Think Global, Act Local: How Starting Small Can Make A Big Impact


Small actions can lead to a bigger movement and overall increased successes towards a more sustainable society. Often known as the “Butterfly Effect”, people and organizations can turn a ripple into a wave.

On June 1, 2017, US President Trump declared that the United States was going to exit the Paris Agreement, an agreement to reduce global carbon emissions to slow down climate change. The agreement was signed under the former United States President Obama, promising to cut US emissions 26-28% of their 2005 levels by 2025.

The United States is only one of three countries not in the Paris Agreement; Syria didn’t join due to war and sanctions, and Nicaragua didn’t agree because there was no fine for not achieving targets and that the agreement didn’t go far enough to punish the biggest polluters. The result? An initiative by The Sierra Club called “Ready for 100”.

The Ready for 100 was created to work with other initiatives, like Compact of Mayors and We Are Still In, to help cities work towards achieving the international goals set forth by the Paris Agreement. To date, 119 cities, 11 counties, and 5 states/territories have pledged to operate solely on 100% renewable energy. The dates vary due to the capacity of current (versus future) renewable energies.

The transition to renewable energy in the coming years is a big win for both economy and environment. According to International Renewable Energy Agency, renewable energy creates more jobs than dirty energy, 500,000 in 2017, ultimately employing over 10 million people globally in 2018.

“Renewable energy has become a pillar of low-carbon economic growth for governments all over the world, a fact reflected by the growing number of jobs created in the sector.” said Adnan Z. Amin, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Noting that human population is only increasing, and seeing the need for increased global energy, building with renewable energy is the best way to address these growing demands. By being proactive on the issue (that is, before larger government regulations are brought forth), these cities are developing leveraging capacity for greater influence within their regions. This will allow these cities to demand greater change than what may have initially been possible through a larger law.

Essentially, what the cities are doing is shifting demand from one source of energy to another over a period of time. This will have a rippling effect on energy demands from their region (cities to counties, counties to state), which will continue to spread to the larger region.

An example of this are the energy demands of New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado. To reduce their carbon footprint, in 1999 New Belgium opted to run 100% on wind power, purchasing its power from Medicine Row, Wyoming. As their demand grew, the brewery was able to have Fort Collins build a wind turbine to meet their demand, allowing “Fort Collins to become Colorado’s first electric utility to offer wind power.” Through Ready for 100, Fort Collins has pledged to be 100% renewable by 2030.

Where the successes of the Ready for 100, Compact of Mayors, and We Are Still In are still being integrated into policies, there are already successes being reported. Aspen, Burlington, Georgetown, Greensburg, Kodiak Island, and Rock Port have already achieved their committed goals to operate on renewable energy ahead of schedule. Further expansion and successes on these will continue to grow, enabling a ripple effect into larger areas. Everything has to start somewhere, and as sustainable growth happens, bigger change will happen.


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