Solar Power: Then and Now

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Solar panel against blue sky

Solar Power: Then and Now
Solar power used to be considered a pipe dream, something that wasn’t attainable at the time. However, the solar industry is one of the fastest growing markets in the U.S. and the world today, and even the United States Vice President presided over a solar power convention held in California, indicating that the presidential office considered solar energy more than just a passing fad.

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Over 5 million homes can be powered using just solar energy, said theSolar Energy Industries Association. The solar industry, with the help of funding from the U.S. government, hopes to double their reach within two years, and hope to add even more solar units to homes. $18 million a year enters the American economy through solar panel jobs, installation, and maintenance, which is a fairly impressive number. Nearly 175,000 people are employed in the solar industry, and that number increases by nearly 10% every year.

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Changing Tides
The main cause of this change in attitude towards solar energy is the broad acceptance of climate change. President Obama issued a statement early in 2015 claiming that the energy and resources used to live as Americans do every day will not sustain the planet we all live on, and committed his administration to furthering clean energy research and funding. The Department of Energy has now been gifted more money to increase solar unit installation in homes, businesses and other buildings, and private companies have been given grants to explore the range of solar technologies.

Solar panel on a red roof reflecting the sun and the cloudless blue sky

Solar panel on a red roof reflecting the sun and the cloudless blue sky

The Solar Energy Industries Association found that the Department of Defense claimed 16 million acres of land to explore renewable energy (wind and solar), and also stated that the Department of Defense hoped to provide nearly 25% of American energy sources from these renewable generators by 2025.

Solar power, which was never considered a talking point in prior elections, will become one of the mainstays of the 2016 election. Democratic hopeful Hilary Clinton has posed solar power as a pillar of her platform, statingthat by the end of 2021 (her first term), she will have increased solar capacity in the U.S. by 700%. She also wants to add that 1/3 of the United States’ energy would come from renewable sources by 2027. To give you an idea, the renewable energy used in the American power grid is less than 1% currently. A 32% increase in renewable energy in the next 11 years is a rather astounding feat, one that would never have been possible when resources like solar energy where first considered.

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Is Solar Power Enough?
Many argue that solar power is like putting a bandage over a broken dam- not sufficient enough to fix the problems we have already created that we see with climate change. However, if countries and leaders pool their resources and innovation, the world may be able to create enough solar energy to power the majority of the grids in existence.

If we can reverse some of the damage we have done, we can prolong our current life on Earth.

The Most Effective Ways to “Go Green” at Home

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The Most Effective Ways to “Go Green” at Home
With rising concerns about climate change and the ever-increasing dangers we face in the near future, many people are taking it into their own hands to do something to help. There are a ton of ways to “go green,” as the movement has been dubbed. It essentially means a way to support the planet while maintaining a normal lifestyle. With so many tips and hacks on being more eco-friendly, there are a lot of questions about what actually makes a difference. There are a few things that you should really do, even if you can’t do more.

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  1. Buy a hybrid
    Now, if your car works perfectly fine and isn’t an old clunker that gets 8 miles a gallon and spews toxic fumes whenever you start it up, keep it. Seriously. Do not buy a new car just for the hybrid label. However, when the day comes that you need a new car, buy a hybrid. They have hybrid SUVs, electric cars, and cars that can get 50+ mpg. Buy used, and save even more money. If everybody owned a hybrid car, we could dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, of which passenger vehicles account for about 10%.
  1. Screw in a Light bulb
    How many LED lights does it take to save money on your electric bill? Just one. An LED light can last for over 50,000, while regular light bulbs usually last about 2,000. That’s a lot of extra light for similar overhead cost, and you save money on kilowatts per hour (kw/h on your electricity bill), which makes them less expensive than any other option in the long run.
  2. In addition, more than 95% of an LED bulb is recyclable because of the heavy metals that can be found, like nickel and lead. But you won’t have to think about that much, because they last so long!

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  1. Disposables are for Dummies
    This applies to anything you use once and throw away: diapers, plates, napkins, wipes, toothpick “flossers,” razors, and even feminine hygiene products. There are non-disposable options for everything on this list, and more. When you stop filling up the landfills with non-biodegradable items, you save the planet more and more each day. Did you know that it takes an estimated 200-500 years for a single diaper to decompose in a landfill? Instead, you can save money, invest in long-term reusable options, even for things like feminine hygiene! Seriously! There’s no reason to fill a landfill up that people in three centuries might still be dealing with. When you use reusable, quality items, you are saving yourself so much money, time (from shopping for disposables) and health.

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It’s important to remember that “going green” is more of a lifestyle change than a new fad. It is something that is here to stay, and that should also be something we teach future generations. It should also not be a marketing campaign to get the most money.

In reality, a truly green product is the one that is most cost-effective, longest lasting, and most simple to use. If you’re considering an option that isn’t any of those things, it’s probably not very “green.”

Beware the Green Label

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goinggreen

Beware the Green Label

It’s seems like everyone is “going green” these days, or using more eco-friendly products or systems that will help the environment. Tons of products have “green” labels now, car companies are selling hybrid cars, and everyone is talking about what they’re doing to save the environment. This is, of course, better than the tune we were singing not even a decade ago, which was that climate change wasn’t real and wasn’t a threat.

Tides are changing for the better, but there is still a lot of trouble with the idea of “going green.” What could be so bad about “going green”? Well…

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It’s a Way to Make Money

Many companies are jumping on the eco-friendly bandwagon. While many companies actually have expressed a commitment to the environment, reducing their carbon footprint, and reducing their landfill additions or toxic emissions/waste, some companies see it as a way to make money. They may change their packaging, a few ingredients, or find a study that says their products/services/processes are actually eco-friendly, biodegradable, or less damaging than “cleaner” options. Advertising experts are, well, experts at spinning the facts. Don’t rely on a label; do your research.

Oldies are Still Goodies

Does baking soda have a “green clean” label on it? What about white vinegar? A lot of the things our parents and grandparents (and their parents and grandparents) used in the “good ol’ days” are some of the cheapest, most eco-friendly products still on the market. They don’t need fancy labels, or new campaigns to push them off the shelves.

Ask your grandparents what they used to clean with, or how they used to wash and dry their clothes. Ask them about eating food fresh from a garden, and fixing what you had because you couldn’t buy another. Those are the real “green” ways to live, and you can’t always buy them in a pretty box.

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Green is the Color of Money

Many people in inner cities and impoverished communities still lack access to healthy nutrition, quality education, and basic living amenities. There are people around the globe who don’t even have access to clean water or food, let alone worry about how their basic survival needs are ruining their environment. But in the West, the rise of “going green” has become a status symbol. Who can afford the nice house using all reclaimed materials, and has a hybrid parked out front? Who only uses sulfate-free shampoo, or doesn’t use deodorant because of the aluminum in it? Who can afford only organic food, and can’t imagine feeding their dog anything but top-shelf grass-fed beef with quinoa? “Going green” is great, but it has become a symbol of success rather than a tool to help improve our world.

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Of course, doing everything you can to help the environment, reverse our carbon footprint, and change the way we work is going to help in the long run.

However, the corporations behind the green movement are not exactly on your side; they will always be on the side of the money. Going green isn’t expensive; it’s often the cheapest thing you can do, and it’s not a way to keep up with the Joneses.