By Emma Foster
I’ve always been concerned about the injustices against our natural environment. Not so much for the sake of the earth itself, but for the people who share this precious resource with me. In a perfect world we would all have access to equitable portions of this limited resource for provision and enjoyment. This is obviously far from reality; I clearly have more than I need at my disposal and elsewhere there are plenty of people dying in lack. Being aware of this has challenged me to constantly ask myself questions about my role in responsibly stewarding the resources I consume.
My demand has an inevitable impact on the earth. Everything I buy and use is driving a supply somewhere. To meet my demand there is a cost to the earth. This makes me wonder how much supply and resulting environmental burden we could negate by changing or minimising our demand. Some of our consumption is, however, essential. In these cases I feel challenged not only to minimise my demand in some areas but also to direct it – to demand my demand be met with a specific (and just) supply.
Recently I’ve been thinking about this in relation to the energy and electricity I use.
In this day an age, living in London, my energy consumption is essential (especially through the English winter!). How much I consume and where my energy comes from is, however, my choice*.
Today, many of us reading this blog are far removed from the source of our supply; we don’t see the cost incurred or the burden on the earth. Polluting industries, power plants and waste disposal areas are generally near low-income or minority communities, making the distribution of environmental burdens conveniently far from my comfy home, and entirely unfair.
Ignorance is bliss.
It’s also a lame excuse in today’s information age.
Understanding now how my demand impacts the earth, I am determined to conserve, compels me to make a change towards environmental justice.
Researching the supply of my energy, I realised more than 20 countries provide the UK with power. We buy Russian coal, Kazakhstani uranium and Norwegian gas – with fuel traveling on average 2650 miles to get here. The mining, processing and tailings disposal has changed the face of the landscapes of these countries; depleting natural resources and contaminating surface and ground water for thousands of years to come. And scientists are still unclear on the associated long term risks. Most energy production processes rely on burning these limited imported fossil fuels; changing the climate as our environment is polluted with excess CO2 and nuclear waste.
This is pretty devastating.
There is however some good news. Energy can be produced using natural, local, renewable resources, resulting in far less impact on the earth than fossil fuels. And this type of green energy production is on the up in the UK. As I looked into this some more I found that in 2015 one in four units of power in the UK grid was produced by wind, sunshine and other natural resources. We even have energy suppliers offering green energy plans and useful websites with great information and others to help us compare tariffs.
Even so, it can sometimes be hard to know where to start, or how to make the change.
That’s why, with so many questions, concerns and options running through my mind, I was glad when a friend presented me with an opportunity to make a significant change towards environmental justice; choosing to have my household demand for energy supplied by an environmentally just energy company. A simple opportunity but a compelling call to action.
So I made the switch – no longer will my use of energy be a demand for environmental devastation.
The switch was easier than I thought. I had selfishly been concerned about the potentially negative effect some just changes could have on my bank account. I mean buying sustainably sourced clothing from an ethical source can be 50% (or more) expensive!
Since settling the truth (with myself) that the time, effort and every penny it may cost me, is worth the change, I’ve been pleasantly surprised – switching energy providers took me minutes to fill in the necessary details and compare tariffs once I knew who the green energy providers were. I have even saved money. (This site and this one are useful if you’re based in the UK)
So I challenge you to have a think: How much land was cleared, fuel burnt, water sources contaminated and air polluted so that you could switch on the lights today?
I’m not proposing another dark age. Energy is a legitimate need. I am suggesting you choose to direct your demand. Demand that the energy supplied to you comes from sustainable sources. Choose an energy provider that agrees to source sustainably. And don’t stop there. Every aspect of your demand drives a supply and your change makes a difference.
Start by getting some information. If you’re in the UK*, check out this website (or this one) for more details on where your energy comes from. And then look into some green energy options. There are a number of green energy providers in the UK, you can read more about these here (Though I note that a couple of green providers, such as ecotricity aren’t mentioned).
Ultimately, I’m not proposing we deny ourselves all abundance and pleasures of this earth. I am suggesting quite the opposite – Let’s enjoy responsibly. Let’s examine ourselves and consider our ways. Let’s make wise, fair and well informed decisions and consider above ourselves, those who enjoy this earth with us. And then let’s spread the message.
Make the change, pose the question, and present the opportunity.
* Note: I realise that outside of the UK there are other ways of sourcing sustainable energy, other ways to switch to renewable supplies and other decisions to be made. If you know of other alternatives or solutions in other countries, please share them in the comments below.
About Emma the author: I’m just a girl with big hopes for the world. I call London home and am as proudly British as I am South African, as I am a citizen of heaven. I am a full time people-lover and life-liver. And occasionally I do some work in the city; analysing stuff