It's important to remember that one person can make a difference. From teenagers to world-renowned scientists, individuals are inspiring positive shifts around the world. Maybe you won't become a hard-core activist, but this list of people below can inspire simple ways to kickstart better habits. Here are seven people advocating for a better planet.
1. Gail Bradbrook
Co-founder of Extinction Rebellion Gail Bradbrook addresses the audience at the Marble Arch Extinction Rebellion camp. Several roads were blocked across four sites in central London, by the Extinction Rebellion climate change protests, April 2019.
Phil Clarke Hill / In Pictures / Getty Images
Molecular biophysicist Gail Bradbrook is the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion (XR). She's been referred to as the "Godmother" of this international environmental movement "that uses non-violent civil disobedience to achieve radical change in order to minimize the risk of human extinction and ecological collapse." Bradbrook first co-founded the group Rising Up!, which then progressed and became XR.
For more insight into what Bradbrook's all about, check out these articles below:
The Global Extinction Rebellion Begins, Truthout.
2. Greta Thunberg
Greta Thunberg, outside the Swedish parliament.
Anders Hellberg / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 4.0
Sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has inspired an entire generation of kids to participate in her "Fridays for Future" protest movement. Just last month, Greta and her movement were honored with an Amnesty International award for their "unique leadership and courage in standing up for human rights."
Thunberg's speeches are collected in her book No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference. She has said that she hopes the book causes panic. "I want you to panic … I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is."
3. Naomi Klein
Author, social activist, and filmmaker Naomi Klein speaks at the one year anniversary of Hurricane Maria on On Sept. 20, 2018. Hundreds gathered in Union Square demanding justice for Puerto Rico.
Erik McGregor / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images
Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, activist and author. Since publishing her New York Times bestseller This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, Klein has become a strong force in the environmental movement.
Klein has a new book coming out in September, On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal. The book is described as an expansive, far-ranging exploration that "captures the urgency of the climate crisis, as well as the energy of a rising political movement demanding change now."
4. Bill McKibben
Bill McKibben speaking with supporters of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders at a student meeting at Southern New Hampshire University in Hooksett, New Hampshire on Jan. 21, 2016.
Gage Skidmore / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Bill McKibben is an author, environmentalist and activist. He is the founder of 350.org. Nearly 30 years ago, he published the first book on climate change, The End of Nature, written for the average person to understand the looming crisis. No climate activist list would ever be complete without acknowledging McKibben's consistent dedication to our planet.
Vox recently interviewed McKibben and captured his best advice.
5. Xiuhtezcatl Martinez
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is pictured in the beautiful foothills of north Boulder on Aug. 11, 2016 in Boulder, Colorado.
Helen H. Richardson / The Denver Post / Getty Images
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez is a 19-year-old Indigenous environmental activist, musician and youth director of Earth Guardians. He recently told Rolling Stone, "I've been protesting since before I could walk."
He's also one of the plaintiffs on the youth climate lawsuit Juliana v. United States. In 2015, Martinez and 21 other youths filed a lawsuit against the U.S. federal government. For more on the trial, follow EcoWatch including this article that discusses what's happening with this lawsuit.
Martinez recently wrote an op-ed in Teen Vogue in April that explains the power of young voices. "Young people and marginalized communities are reclaiming our power and our voices in the movements that are shaping our future. From Standing Rock to Flint, from the Bayou to DC, we're beginning to see a different face of environmental leadership," he said.
6. Bea Johnson
French-American Bea Johnson shows the waste produced in a year by her family fitting in a bottle of 183 grams, on Nov. 21, 2015 in Lille, northern France. Bea Johnson and her family adopted a behavior tending to "zero waste" and campaign for a "life based on being and not having."
PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP / Getty Images
Bea Johnson fits a year's worth of trash into a jar. Yes, just one little pint-sized mason jar! She is a pioneer of the zero-waste movement. Refinery29 featured her in a recent article titled Marie Kondo Came For Your Stuff; Bea Johnson Is Coming For Your Garbage.
Johnson's blog, Zero Waste Home, and her book by the same name have inspired an entire movement devoted to a minimalist lifestyle. She believes that a zero-waste lifestyle is not only good for the planet, but also for our personal health. The book garnered international interest and has been translated into 26 languages.
Johnson was recently interviewed by Here and Now's Peter O'Dowd. Listen below for five tips on how to live a more zero-waste life.
- 5 Tips for a More Earth-Conscious Wardrobe - EcoWatch ›
- 5 Must-Watch Documentaries for a More Sustainable Planet ... ›
- The Crunch Question on Climate: How Can I Help? - EcoWatch ›
- 'Moved and Inspired': Meet the 2019 Goldman Environmental Prize ... ›
Is your closet filled with clothes you don't wear (and probably don't like anymore)? Are you buying cheap and trendy clothing you only wear once or twice? What's up with all the excess? Shifting to a more Earth-conscious wardrobe can help simplify your life, as well as curb fast fashion's toll on people and the planet.
The fashion industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions per year than all international airline flights and maritime shipping trips combined. According to the documentary The True Cost, "Globally, we now consume about 80 billion new pieces of clothing every year — 400% more than we were consuming just two decades ago."
If you're looking for ways to transition out of the dirty cycle of fast fashion, check out the following five tips.
1. Shop Ethical and Eco-Friendly Brands
Thomas Barwick / Stone / Getty Images
When buying new clothing, ask yourself, "Is this brand sustainable or not?" Consider what brands you have been supporting up to this point.
Getting educated on which brands to support is an important step in curbing fast fashion. To find out if your go-to brand is eco-friendly, check out Conscious Life & Style blog, which has a list of more than 200 ethically driven brands.
2. Take a Minimalist Approach to Your Wardrobe
Svetlana Khokhlova / EyeEm / Getty Images
By 2050 the fashion industry is set to consume a quarter of the world's carbon budget. Consumer overconsumption is harming the planet. A 2016 McKinsey report found that three-fifths of all the clothes produced gets disposed within a year of being produced.
Transitioning to a wardrobe that reflects quality pieces that last a long time, instead of cheap trendy pieces, can help make getting ready in the morning easier and is less of a strain on the planet. A quality over quantity attitude can lead to a more sustainable wardrobe over time.
The YouTube channel Heal Your Living by Youheum is inspiring people to live a more minimalist lifestyle. Check out her video below and see how Youheum, a former shopaholic, manages to own just 15 pieces of clothing and two pairs of shoes.
Are you looking for more tips? Check out @theminimalistwardrobe on Instagram. With nearly 200,000 followers The Minimalist Wardrobe is contributing to the growing minimalist movement.
3 - 4. Mend and Repurpose Your Clothing
Pedro Venâncio / EyeEm / Getty Images
Before you spend, make sure you mend. Mending clothes is a great option, and you'll avoid wasting your time shopping.
If you don't know how to patch up your clothing, support a local tailor instead.
You can also get creative with your clothing. For a simple start, change a pair of old jeans into new summer shorts and add your favorite patch for a fresh look. Upcycling clothing can be a fun way to maintain a sustainable wardrobe.
Check out these Instagram accounts for more upcycle inspiration!
5. Host or Attend a Clothing Swap
AleksandarNakic / E+ / Getty Images
One person's trash is another person's treasure. Attending a clothing swap or taking the step to host one is a smart (and fun) way to recycle clothing and get a new wardrobe fast.
Want to host a clothing swap? Here's how to host the ultimate clothing swap.
Irma is the associate editor at EcoWatch. She graduated from Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism in Athens, Ohio.
- The Environmental and Human Cost of Making a Pair of Jeans ... ›
- Can Fast Fashion Be Sustainable? - EcoWatch ›
- Dye-Filled Bacteria Could Replace the Fashion Industry's Dirty Dyeing Habits - EcoWatch ›
- Does Shopping Ethically Really Make a Difference? ›
Through net metering programs, homeowners who have installed solar energy systems can get utility credits for any electricity their panels generate during the day that isn't used to power home systems. These credits can be "cashed in" to offset the cost of any grid electricity used at night.
Where net metering is available, solar panels have a shorter payback period and yield a higher return on investment. Without this benefit, you only save on power bills when using solar energy directly, and surplus generation is lost unless you store it in a solar battery. However, net metering gives you the option of selling any excess electricity that is not consumed within your home.
Generally, you will see more home solar systems in places with favorable net metering laws. With this benefit, going solar becomes an attractive investment even for properties with minimal daytime consumption. Homeowners can turn their roofs into miniature power plants during the day, and that generation is subtracted from their nighttime consumption.
What Is Net Metering?
Net metering is a billing arrangement in which surplus energy production from solar panels is tracked by your electricity provider and subtracted from your monthly utility bill. When your solar power system produces more kilowatt-hours of electricity than your home is consuming, the excess generation is fed back into the grid.
For homeowners with solar panels, the benefits of net metering include higher monthly savings and a shorter payback period. Utility companies also benefit, since the excess solar electricity can be supplied to other buildings on the same electric grid.
If a power grid relies on fossil fuels, net metering also increases the environmental benefits of solar power. Even if a building does not have an adequate area for rooftop solar panels, it can reduce its emissions by using the surplus clean energy from other properties.
How Net Metering Works
There are two general ways net metering programs work:
- The surplus energy produced by your solar panels is measured by your utility company, and a credit is posted to your account that can be applied to future power bills.
- The surplus energy produced by your solar panels is measured by your home's electricity meter. Modern power meters can measure electricity flow in both directions, so they tick up when you pull from the grid at night and count down when your solar panels are producing an excess amount of electricity.
In either scenario, at the end of the billing period, you will only pay for your net consumption — the difference between total consumption and generation. This is where the term "net metering" comes from.
How Does Net Metering Affect Your Utility Bill?
Net metering makes solar power systems more valuable for homeowners, as you can "sell" any extra energy production to your utility company. However, it's important to understand how charges and credits are managed:
- You can earn credits for your surplus electricity, but utility companies will not cut you a check for the power you provide. Instead, they will subtract the credits from your power bills.
- If your net metering credit during the billing period is higher than your consumption, the difference is rolled over to the next month.
- Some power companies will roll over your credit indefinitely, but many have a yearly expiration date that resets your credit balance.
With all of this in mind, it is possible to reduce your annual electricity cost to zero. You can accumulate credit with surplus generation during the sunny summer months, and use it during winter when solar generation decreases.
You will achieve the best results when your solar power system has just the right capacity to cover your annual home consumption. Oversizing your solar array is not recommended, as you will simply accumulate a large unused credit each year. In other words, you cannot overproduce and charge your power company each month.
Some power companies will let you pick the expiration date of your annual net metering credits. If you have this option, it's wise to set the date after winter has ended. This way, you can use all the renewable energy credits you accumulated during the summer.
Is Net Metering Available Near You?
Net metering offers a valuable incentive for homeowners to switch to solar power, but these types of programs are not available everywhere. Net metering laws can change depending on where you live.
In the U.S., there are mandatory net metering laws in 38 states and Washington, D.C. Most states without a mandate have power companies that voluntarily offer the benefit in their service areas. South Dakota and Tennessee are the only two states with no version of net metering or similar programs.
If net metering is available in your area, you will be credited for your surplus energy in one of two ways:
- Net metering at retail price: You get full credit for each kilowatt-hour sent to the grid. For example, if you're charged 16 cents per kWh consumed, you'll get a credit of 16 cents per kWh exported. This type of net metering is required by law in 29 states.
- Net metering at a reduced feed-in tariff: Surplus electricity sent to the grid is credited at a lower rate. For example, you may be charged 16 cents per kWh for consumption but paid 10 cents per kWh exported. Feed-in tariffs and other alternative programs are used in 17 of the states where retail-rate net metering is not mandatory.
Note: This is just a simplified example — the exact kWh retail price and solar feed-in tariff will depend on your electricity plan.
The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) is an excellent resource if you want to learn more about net metering and other solar power incentives in your state. You can also look for information about solar incentives by visiting the official websites of your state government and utility company.
Other Financial Incentives for Going Solar
Net metering policies are one of the most effective incentives for solar power. However, there are other financial incentives that can be combined with net metering to improve your ROI:
- The federal solar tax credit lets you claim 26% of your solar installation costs as a tax deduction. For example, if your solar installation had a cost of $10,000, you can claim $2,600 on your next tax declaration. This benefit is available everywhere in the U.S.
- State tax credits may also be available depending on where you live, and they can be claimed in addition to the federal incentive.
- Solar rebates are offered by some state governments and utility companies. These are upfront cash incentives subtracted directly from the cost of your solar PV system.
In addition to seeking out solar incentives available to you, you should compare quotes from multiple installers before signing a solar contract. This will ensure you're getting the best deal available and help you avoid overpriced offers and underpriced, low-quality installations. You can start getting quotes from top solar companies near you by filling out the 30-second form below.
Frequently Asked Questions: Solar Net Metering
Why is net metering bad?
When managed correctly, net metering is beneficial for electricity consumers and power companies. There have been cases in which power grids lack the capacity to handle large amounts of power coming from homes and businesses. However, this is an infrastructure issue, not a negative aspect of net metering itself.
In places with a high percentage of homes and businesses using solar panels, surplus generation on sunny days can saturate the grid. This can be managed by modernizing the grid to handle distributed solar power more effectively with load management and energy storage systems.
How does net metering work?
With net metering, any electricity your solar panels produce that isn't used to power your home is fed into your local power grid. Your utility company will pay you for this power production through credits that can be applied to your monthly energy bills.
Can you make money net metering?
You can reduce your power bills with net metering, using surplus solar generation to compensate for your consumption when you can't generate solar power at night and on cloudy days. However, most power companies will not pay you for surplus production once your power bill has dropped to $0. Normally, that credit will be rolled over, to be used in months where your solar panels are less productive.
On very rare occasions, you may be paid for the accumulated balance over a year. However, this benefit is offered by very few electric companies and is subject to limitations.
A powerful documentary can help inform viewers and spark a more conscious lifestyle. Maybe you've thrown out rotting greens one too many times, or waste from online shopping has you feeling guilty. The following list of documentaries may inspire you to "green" your life a bit more just in time for spring.
From a Sir David Attenborough Netflix series to a food waste documentary produced by the late Anthony Bourdain, these five environmental documentaries are an absolute must-watch.
1. Our Planet (2019)
Our Planet is a new Netflix original nature docuseries premiering April 5. Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, this is the first of his series to appear exclusively online.
How to watch:
Stream all episodes on Netflix.
Want to know more?
You might like this article from The Atlantic: Netflix's Our Planet Says What Other Nature Series Have Omitted Says What Other Nature Series Have Omitted.
2. The End of Meat (2017)
After sold-out premieres worldwide, German Filmmaker Marc Pierschel's The End of Meat launched worldwide on March 12. The documentary exposes the brutal impact of meat consumption, while also exploring what a shift to a more compassionate diet can look like.
How to watch:
3. Hostile Planet (2019)
From Director Guillermo Navarro (Pan's Labyrinth), Hostile Planet is a six-part nature series that premiered April 1 on National Geographic. The series is narrated by Bear Grylls (Running Wild with Bear Grylls).
How to watch:
New episodes premiere Monday nights at 9 p.m. EST on the National Geographic channel. If cable TV isn't your thing, catch up on episodes online.
Want to know more?
Check out Outside Magazine's 'Hostile Planet' Takes a Candid Look at Climate Change.
4. Rotten (2018)
Rotten is a six-part documentary series featured on Netflix. The series shines a light on the corruption, waste and danger behind the food we eat. The series was produced by the team behind Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown and The Mind of a Chef.
How to watch:
Stream the documentary series on Netflix.
Want to know more?
Here's a 2018 article from SIERRA Magazine that breaks down Rotten by episode: Netflix's 'Rotten' Reveals the Perils of Global Food Production.
5. Wasted! The Story of Food Waste (2017)
WASTED! produced by Anthony Bourdain explores both a broken food system and possible solutions to our 21st century issue of food waste.
How to watch:
Irma is the managing editor at EcoWatch. She graduated from Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism in Athens, Ohio.
- Netflix's 'Rotten' Reveals the Perils of Global Food Production ... ›
- Sir David Attenborough Set to Present BBC Documentary on ... ›
- 7 of the Best Ted Talks About Climate Change - EcoWatch ›
- 9 Environmental Docs to Watch During the Coronavirus Lockdown - EcoWatch ›
It's that time, again!
EcoWatch is proud to be a media partner of the Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF), now celebrating its 42nd year. This year, EcoWatch is honored to be sponsoring Anote's Ark. This documentary spotlights Kiribati, a small remote island facing devastating effects due to climate change.
From April 4 through April 15, CIFF will be showcasing 216 feature films, 253 short films, 14 virtual reality films and six interactive media projects, representing 72 countries.
Here's a synopsis of seven eco-related films being featured this year, courtesy of CIFF:
1. Anote's Ark
The Pacific island republic of Kiribati is home to more than 100,000 people. Despite being one of the most remote places on the planet, this little island is on the front lines of climate change. Scientists predict that Kiribati will become uninhabitable within this century due to rising sea levels. The nation has already experienced unprecedented flooding and changing storm patterns, factors that will inevitably leave its communities without viable land or fresh water.
Anote's Ark follows the people of Kiribati as they struggle to retain their culture, tradition and dignity, while preparing for an uncertain future. The film's focus is on the nation's president Anote Tong, as he travels around the world advocating for support from the international community. At this point, climate change is irreversible, but preparations for migration and adaptation must be made. The way we react now is important, as what is currently happening in Kiribati may soon be the fate for the rest of the world. — G.S.
Palm oil farming has taken over many parts of Southeast Asia. It's raking in billions, and while locals don't see the bulk of that money, most of them are happy with the income it brings in. That's mainly because, before the palm oil boom, they were struggling to make ends meet in the declining rubber industry. But as the title of this documentary points out, the topic is extremely complex. Much of the region sits on peat, a dense, carbon-heavy substance made of organic matter and dead vegetation. In order to clear land for palm oil crops, many companies and farmers resort to the inexpensive option of setting fires. This method is extremely bad for the environment, contributing to a high percentage of carbon emissions. Because peatlands are dry and flammable, these fires spread quickly and are only contained by heavy rains.
Haze - It's Complicated ... does a terrific job of explaining the intricate science behind palm oil farming. Furthermore, it offers an intimate glimpse into the lives of those who are impacted—both positively and negatively—by its emerging presence. — E.F.
3. The New Fire
If the world can work together using innovation and technology to put a man on the moon, why can't we unite to solve climate change? To avoid the worst effects of global warming, we need a rapid, coordinated and global transition to renewable energy. Wind and solar energies have their flaws and limitations, and nuclear power is far too dangerous and costly ... or is it?
The New Fire is a documentary that explores the next generation of nuclear engineers and their work to create improved generators that address safety and waste issues, aspects of nuclear energy that have posed huge threats to its progress and sustainability. From reactors that can consume existing stockpiles of nuclear waste, to a plan for the mass production of small self-regulating plants, this film presents a variety of approaches to solving the biggest impending crisis of our time. The New Fire has a hopeful message that if we work together, we can change the future. No matter your current stance on nuclear energy, this film is definitely worth watching. — G.S.
Liberia is rich in valuable natural resources such as diamonds and timber, although the government has long allowed foreign companies to exploit these riches at the expense of the country's citizens. Enter activist Silas Siakor, who's determined not only to preserve Liberian land for residents, but also expose abuses of power and human rights violations. This gripping documentary follows Siakor as he and fellow activists document illegal logging operations and work tirelessly to chip away at the rampant corruption undermining political progress.
In some of the film's most touching moments, Silas also examines the toll this activism takes on Siakor's health and family life. And the film reveals the sobering differences between Liberia's international perception and what's actually happening in individual communities. Throughout the film, Siakor's resilience in the face of criticism and obstruction, as well as his selfless commitment to making Liberia a better place, is profoundly inspiring. The central takeaway of Silas is that one person does have the power to make a difference. — A.Z.
Janina Duszejko has retired to a mountain village on the Czech border. She is an astrology enthusiast and a passionate advocate of animal rights. Her village, filled with cruel and ruthless hunters, trappers and poachers, sees her as a harmless old eccentric—until the day her beloved dogs go missing, possibly murdered by hunters. Powerless against corrupt police and officials, Janina begins a one-woman crusade to fight for these helpless victims, warning that nature will retaliate. Suddenly, a series of bizarre deaths begins, and all the victims are hunters. Evidence suggests a serial killer and that it may even be Mother Nature herself, urging her woodland creatures to hunt the hunters. Have Janina's horoscopes foretold the vengeance of nature, or is the killer a villager hunting their own kind?
Spoor is a brilliantly twisted ecological parable that will thrill you with superb visuals and performances, while gleefully upending your moral core by what (or possibly who) it will have you cheering for. — C.R.
Spoor was selected as Poland's entry for Best Foreign Language Film for this year's Academy Awards®.
6. Take Light
Nigeria is going through a serious electricity crisis. Though it's Africa's top energy producer, only 50 percent of Nigerians have access to electricity. For those who do, the service isn't all that great. Many receive electricity for just a few hours a day.
The documentary Take Light follows a charming electrician named Martins who remains optimistic, despite having one of the most dangerous and unpopular jobs in the country. At any given time, he's either risking his life to fix tangled high-voltage lines or trying to calm down angry mobs whose electricity has been cut-off due to nonpayment. The power company is fiercely vigilant in tracking down delinquent customers. Martins, who is just the middleman, does his best to be kind. The situation has gotten so bad that some have taken it upon themselves to illegally reconnect their own power, which can be deadly. Will this debacle be the catalyst for Nigeria to move towards renewable energy? With its oil-dependent economy failing, scarce fuel supplies, and the threat of militant attacks on oil and gas installations, substantial change is the only way forward. — E.F.
From her working-class beginnings to being made a Dame of the British Empire, Vivienne Westwood carved a life and a fashion empire unlike any other. Known throughout the world for her revolutionary and controversial clothing designs, Westwood followed nobody's advice and gleefully opposed decorum, public opinion and social norms. Westwood steers this brave documentary the way she steered her career: fearlessly, argumentatively, and in the face of reason and convention. The self-proclaimed creator of Punk, Westwood was always willing to translate her political passion into her design—an anarchist working the runways in Paris and happily weathering establishment derision.
Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist sews together the wonderful, abrasive and culture-bending fabrics of her lifetime into a glittering archive to wrap yourself in. Here is a woman who skipped the opening of her New York store to write a thesis on climate change, a fiery and unsettled soul who turned political engagement into a crusade to dress the world for self-expression and action! — C.R.
A vital message has risen up from the Grand Canal in Venice. Two, 5,000 pound hands appear to be gripping the walls of the historic Ca' Sagredo Hotel echoing the warning of experts that say "The Floating City" could sink in as little as 100 years.
Internationally renowned Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn unveiled his new sculpture, Support, to serve as a call to "protect our planet" and "our national heritage sites."
"Venice is a floating art city that has inspired cultures for centuries, but to continue to do so it needs the support of our generation and future ones, because it is threatened by climate change and time decay," Quinn said.
Experts say Venice and much of Italy's Adriatic coastline is at risk of disappearing from sea level rise. According to scientists from Italy and France, the Mediterranean will rise by up to five feet (140cm) before 2100, putting Venice and many other areas at risk.
The sculpture is in the shape of two childlike hands, modeled after his son's hands. Quinn hopes his installation will "speak to the people in a clear, simple and direct way through the innocent hands of a child" and send a powerful message that "united we can make a stand to curb climate change."
Quinn explained that he used hands to "symbolize tools that can both destroy the world, but also have the capacity to save it." The hands appear to be holding up the building, which draws attention to the fragile nature of the infrastructure and the impact climate change can have on the city.
Support was unveiled on May 13 and will be on view until Nov. 26.