Rarely does a day go by without a new story or study on the pressing need to develop alternative energy resources.
The United Nations warns that we only have until the end of next year to implement a plan of action to curb carbon emissions. Failing that, we risk the consequences of climate change becoming too severe to mitigate.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. We have the means to develop renewable energy resources. We only need the will to do so. And the long-term benefits of alternative energy sources provide a great incentive to get to work sooner rather than later.
But we don’t need to wait for change to come from above. Individuals can start making a difference today by increasing the proportion of clean energy they use.
The Benefits of Alternative Energy Use in the Home
The benefits of green energy sources are such that you’d be hard-pressed to find a reason not to use them. They outpace fossil fuels in virtually every category and are only becoming more efficient and accessible as technology improves.
Some of the chief perks of using alternative energy include:
1. Helping to Mitigate Climate Change
This is the big one. Climate change will be the defining challenge of our time. While not the sole factor in climate change, carbon emissions have the greatest effect on climate change.
The United States is one of the largest sources of global carbon emissions, and about 29% of the carbon we release into the atmosphere come from electricity production.
So if we want to avert the worst consequences of climate change, increasing the proportion of energy we generate from clean sources is non-negotiable.
And with world leaders either unable or unwilling to act decisively, the task of meeting that challenge falls increasingly to individuals.
2. Clean Energy is Good for the Public Health
Alternative energy isn’t just good for the health of the environment, but also for our own health.
Greenhouse gases aren’t the only byproducts produced by fossil fuel consumption. Sulfur, mercury, and particulate matter are just a few of the contaminants that the burning of fossil fuels releases into our air and waterways.
These pollutants have been linked to respiratory problems, heart problems, neurological damage, and a multitude of cancers, among many other health issues.
We can track the amount the dollar amount attached to healthcare costs incurred in relation to fossil fuel use, and it’s not a pleasant picture.
Estimates vary, but one study found that fossil fuel use costs about $120 billion annually in mostly healthcare-related expenses.
And that’s setting aside the unquantifiable human costs of illness and premature death, which no dollar amount can compare to. That alone would be reason enough to accelerate the adoption of alternative energy resources.
3. Alternative Energy is Renewable
Set aside for a moment that fossil fuels damage the environment and our bodies, and suppose that there were no consequences for using them. That would still leave one substantial drawback: supplies of them are finite.
Assuming our current rates of consumption remain constant, our best estimates suggest that our supplies of oil will run out in 53 years, natural gas in 54 years, and coal in 110 years.
That’s already not a huge stretch of time, and global industrialization progresses, the rate of energy consumption will only increase. So, go ahead and put an asterisk next to all of those numbers.
But the sun, winds, rivers, and heat from the within the earth? Those renew themselves each day.
As of 2018, only a paltry 11% of the energy by the United States comes from renewable resources.
Ignoring the more pressing reasons to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, the fact is that we will inevitably have to seek out alternative energy sources anyway, or else the world will eventually go dark.
5. Alternative Energy Makes Good Economic Sense
A common criticism of clean energy is that shifting away from fossil fuels will cost jobs in the energy sector. However, the truth is quite the opposite.
Fossil fuel production is highly mechanized, and producers are automating as much of the process as possible. By contrast, clean energy projects like solar panel installation and wind farm maintenance require human hands. That means that by investing in clean energy, more jobs are ultimately created per unit of power generated from renewable sources.
More clean energy means more high-paying jobs and a stronger economy across the board.
Bringing Alternative Energy into the Home
So that’s all well and good, but how can you make alternative energy a greater part of your life? After all, most people don’t have the luxury of building a geothermal power plant under their home.
Well as technology improves, small-scale alternative energy can only become more accessible and more varied. But in the meantime, the two resources that nearly every everyone has access to are the sun and the wind.
We’ve reached the point where wind turbines have become efficient enough that even scaled-down models can produce a considerable amount of power. Some enterprising individuals have even published instructions on how to build your own turbines on the cheap. So if you live in a locale with ample wind, that’s one option available to you.
But far-and-away the more popular option is solar power. Much effort has been invested in making solar panels more efficient and increasing their lifespan. These improvements make them a viable choice for helping to power your home.
To encourage investment in solar technology, the federal and many local governments incentivize homeowners to install solar panels and efficiency-boosting technologies on their properties. These initiatives to put a dent in our collective fossil fuel consumption.
These incentives can reduce the net cost of buying and installing solar panels. If you’re interested in reducing your total fossil fuel use, you should definitely learn more about clean energy incentives and resources.
Start Building the Future in the Present
The benefits of alternative energy give the chance to put our best foot forward. A chance to better our lives in the short-term and secure the world for future generations.
We have to decide today what kind of world we want to live in tomorrow. What sort of world will you choose?
Would you stay on our current path, towards an uncertain tomorrow? Or will you be part of the movement that emerging technology and alternative energy to its fullest?