Which uses more electricity: the iPhone in your pocket, or the refrigerator humming in your kitchen? Answer: the phone. (Time magazine, The Surprisingly Large Energy Footprint of the Digital Economy, August 14, 2013)
We are the first generation to understand the consequences of a high-carbon economy on the planet and on the most vulnerable people around the world. But we are the Ethical Culture Society, we embrace action! Together we can march and voice public outcry as we did in supporting events like the People’s Climate March. As a group, we can cry out against corporate greed, political blindness and media complacency. Special thanks to Lou Steinberg for all the work and responsibility he took on to get us to the March!
Individually, there are things we can do, as well. Yes, we need policy changes, but I’ll provide a few other personal choices I’ve made apart from the usual recycling, public transportation, composting, etc. as we can’t suggest that others do what we have not done ourselves.
Now, what about that smartphone question? If you are like me, you are not prepared to give up your electronic devices and go off the grid. However, we can influence these companies to use sustainable energy sources.
After the information came out about its big energy footprint, Apple claims it converted 94% of its corporate facilities and 100% of its data centers to renewable energy sources like solar. I’ve made sure that any investments in my own 403b contribution plan are in socially responsible companies. These have policies that include favorable environmental and labor practices. I found an advisor, and I divested.
Seeing the damage to the environment (as well as to our fellow creatures) in the factory-farming model practiced on animals today, I have given up eating meats. Almost all of the time, I choose vegetarian.
In anticipation of my final act, I purchased a plot in a fully green cemetery. There will be no mined marble or granite headstones, no formaldehyde for the body, no pesticides or herbicides on the land, no energy expended in cremation. Green cemeteries wind up being sanctuaries for wildlife.
This is not to say I am a paragon of ecological virtue. I still pollute through air travel, used batteries and who knows what else. However, I do think about my own carbon footprint, and I try to keep it low.
I am also on the lookout for sweeping new solutions. One that gives me hope is the pilot project to convert asphalt roadbeds and parking lot surfaces to heavy duty solar panels. Solar panels that you can drive, park, and walk on melt snow and cut greenhouse gases by 75%. I have hope that this will be widely available soon.
We have some power over this dangerous, unsustainable economy as a congregation and as individuals, as consumers and investors, as members of families. We can surprise each other with new ideas of how to live sustainably. We can tread more lightly on this earth. We may not have unlimited funds, but we do have behavioral currency. Let’s use it to push these perilous times to the brink of change.