Big Changes Start with Small Acts, VT Digger Article

Recently, NativeEnergy was mentioned in an article posted on VT Digger, a statewide news outlet. Discussing the large impact that small changes in carbon use can make, we are cited as a resource to help offset fossil fuel use.

Below is the article written by John Freitag on August 28th, 2018:

“Climate change is the biggest challenge facing us today and what actions we take or do not take are among the most important choices we can make. While correctly sized and sited alternative energy projects in Vermont are appropriate, further large-scale commercial renewable energy projects may not be. They can impact the unique beauty and resources of Vermont, often for the benefit of other states and out-of-state investors, while not making a real difference in what is a global problem. Likewise trying to impose an impractical stand-alone Vermont carbon tax that would likely have damaging effects for the Vermont economy and many lower-income Vermonters is not a viable solution. So what can we do here in Vermont right now that might be most effective and beneficial?

A story of a woman in India, who was upset that her son was eating too much sugar, and would not stop no matter how much she chided him, may help point the way. Totally frustrated, this mother decided to take her son to see his hero, Mahatma Gandhi.

She approached the great leader and said, “Sir, my son eats too much sugar. It is not good for his health. Would you please advise him to stop eating it?”

Gandhi listened to the woman carefully, turned and spoke to her son, “Go home and come back in two weeks.”

Two weeks later the woman returned boy in hand. He looked directly at the boy and said, “Boy, you should stop eating sugar, it is not good for your health.”

The boy’s mother turned to Gandhi and asked, “Why didn’t you tell him that two weeks ago when I brought him here to see you?”

Gandhi smiled and said, “Mother, two weeks ago I was still eating sugar myself.”

Perhaps there is a lesson here as to what now to do. Many of us try to be the change we feel is needed by using renewable energy sources and limiting our own consumption of the earth’s resources. Taking the next step and being willing to first offset our own carbon footprint might give those of us who believe we must immediately do something about global warming more credibility. It could serve as a model not only in Vermont but nationwide for those wishing to take some direct action now.

There are a number of organizations that provide individuals the opportunity to purchase carbon offsets for their own fossil fuel use. One of the largest of such firms providing carbon offsets for businesses, institutions and individuals and funding projects worldwide is, in fact, located in Burlington. Native Energy is a public benefits company set up 18 years ago with support from a number of Native American tribes. Vermont projects they have helped include a biogas generator for the town of Essex Junction and a separator, composter and related equipment for Green Dream Farm, a 300+ cow family dairy farm in northern Vermont. Like others organizations providing carbon offsets, they provide an easy-to-use calculator for determining one’s fossil fuel footprint.

Vermonters could, like Gandhi did in his time, provide an example for others to follow. Individual actions multiplied again and again could do much to show the way to real change. It would not be that difficult and in many cases not all that expensive. For example, my own carbon offsets comes to just over $400 per year for all my fossil fuel usage. Besides immediate individual action, it should not be that hard to arrange a partnership for projects in Vermont with an organization like Native Energy or the state, which could set up its own system in which funds raised by carbon offsets could be channeled into environmental projects in Vermont. Potential projects could include methane digesters, which provide both electrical power and facilitate the better use of waste of both farms and communities. These projects could be focused in the Champlain watershed or other watersheds most affected by poorly handled wastes.

While starting with concerned individuals taking action for their own impact, if successful this program could be expanded to include the fossil fuel footprint of the state government or, should voters approve, of town facilities and their highway departments. Those socially responsible organizations and companies in Vermont concerned about global warming and with the means to do so might also want to walk the talk and sign on.

In the meantime, we do not need to wring our hands, nor out of fear or frustration try to coerce others into impractical costly programs for the sake of trying to do something. Instead much like when we recycle, weatherize our homes, use renewable energy or drive fuel efficient vehicles, a vital first step we can take today is to be responsible in our own lives by offsetting our own personal carbon use and model the behavior we feel is needed to face this pressing problem.

Editor’s note: This commentary is by John Freitag, who has been long active in town government and civic and environmental activities. He is an independent candidate in House District Windsor-Orange 2 race. He is currently serving as vice chair of the Strafford Selectboard, moderator of the Universalist Society of Strafford, and secretary of the Strafford Area Lions Club.”

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