Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative

There are numerous climate change initiatives and projects being done around the globe to address the ecological consequences that are resulting from anthropogenic pressures on our planet. We hear a lot about communities doing their own part to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. One initiative in particular has made leaps and bounds to target regional greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) was the first mandatory cap-and-trade program to limit carbon dioxide from the power sector. It is the cooperative effort of the following states to combat the effects of climate change through this program: Maine, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York and Massachusetts.

This initiative offers a market-based program that establishes a regional cap on the input of carbon dioxide that can be emitted by power plants. This is monitored and traded by way of allowance. States can buy and sell CO2 allowances from each other as long as they stay within the budget for the region. This way, the region can limit their emissions as a whole while incentivizing one another through market based strategy. The states distribute over 90% of allowances through auctions, quarterly. The auctions generate proceeds, which each state is given the opportunity to invest in benefit programs. These funded programs include that of renewable energy, energy efficiency, etc.


Climate change can be addressed across many scales. However, it is harder to formulate and organize mitigation strategies and policies at larger scales due to contrasting viewpoints, limited funding and viable solutions. For this reason, it is still a challenge to get larger bodies on board with proposed projects and actions to address climate change. This creates a vicious cycle that prevents us from making effective changes. The US is responsible for a large percentage of the worlds GHG emissions (2nd largest contributor behind China) . Recently the US refused to abide by The Paris Agreement, a climate agreement within the United Nations Framework that deals with GHG emission mitigation, adaption and finance starting in the year 2020. By taking part in this agreement, the US could have helped play a big role in strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change. However, by saying no, it has discouraged other countries from making the effort as they attempt to keep pace with the US’s booming economy. This as created


The Northeast has recognized the importance to take action and has come together to devise their own cap-and-trade system in order to help reduce these impacts. According to Inside Climate News, these eastern states have agreed to cut 30% of the region’s power plant global warming pollution by the year 2030.  As a resident of these states, I can participate in  this initiative by electing the right government officials that support this system. By offering an effective and successful large scale way to cut down CO2 emissions, the RGGI is a great example of how we can come together and create viable ways to address climate change. It serves as a great model for other areas of the world and offers an optimistic look into what our future can be.




Rising: Multimedia Stories of Local Change

Everyone has a story. More and more, those stories reveal the everyday impacts of climate change on local communities. They expose our vulnerabilities, weak spots in the socio-environmental interface, and our ability to rise above these challenges to create new opportunities for action. Rising, a multimedia exhibit of climate change in North Carolina, showcases these vulnerabilities and opportunities by combining oral histories with soaring aerial photography.


A photo from the exhibit shows birds standing on a shoal in the ever-changing Hatteras Inlet. Photo by Baxter Miller.

Inspired by a flight over the North Carolina coast, photographer Baxter Miller got together a group of community activists, local nonprofits, and academics to create a new tool for communicating climate change. Her idea was to pair dramatic photos of the shifting landscape with stories by the people experiencing those changes. The team received a community collaborative research grant from North Carolina Sea Grant and the William R. Kenan Jr. Institute for Engineering, Technology, and Science based at North Carolina State University to bring their vision to life.

Their first exhibit opened on February 16 at the Center for the Study of the American South at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Rising directly addresses climate change, specifically the impacts that threaten coastal communities and their economies by elevating the voices of North Carolina’s coastal residents – from fishermen to lifelong residents. The exhibit tries to transcend current challenges in communicating climate change by relying on personal stories and vibrant art to create a shared, emotional connection among viewers.1 For those who can’t make it to Chapel Hill, the exhibit travels eastward to a coastal location in the state later this summer, and anyone can follow along online through Facebook and Instagram.


Visitors crowd around one of the photos during the exhibit’s opening reception in Chapel Hill. Photo courtesy of Rising.

Rising does what many other climate change projects fail to do: speak to people’s deeper humanity in ways that connect with our strongest values.2 Communicating climate change isn’t as simple as sharing the science; in fact, the more people know about climate change, the more they tend to become entrenched in their original positive or negative opinions.3 Rising overcomes this divide by showing climate change in a whole new light, calling upon personal stories and visual artifacts to show not tell. It uses stories to connect to community identities and relational values in a positive manner, emphasizing the personal relevance of climate change and potential responses.4 Miller, in a NC Sea Grant news release, sums up the goal of Rising by saying, “My hope is that it will provide an alternative lens through which to engage in conversation about whether my home region’s fate will be one of loss or continued resilience.”

While deeply place-based and personal, communities around the world could easily replicate the project. Drones, fast becoming an effective tool for many forms of science, have made aerial photography more cost-effective and anyone with a smartphone can start collecting stories from the people around them (for more guidance, check out these guides from The Smithsonian and StoryCorps). The impact of this type of project depends less on technology, though, and more on who gets involved. The stories will only be powerful if they represent real lived experiences and will only resonate with a wide audience if they represent diverse viewpoints. The organizers need to be established within the community or have an enhanced understanding of what stories might be available (and how) for the project to be successful. As a storyteller herself, Miller understood this hurdle and took careful measures in creating a team that could uncover the rich tapestry of life represented in the Rising exhibit.

How many people see the exhibit also enhances its overall impact. The traveling and social media aspects of Rising try to do this, but subsequent projects could increase visibility by having similar exhibits at schools, inviting important public figures/dignitaries, and/or by making it more interactive, such as collecting new stories at the exhibit or by using music. For many, a multimedia exhibit like Rising may represent the first time they see climate change as a human issue rather than a scientific question of data, models, and uncertainty.

“All good science is art,” reasoned English novelist John Fowles, followed closely by the idea underpinning this act of climate optimism: “And all good art is science.”


Photos showing both the beauty and fragility of the coast provide a gateway for talking about the impact of climate change on increasingly powerful storms. Photo by Baxter Miller.


    1. Corbett, J. B. and B. Clark. 2017. The arts and humanities in climate change engagement. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science. Retrieved 18 Mar. 2018.
    2. Corner, A., Markowitz, E., and N. Pidgeon. 2014. Public engagement with climate change: the role of human values. WIREs Clim Change 5: 411-422.
    3. Kahan, D. M., Peters, E., Wittlin, M., Slovic, P., Ouellette, L. L., Braman, D., and G. Mandel. 2012. The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks. Nature Climate Change 2: 732.
    4. O’Neill, S., and S. Nicholson-Cole. 2009. “Fear won’t do it”: Promoting positive engagement with climate change through visual and iconic representations. Science Communication 30(3):355-379.

Special thanks to Baxter Miller and the Rising team for permission to use their photos in this post!

350Vermont encourages local community members to stand up to climate change and environmental injustice

Screen Shot 2018-03-20 at 11.58.21 AM350Vermont is a nonprofit organization that is built on the goal of bringing Vermont residents together to combat climate change. The organization promotes awareness of local environmental issues, like state policies, that may affect Vermont’s vulnerability to global climate change. 350Vermont encourages Vermonters to band together to reduce fossil fuel emissions and promote alternative ways of life that don’t compromise the health of the environment. The organization also stands up to environmental injustices, as many effects of climate change disproportionally affect marginalized groups.

This seed addresses sustainable development challenges from an integrated approach that incorporates supporting humans and the environment in the context of climate change. 350Vermont believes both humans and the environment are affected by a changing climate and that solutions considering both aspects should be developed. The organization holds rallies and events that bring awareness to these issues.

I think this initiative is particularly interesting because it focuses not only on the environment, but the people who are affected by environmental changes caused by a warming climate regime. I feel that environmental movements should integrate sustainable ways of living that will help communities understand that they don’t need to sacrifice in order to build resiliency and preserve our natural resources. What is equally important to the environmental effects of climate change is how marginalized groups are often negatively affected by these consequences and sometimes cannot effectively voice their opinions.

350Vermont involves a wide range of key actors: University of Vermont, Middlebury College, Vermont Pension Investment Committee, Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG), and Energy Independent Vermont. This organization was started in 2011 and is now well developed- 350Vermont is currently running five campaigns and hosts multiple events each week that focus on spreading the word about climate change and environmental justice issues.

350Vermont’s model could be used in states around the country. The organization works at the local level to encourage community members to get involved, which could be replicated elsewhere. It seems like this type of organization does not need significant infrastructure or funding to get started, which indicates this plan could realistically be implemented in many locations. I think one of the goals of 350Vermont is to encourage other local communities to start a chapter.

Renewable energy plans would enhance the impact of this seed, as one of the main goals of 350Vermont is to reduce fossil fuel emissions in Vermont. Carbon pricing, or the ESSEX Plan, would also heighten the impact of this seed by creating an incentive to burn less fossil fuels. Why should we be focusing on reducing fossil fuel emissions?

Government regulations that support fossil fuel investments would impede the impact of this seed by creating an incentive for companies to burn more fossil fuels. Misinformed Vermont residents could also negatively impact the organization’s goals by resisting to participate in rallies and other events that promote awareness. The implementation of pipelines that take away sacred lands and destroy ecology could also inhibit the goals of the organization from being met.

350Vermont recently encouraged 34 Vermont towns to vote in favor of seeking resolutions to climate change! You can check out this article for more details:


Here is an example of a relevant environmental injustice:

Corporate and Organizational Climate Action: Protect Our Winters and their Partners

Lindsay Barbieri posting for Kyle Weatherhogg 



Photo Source: Protect Our Winters (1)

The Hook: A Common Interest

To many, outdoor winter activities are a definition of identity, business, and passion. Lately, winter enthusiasts are experiencing large changes to their ability to enjoy the snow and ice as they once were able. Protect Our Winters is a non-governmental organization that

“is a passionate crew of diehards, professional athletes and industry brands mobilizing the outdoor sports community to lead the charge towards positive climate action [who] focus on educational initiatives, political advocacy and
community-based activism”(1).

The organization has been able to drum up support from people all over the world that share the same feeling of fear of no longer having the ability to recreate and compete as they had in the past. Through the support of professional athletes with endorsements, activism; and the support of large outdoor sport retailers, the organization has a wide audience to influence. Thus the common theme has started an activist movement in support of climate focused political, personal behavior changes, and support companies that do it right.

The website encourages member action in:

  1. Find Your Biggest Lever
  2. Get Political
  3. Educate Yourself
  4. Speak Up
  5. Talk to Businesses
  6. Change Your Ways
  7. Join POW

Policy or Corporation?

Some argue that government is not the place to make change. Vandenbergh and Gilligan argue in their new book, Beyond Politics, The Private Governance Response to Climate Change (2), that private corporations and organizations have large power to influence change faster and larger than current governmental policy. They discuss the ability of corporations to be able to influence policy regardless of domestic or international borders. Large corporations can influence social norms and can help improve business practice standards among competitors. Protect Our Winters seems to be grabbing onto these ideas.

Some Partners: Burton and Patagonia

Burton: At a recent Protect Our Winters meeting at the Burton Headquarters in Burlington, Vermont, members of the audience were able to learn from a panel of business people, an athlete, and community organizers how they are contributing to the action of Protect Our Winters. Donna Carpenter, CEO of Burton Snowboards, spoke to the changes that their company is making changes towards climate adaption. They have increased the sustainability, traceability, and reusability of their products.

At Burton, the need for winter is essential in their business. While not necessary to go into detail, products will not be sold without the ongoing need and ability to use them as intended! No snow, no need for snowboards! Burton has been influential for political change with POW, in hearings in Washington and their business model (3).


Photo Source: Burton (3)

Patagonia: The mission and transparency show the dedication of this company for climate mitigation. The ad below that appeared in the New York Times (4) is a clear example of this opinion. Patagonia gives an in depth explanation of where their products are made, with what materials the products are made, and goals for the future (5).

Independently, Patagonia has taken on a voice in politics that helps to turn ignorance to education. There were multiple examples of this such political activism in the past year such as the work conservation in National Parks, agricultural change, and suing the President, etc. Through the basic concept of likability in their company, they have a large voice and therefore ability to make social change.


Photo Source: Patagonia (4)


Climate change action doesn’t need to just come from governmental policy, in fact corporations and like-minded people may be the best route for making felt changes. Instead of supporting companies and organizations who don’t seem to put much care on the environment, perhaps think about supporting ones that strongly admit their goals in relation to climate change.

Protect Our Winters is making a large difference in increasing awareness for climate change issues.


  1. Protect Our Winters,
  2. Gilligan, J, Vandenbergh, M. (2017) Beyond Politics, The Private Governance Response to Climate Change. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
  3. Burton Snowboards Sustainability,
  4. Patagonia Ad,
  5. Patagonia and Climate Change,

Turning enemy to stone: A Medusa approach to combatting climate change

Climate change discourse is filled with negative stories: every day the media is telling us about melting ice, starving polar bears and dying coral reefs. Sometimes these stories can obscure climate action’s successes stories, even though science has come up with a number of amazing solutions to adapt to and mitigate global warming. In addition to enthusiastic but purely theoretical ideas of putting huge “sunglasses” around Earth to shade the tropics or wrapping Greenland in reflective blanket, other technological solutions are already in place and tested for effectiveness. One example is Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), a self-explanatory negative emission method where “negative” is actually positive and refers to the removal of carbon from the atmosphere. Carbon is captured from the atmosphere and ejected into a storage site, usually a highly permeable rock.

1 - Medusas Spell.png


Previously, the potential of CCS has been questioned due to its high costs, time extent before carbon solidifies into rock, and risks associated with trapped CO2 leakage. The estimated costs of CCS ranged between $50 to $100 per ton of CO2 sequestered and expect to take hundreds or even thousands of years for captured carbon to solidify. Scientists also feared that fissures in the rock layers could allow some carbon dioxide to escape.

However, a study published in Science in 2016 by Matter and others (2016) on the success of their CarbFix Project brought the CCS discussion back to the table. An Iceland-based research team has successfully sequestered atmospheric carbon dioxide by injecting it into basaltic rocks; it took for the injected CO2 less than two years to mineralize, way faster than the scientists expected. By using this mechanism, the technology allows not only reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but permanently sequester it in the rock, a geological weathering at extremely accelerated pace.


Source: Matter et al. (2016).

Further, this novel project addressed the problem of where to store the captured gas and minimize the risk of leakage. As Science Magazine (Kintisch, 2016) reports, previous CCS “used formations of sedimentary rock, often sandstone harboring briny groundwater or depleted oil wells, because industry has long experience in working with them”. By contrast, CarbFix researchers injected CO2 into underground layers of volcanic rocks known as basalt, and carbon dioxide reacts relatively quickly with this type of rock to create carbonate rocks. Unlike sandstone, the basalt contains metals that react with CO2, forming carbonate minerals such as calcite—a process known as carbonation (Kintisch, 2016). The geology of Iceland played a key part in success of this project: basalt is found all across the island.

The scientists are now exploring similar possibilities with vastly greater storage potential beneath the oceans off the U.S. coasts, and they are experimenting with a type of rock found in abundance in Earth’s mantle that could be used to go the next step and begin taking CO2 out of the environment (Morford, 2016). In 2017, CarbFix teamed up with Swiss startup Climeworks to scale up the CarbFix approach on a global level; the team set itself the goal of capturing one per cent of global CO2 emissions by 2025.  The same year, Climeworks switched on a first carbon capturing plant in Switzerland.

This technology has received support from many governments in Europe and North America. CarbFix project was originally encouraged by Iceland’s President who sought to make his country the leading example of clean energy.   On the other side of the ocean, the US 2018 budget bill included an increased number of energy tax for the development of renewable energy, a separate measure would greatly expand a tax credit for companies that capture carbon dioxide from power plants or other polluting facilities and pump it underground (Sanger-Katz, 2018).

Despite the allure of this technology, it comes with drawbacks. Some scientists fear that negative emissions might not work as effectively as advertised, or have serious side effects that. The CarbFix project, for example, sequestered only about as much carbon as a typical U.S. family produces in a year (Grossman, 2017). Further, CCS was criticized as “politically-appealing panacea that postpones the need for rapid and immediate mitigation and justifies further use of fossil fuels (Anderson & Peters, 2016).”

Certainly, CCS is not the ultimate solution to climate change; we still need to significantly reduce the greenhouse gases emission, on individual, national and global levels. However, it illustrates the potential of technology to mitigate climate change and offers a glimpse of hope in the depressing discourse around climate change. We need to change our actions to reduce the effects of climate change, but we also need to change the way we present the issue. The rhetoric of irreversible catastrophic warming is not very conducive to motivating people to act; blind hope that we will miraculously escape climate change’s consequences is just as ineffective. As Dr. Greg Asner, a lead scientists at Stanford’s Carnegie Airborne Observatory, put it, “we need to change this negative media story and turn it into a positive one. But we need to do so not just by simply basing it on hope, but basing it on the science and conservation-based hope.”

References list:

Anderson, K., & Peters, G. (2016). The trouble with negative emissions. Science, 354(6309), 182.

Grossman, D. (5 May 2017). Pros and cons on ‘negative emissions’ prospects. Yale Climate Connections. Retrieved from:

Kintisch, E. (10 June 2016). Underground injections turn carbon dioxide to stone. Science Magazine. Retrieved from: htttp://

Matter, J. M., Stute, M., Snæbjörnsdottir, S. Ó., Oelkers, E. H., Gislason, S. R., Aradottir, E. S., … Broecker, W. S. (2016). Rapid carbon mineralization for permanent disposal of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. Science, 352(6291), 1312.

Morford, S. (25 Oct 2016). Turning CO2 to stone. PHYS. Retrieved from:

Sanger-Katz, M., Plumer, B., Green, E.L., Tankersley, J. (8 Feb 2018). What’s Hidden in the Senate Spending Bill? The New York Times. Retrieved from:

Vermontivate: Climate Change becomes fun & games

Minimizing contributions to climate change requires targeting corporations that are sources of major emissions, but it must also include small changes in the individual’s everyday habits. Building these habits can be difficult and some individuals may lack the motivation to makes such changes, but Vermontivate, a local initiative, aims to change this.

To encourage individuals to make more sustainable choices, Vermontivate has formulated these habits into an online game. Participates can form teams and take part in a six week series of challenges, posting their reenactments on the online game board and earning their team points. Winners of the game are awarded a cash prize to be put toward a proposed climate project, but many people play just for the reminder to take individual actions against climate change. All submissions are available to the public thanks to Vermontivate’s mission to inspire hope, fun, and peer-to-peer education of sustainable daily habits.


This initiative is quite accessible to a wide audience, as it is publicly available and has pages on Facebook and other social media. The website itself organizes teams based on if they are from a community, a school, a workplace, or other, and a winner is chosen from each category. Unfortunately, it does not appear as though the game is still playable, but the resources and ideas are still available to view. Therefore, although there is not the cash prize incentive, it is still possible to cultivate creative solutions to past challenges with the influence of ideal already proposed. It is a great way to find groups you identify with and discover what they were able to contribute as well.

For some, Vermontivate could be a creative way to share and test out possible solutions to challenges related to climate change. It could also be a starting point for people who want to change their habits to help decrease human impact on climate change. This game encourages teamwork and sharing ideas and also adds a little competitive edge. It also shows that there are possible solutions to problems we are facing related to climate change. Even if the solutions shared aren’t the best option, this shows that there are still solutions. The Vermontivate website is also very user friendly, so someone who doesn’t have much experience with climate change can easily navigate and find possible solutions to problems they have heard about.


Initiatives like this will be important to keep up positivity in light of startling articles like The Rolling Stone’s “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” that threaten drastic changes in climate. While articles like this demand change by inspiring fear, Vermontivate encourages a positive outlook on change. Esentially, Vermontivate promotes changing habits and possible solutions to make the terrifying math a little less terrifying. Also some of the challenges and solutions directly relate to numbers brought up in the article. For example there is a whole section on the Vermontivate website geared directly at energy usage and how to use clean energy. The article talks about carbon emissions and how deeply we, as a planet, need to decrease emissions drastically in order to ensure that the global temperature increase stays below two degrees celcius. Vermontivate is a cool way to eliminate the negative effect climate change has, and promote ways to change habits.

Moreover, Vermontivate is a means to directly enact change in your life. A lot of stress is put on supporting sustainable policy (examples of which can be found in the journal Energy Policy), and so individuals often overlook the small changes their able to make their daily lives. Vermontivate is friendly reminder to consider solutions to climate change, and avoids the political debate associated with policy. Therefore, while politicians debate over means to enact society wide change, Vermontivate is available in the small scale for those interested in participating.

Overall, Vermontivate galvanized incentive, creativity, and community learning around climate change. Although not currently active, participant contributions are still available to individuals looking to make daily life changes to mitigate climate change. Initiatives like this are enough to get wide age groups and communities excited about taking initiative in the face of a issue that can seem unapproachable. The most important impact of this initiative is, then, that it’s possible to bring responses to climate change down to a manageable level.

Turning the lights on and emissions off in sub-Saharan Africa

The need to improve energy access continues to be a crucial agenda across the world, and especially in developing countries. Across sub-Saharan Africa only one in six rural inhabitants have access to electricity, this means that around 625 million people have little to no electricity access (Gilbert 2017; Sanyal 2017). But, the continuous decline in decentralized renewable technology cost, such as solar panels and energy storage, has improved the affordability of off-grid technologies and the likelihood of installation in these areas (Collins & Munyehirwe 2016).


Samuel, who lives on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, distinguishes a kerosene lamps

Those living in rural and impoverished areas across Africa are currently paying a disproportionate amount for energy. For households living off the grid, kerosene lamps, an expensive and dangerous technology which produce both CO2 and black carbon, are the primary lighting source (Sanyal 2017, Tedsem 2013). For villagers in rural Kenya and Rwanda, buying kerosene to produce a kilowatt hour (kWh) of energy costs around $8 USD. In comparison, people living across the UK and US pay between 10 and 15 cents per kWh (Sanyal 2017; Wogan 2013).

Buying kerosene at these exorbitant prices means that villagers are often spending 30% of their income on kerosene. Additionally, charging a mobile phone in rural Kenya costs almost 400 times more than it would to charge the same phone in the US. The high price of kerosene and declining price of solar energy technologies, means that solar charging kits are a promising alternative for many rural families. However, solar charging kits, which have an up-front cost of around $50 are still too expensive for most families in rural sub-Saharan African. Which is where Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) business models come into it (Sanyal 2017; Wogan 2013).

The PAYG business model addresses the high upfront costs that discouraged households from acquiring solar systems. Under PAYG models, customers pay a small initial payment for a solar panel and control unit that powers LED lights and charges devices like mobile phones (Lapowsky 2013). The initial payment is followed up with predetermined daily, weekly or monthly instalments, which are typically made via mobile phone. If a customer fails to or chooses not to make a payment the solar charging system is disabled until payment is made. This allows customers to pay for electricity when they need it or when they can afford it (Azuri Technologies Ltd n.d.). In practice, kits are paid off after about 18 months and the subsequent electricity is then free for the owner (Collins & Munyehirwe 2016).


Azuri Technologies PAYG solar system installed in a South Sudan village

Azuri Technologies is a commercial provider of PAYG solar systems to rural off-grid communities in sub-Saharan Africa, that has been running since 2012. They have estimated that since 2012 their PAYG solar systems have provided 46.8 million hours of clean light and 15.3 million hours of mobile phone charging to 140,000 people (Azuri Technologies Ltd n.d.). The use of solar energy instead of kerosene, diesel and wood has also prevented the creation of 5,668 tons of CO2 emissions (UNFCCC 2017). Azuri Technologies is just one of many companies now offering off-grid solar alternatives in the hope of creating brighter and cleaner futures.

Globally, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have doubled since the early 1970s, driven mainly by economic growth and increasing fossil-energy use in developing countries. However, by meeting the growing demand for electricity in developing countries with renewable sources, such as solar, GHG emission can be reduced while still allowing for continued economic and social development (Marchal et al. 2011; UNFCCC 2017). PAYG solar systems provide a cheaper and greener alternative for millions of people who would otherwise rely on CO2 and black carbon emitting fuel sources, such as kerosene, diesel and wood for lighting, cooking and electricity.

Azuri Technologies Ltd. (n.d.). Cambridge, UK.

Collins, S. & Munyehirwe, A. (2016). Pay-as-you-go solar PV in Rwanda: evidence of benefits to users and issues of affordability. Field Action Science Reports, 15, 94-103

Guilbert, K. (2017, Apr 9). Behind Azuri Technologies’ push to bring solar power into rural African homes. The Thomson Reuters Foundation and VentureBeat.

Lapowsky, I. (2013, Apr 18). Power to the People (for a Profit). Inc.

Marchal, V., Dellink, R., van Vuuren, D., Clapp, C., Château, J., Lanzi, E., Magné, B. & van Vliet, J. (2011). OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050. OECD.

UNFCCC. (2017, Mar 30). Using Pay-As-You-Go Solar Home Systems in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Sanyal, S. (2017, Feb 8). “Pay-As-You-Go” Solar Could Electrify Rural Africa. World Resources Institute, Washington, DC.

Tedsen, E. (2013). Black Carbon Emissions from Kerosene Lamps. Ecologic Institute, Berlin, Germany.

Wogan, D. (2013, Nov 22). Pay-As-You-Go Solar Energy Finds Success in Africa. Scientific America.

Cleaning Products for Climate Health

How many times have you held a product in your hand while your mind debates about if it is the right product to buy? “What even is triclosan? Can I spare the four dollars to buy the aluminum free one? How many ounces is this again? I could buy it in bulk but, Ahh but the bulk one is from Canada! Oh no, it has corn.”

You are not alone. There is a company who has taken the initiative to help you reduce the amount of time you spend shopping for your home!

Image result for seventh generation

Seventh Generation provides cleaning products under the mission statement “Seventh Generation was founded in 1988 to provide environmentally friendly household products that help consumers lessen their impact on the planet. Our mission is to inspire a more conscious and sustainable world by being an authentic force for positive change.” Not only has the company created a safer cleaning product, provide hypoallergenic products, list their ingredients, provide an informative blog about current issues (and their involvement), are third-party tested but they are also conscious of the current state of our climate and how their industrialization and product production affects it.

The company takes the responsibility of holding a space in the cleaning product industry as a company that is actively reducing their contribution to climate change by constructing fiber based laundry detergent bottles, bottling other products in 100% recyclable material with directions on how to recycle the bottle, and also by using plant-based ingredients while reducing their use of petroleum-based products.

Petroleum is a fossil fuel that is made up of mostly hydro carbons. When burned the hydro carbons go into the atmosphere. With in the atmosphere the molecules break and reconstruct naturally in a way which forms water and carbon dioxide. This carbon dioxide traps carbon in the atmosphere. The presence of excess carbon in the atmosphere increases the amount of energy trapped inside our atmosphere. Thus causing the intense storms and above average overall temperatures that have been persisting in recent years.

Image result for burning of hydrocarbons

The extraction of  petroleum is a rather disruptive process. The fossil is found so deep underground that in order to extract it the area needs to be located which requires invasive testing in (usually) remote locations. Then once found the area is reconstructed so that large machinery can be moved in. A large drill is then brought in and drills into the ground to extract the petroleum. Once the petroleum is harvested it is transferred to a refinery. Transferring oil can be done by road, train, sea or pipeline. A pipeline is a series of pipes that move the oil, with the aid of pumps along the way, from the drilling site to the refinery.

Image result for oil rigs landImage result for oil rigs

Once at the refinery the petroleum is then heated and run through and extensive separation process which harvests a variety of fossil fuels. Seventh Generation has recognized that the process of petroleum harvesting is extremely hazardous, expensive and invasive to the environment. By taking the initiative as a company to use sources that are not made with petroleum is not exactly the easy way. It takes the extra effort to utilize plant-based power but the less carbon in the atmosphere is very much appreciated. Thank you Seventh Generation.

Singapore Is Going Green One Skyscraper at a Time




Today, many historians, anthropologists and scientists would argue that we exist in an entirely different era than those that have taken place in our planet’s history. According to official historical records, we have been in the Holocene for the past 11,700 years. This time period represents the shift in the Earth’s physical characteristics since the last ice age. However, our presence here has altered the surface of the Earth and its climate, therefore, many would say we have “created our own age”. The Anthropocene has been proposed as the “age of humans” and represents the disruptive physical changes that we have caused. The idea of a “good Anthropocene” is contingent upon the way we develop and combat the wicked problems, such as climate change, that we face today. As we have slowly come to realize the degrading effects of our own lifestyles, efforts have been made to through technology, architecture, etc. to help shift our way of life towards that of a more sustainable future.


As our population continues to grow, cities are becoming more and more popular. Their compact designs and upward vs. outward expansion is ideal. However, cities require a lot of infrastructural and concrete grey spaces. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for natural elements, which has negative environmental effects.  In Singapore, the WOHA architectural firm has created new ways to create dense, environmentally friendly ways of urban living. Project designs include that of skyscrapers that are surrounded by vegetation. Gardens and parks both encompass the buildings and line them. The atmosphere and services given by these green walls and rooftop plants create social and sustainable infrastructure. These designs are classified as “biophilic” and stem from the rationale that we need to generate more places for nature as cities become more prominent.

While WOHA’s designs are centered around the delight that comes from living in a more beautiful, calm and peaceful place, the ecosystem services that these designs provide play a key role in their purpose. The multifunctional skyscrapers offer more than just an aesthetic shelter; they also serve as a way for natural systems to take place in an urbanized landscape. The features of these buildings help with pollution mitigation, storm water management and heat island reduction. The vegetation traps water, reducing surface runoff and ground pollution that cities create. The plants also take C02 out of the atmosphere to help combat excessive greenhouse gas effects that metropolitan areas contribute to by way of production and other forms of high human activity.

Incorporating these types of designs into future development and urban expansion can help us not only move towards a more environmentally beneficial way of living, but can also help us break down the barriers that separate society and nature. By bringing nature’s presence back into our every day lives, we can hopefully stop looking at it as a commodity and start appreciating it for intrinsic values, improving our ecological consciousness. This will help us better respect the natural boundaries that we live within and continue to make progress in addressing climate change and other environmental problems. Only by doing things like this can we create a “good Anthropocene”.

While I respect the purpose of developing ecocities such as the ones that these designs push for, I think the message behind them is contradictory. In my opinion, what will ultimately alter our path and make a difference in the long run is our attitude towards climate change and our willingness to make sacrifices. The way these cities are often advertised is as a luxurious lifestyle where one can still “have it all”. It does not suggest that we need to limit our consumption or change the way we manage our resources. These designs and cities will help us do that, but we also need to recognize it ourselves, not hide behind our existing habits.




Biking Into The Future

America’s future is filled with many environmentally conscious car options. Every year, another car company releases a plan or statement committing to making vehicles with little to no emissions. Some cars on the market completely eliminate the need for gasoline, and run entirely on electric motors. An increasing amount of Americans have been able to beat this green car trend. This demographic is already commuting to work in an emission-free, fossil fuel-free, and nearly cost-free vehicle, which, believe it or not, has been around for two centuries. That’s right, these savvy individuals are riding bicycles. The truly impressive part of this movement is that more people are choosing bikes, and they’re choosing bikes over other forms of transportation like cars and trains. Within the past decade, the number of people who choose to bike to work has increased by approximately 60%. (1)

We have to admit that sometimes it simply isn’t possible to bike to work, after all, bike commuters in the US only make up .6% of all commuters. (1) Those who live closer to their workplaces in a city setting are much more likely to bike to work than those who live a rural setting. To put it into perspective, the median commute time is 19.3 minutes. (1)

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Cities have been rapidly expanding their bike commuting options with bike share and accessibility to bike lanes to meet the raising demand. Bike sharing stations serve as a system of point-to-point transportation which allows you to pick up a bike from any self-serve location. (2) There are typically ten stations within each system, and they contain at least ten bikes each. Bike sharing stations were merely a novelty about a decade ago, but now there are at least 55 systems throughout the US. That adds up to a growing total of 42,000 bikes, as of 2016. (3) Since 2010, the expansion of the bike sharing stations occurred, there have been 88 million trips made on bike share bikes. In 2016 alone, riders took 28 million trips, which is comparable to the annual ridership of the entire Amtrak system. (3)

The percent of commuters who choose bicycles over other transportation may seem less than significant, but it is important to remember the large impact that a single car makes. According to the EPA, the carbon dioxide emissions from the tailpipe of a car from using one gallon of gasoline is about 8,887 grams. The average passenger vehicle produces about 411 grams of carbon dioxide from the tailpipe while driving one mile. This means that an average passenger vehicle produces 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. (4) Having less cars on the road makes a huge difference!

America is following the path that many countries have already taken in lowering their greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. It is especially inspiring to hear that the biking rate has increased. One day we may live in a world with where every car is tailpipe-less and riding a bike to work is just as convenient as driving a car.