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6 ways you — yes, you! — can help advance the energy transition

Canary Media’s quick guide to practical steps you can take to curb climate pollution and move us toward a better world.
By Julian Spector

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(Elena Mozhvilo/Unsplash)

When Earth Day rolls around, we at Canary Media get swamped with all kinds of suggestions for stories to write for the special day. Many of them tout supposedly green products or seasonal corporate marketing copy. We don’t heed these pitches.

But we do spend the whole year reporting on solutions to the climate crisis, so we have a few Earth Day insights for you. 

A lot of climate action needs to happen at the systemic level: fostering a clean energy manufacturing base, decarbonizing the electricity sector, electrifying transportation systems and buildings. Telling consumers to change their buying habits can only get us so far, and indeed is a tactic oil companies have used to defer responsibility for their role in carbon emissions.

Yet while broad-scale reforms push the economy in a lower-carbon direction, individuals still have some agency in supporting the transition to clean energy. Here’s a selection of guides from Canary Media on how to take action in your own life to lower carbon emissions and promote a cleaner world.

Engage with the clean-energy gatekeepers

Look out, this is an individual action that influences systemic change! Every state has a handful of people who decide what kinds of power plants get built. These regulators, often called public utility commissions, wield tremendous influence but generally attract little public scrutiny. Follow this guide to figure out who these power players are in your state and how you can get involved to push for outcomes you care about — like, for instance, a cleaner and more just energy system.

Heat and cool your home cleanly

Switch to an all-electric heat pump for your heating and cooling needs. Decarbonizing space and water heating is one of the biggest steps you can make to directly reduce your emissions, and Canary has advice to guide you through the heat-pump buying process. Oh, and a big law you might have heard of — the Inflation Reduction Act — makes it more affordable than ever to do this. Granted, switching your home energy system is something generally only possible for homeowners, but there are some options in our guide for the non-homeowners among us.

Get clean power for your home

Your house will consume some sort of electricity, so why not make it clean? If you own your own roof, Canary Media has compiled 10 key questions to ask as you explore the rooftop-solar buying process. But for all the renters out there, or anyone who just doesn’t have the right kind of roof, there’s another option: community solar. You subscribe to a portion of a larger solar project near where you live, then get money credited to your electric bill for the power it produces. State policy is needed to allow access to community solar, so availability will depend on where you live. Learn all about it from our community solar guide.

Invest sustainably

If you put your money in the stock market, you can screen for investments that don’t support ongoing fossil-fuel extraction and combustion. This guide walks you through how to convert your retirement portfolio into lower-carbon investments, with helpful screenshots to facilitate the changeover. And this article from Carbon Collective helps people advocate for more sustainable 401(k) options from their employers.

Adjust your eating

Nobody likes being told how they should eat — but if you’re looking for planet-friendly options, our correspondent Michael Grunwald chronicles the frontiers of low-carbon food. The global food system generates one-third of our greenhouse emissions, plus most of our biodiversity and deforestation problems. Here’s a recent dispatch on the growing slate of high-tech alternative meats, which deliver nutrients without a side of environmental detriment.

Transition to a career in climatetech 

One way to work for a more stable climate is to, well, work for a more stable climate. The climatetech industry is in full-on growth mode, despite uneasy outlooks in the broader economy. The Inflation Reduction Act kicked off billions of dollars in new factory investments to build batteries, electric cars and solar panels in the U.S. But the industry needs all sorts of skill sets. Here’s some advice on how to get started.

Hat tip to Canary’s social-media maven Barbara Lantz for pulling these ideas together. She wants to know: How are you celebrating Earth Day? Tell us on Twitter: @CanaryMediaInc.

Julian Spector is a senior reporter at Canary Media. He reports on batteries, long-duration energy storage, low-carbon hydrogen and clean energy breakthroughs around the world.