Monday, September 22, 2014

People's Climate March Inspiring a Little Action

Most preppy people I know have done "green" things forever: Raising chickens for eggs, growing vegetables or buying from farmers' stands and CSA's, composting, and repurposing items destined for the trash are a few examples.

These choices are a little easier when one has some land, but living in an urban environment like New York City doesn't afford one too many of these types of opportunities to be green. Yes, taking public transportation is better than driving and we can walk and bike easily. We can avoid purchasing excess packaging, and we can visit the farmers' markets on weekend mornings if it works into a busy schedule. But there is little to no space for more than herbs, let alone a proper compost or a chicken coop. Many New Yorkers don't own their own apartments, and if they do, they usually don't own the building, so they cannot just add solar panels if they choose.

But there is one thing I learned more about this weekend that New Yorkers can do: Switch to clean energy through Con Ed.

For non-New Yorkers, Consolidated Edison (aka, Con Ed) is the utility company that will supply electricity, and most likely gas as well, to most New Yorkers. Several years ago, I had heard that Con Ed now outsources the actual energy production to many smaller companies, but continues to deliver the electricity and gas to its customers. It may have been around that same time when I heard one could choose to have her supply come from renewable energy while still keeping Con Ed as her utility company.

If I remember this correctly, it was several years ago I heard this interesting option from a colleague, but what I do remember clearly is my first question to him: Does it cost more? His answer was yes, about $10-12 a month more. At the time, an additional $120+ a year was not something I was willing or really able to afford, so I put the idea out of my head and never thought of it again as I paid month after month of Con Ed bills.


Photo from Wikipedia
This weekend, however, New York City hosted the People's Climate March. In advance of this week's United Nations climate summit meeting, an estimated 311,000 people marched in support of more clean energy among other climate related things. While church obligations got in the way of my ability to attend the march, maybe the march simply being on my mind was what got me to check out a booth on green energy. I learned from the representative that I could choose where Con Ed "spends my money," or, put more accurately, I could choose to have my energy sourced from renewable sources like wind, sun and water, while still keeping Con Ed as my utility company. Again, my first question was: Does it cost more? And again the answer was yes. But unlike in the past, the cost increase is now quoted at $2-5 per month. An increase of $24+ a year is far more reasonable for my budget than the options were just a few years ago, so I made the switch.

While it may still be a bit more expensive, it appears that the early adapters have already helped to lower the cost to the consumer, and with wind energy quoting as less expensive than Con Ed's average last year, it appears that the cost may continue to drop.

I'm not planning to start worrying about my carbon credits anytime soon, but renewable energy seems like a logical part of our future choices, so being able to do a little something to help invest in it also seems logical. I don't know if the U.N. will take action this week, but I'm pleased the march helped me to find an exceedingly simple way for our urban household to be just a tiny bit more green.



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