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On the Grid, Off the Carbon

Power Switch

It can seem overwhelming for an individual to lessen global carbon consumption, but you can stay on the grid while going off the carbon. Like a horse with blinders on, I bought electricity that is seamlessly supplied by a dichotomy of providers--some comes from carbon-free nuclear power and some comes from carbon-intensive coal. Whatever AEP was selling, I was buying. I never thought I could question the source for anything other than price. However, now customers can purchase energy generated by renewable sources and delivered over existing power lines, which creates economic incentive for utilities to invest in better options.

A parallel scenario is happening on the municipal scale. The Rockport Generating Station is allegedly the nation's sixth worst carbon polluter, and one of its customers, the City of South Bend, is considering a resolution urging a transition to clean energy. On a local scale and a national scale alike, people are urging regulators and elected representatives to invest their dollars in renewables rather than dump money into more-of-the-same Rockport coal production. The next public meeting and potential vote is July 25, 2016, in the Council Chambers at the County-City Building.

To switch over your own electricity source at home, find a company that has been vetted through the Green-e program. In searching for companies that merit a Renewable Energy Certificate (REC), you can even choose what your product contains, such as wind, solar, geothermal, or biomass. Admittedly without having done much comparison shopping, I've signed up for Arcadia Power, which has made the transitioning process quite simple. If you follow suit, feel free to use my referral code and we both get a modest thank you. Yes, there is a small upcharge for the service, but I'm willing to show alternatives to carbon are worth it.

Other Actions Count

Switching to renewable energy is only a part of the strategy to lessen the consumption mindset. A change in personal practices compounds the improvement. For example, it's better not to use excess lights rather than merely switch to LED lights and continue at the same level of over-lighting. I list Action Ideas for using less (and better) lighting, as well as practical tips from the Creation Care Team for more sustainable living at!action-ideas/c7f9. Perhaps something there will nudge you to realize, "Hey, I can do that." It all counts.

The best practice is to keep the carbon in the ground. However, if you do consume energy you can also offset that carbon release by supporting earth-friendly projects that otherwise would not have occurred. There is legitimate criticism that carbon offsets allow wealthy parties simply to buy their way out of their pollution or to ameliorate their guilt. Nonetheless, if you're traveling by plane, for example, you can tally the carbon burden of your flight and purchase an offset for that consumption. You could be helping, say, a school in Union City, IN, or a school in Middletown, IN, with their wind energy projects.

Margin Notes

In April 2016, the Keough School of Global Affairs at University of Notre Dame hosted a conference entitled For the Planet and the Poor. The gathering was a call for action in response to Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si', in which the pontiff calls for care of our common home. Unfortunately, some political commentary has characterized his thoughtful and practical text as a demand to lower everyone's standard of living. In fact, Pope Francis exhorts us to change our reckless practices, for doing so can actually increase the quality of living for everyone.

In cleaning my desk I came across the welcoming page from the conference, on which I had written comments by the opening speakers. This is neither revolutionary nor socialist; rather, it is practical advice for a world in need of simple reminders. Here are excerpts from my margin notes:

  • Break through indifference.

  • We fail because we are not trying.

  • Economics is most solvable of problems.

  • Keep the economy bounded by moral principles.

  • It is mutual interest of the rich to help the poor.

  • All things go to God.

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