energy will not be stopping or slowing down.
Despite all the conversations surrounding the debate, it is not often discussed what precisely renewable energy entails. As you may know, the U.S. relies heavily on fossil fuels or energy sources that derived from fossils, such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Fossils are created from the decomposition of dead organisms over millions of years. Due to their formation, this resource is non-renewable, and therefore limited. Thus enters renewable, unlimited energy sources, such as wind power, biomass energy, ocean energy, and solar energy. Although those energy sources are all directly linked to the sun, there is also geothermal energy (derived from Earth’s internal heat) and hydropower (taps into flowing water energy).
In 2015, the U.S. Energy Information Administration found that 13% of U.S. electricity generation came from renewable sources, with the majority being hydropower and wind. While we can’t all afford to revamp our energy sources completely, there are steps that all income brackets can take.
- Solar Panels – If you own a home, and have the capital to do so, investing in solar panels could be a significant step towards reducing your energy consumption. This not only helps the environment, but it also allows you save money on utility bills and receive a solar tax credit on your returns.
- Support Renewable Energy Investors – Patronize businesses who are invested in renewable energy and support environmental journalism through readership and promotion. This support allows businesses to continue investing and journalists to keep documenting what is happening in the world without challenging your bank account.
- Lightbulb Change – This may be surprising, but replacing your old lightbulb with a new LED bulb can reduce your electricity consumption by 15% while producing the same amount of light. On average, this small change saves families over $100 annually.
- Cold Water Washers – As odd as it may sound, washing your clothes in cold water saves tons of energy. It turns out that hot water uses five times more energy and five times more emissions, and cold water cleans just as well. This small step also saves families over $100 annually.
- Vote – The best way to support renewable energy is to get out and vote– and not just for President. It is crucial for communities to get involved and vote for city council, governors, and representatives to create changes on a local and federal level.