7 ways to make your 2022 New Year’s resolutions green in Alabama

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Ferus Ales rooftop solar panels in Trussville. Photo via Eagle Solar & Light

Have you made your New Year’s Resolutions for 2022 yet? 

Never fear, we’ve got some ideas for you that could help our cities and state grow stronger as we come up against the impacts of climate change.

In our first two stories in this series about Climate Change in Alabama, we learned how UAB’s School of Public Health and Auburn University are evolving to meet the challenge of a changing climate.


And in our final installment, we examine the commitments—”resolutions”—some Alabama businesses are taking to better prepare for the future. We then offer to you, our readers, ways you can “plug-in”—make a personal commitment—to resolutions that can make a difference right here at home in 2022 and beyond.

Committed to the Fight

Airbus
AirbusZEROe Turbofan Concept. Photo via Airbus

This list may surprise you. We researched and asked some Alabama-based businesses what their commitments were to help stem the tide of climate change and increase sustainability. Here is what we found.

  • UAB leadership announced plans in 2018 for 20 percent of their electrical energy to be sourced with renewable energy by the year 2025. In addition to the renewable commitment, UAB plans to also reduce carbon emissions 20% by 2025.
  • Airbus, which has a large presence in Mobile, has revealed three concepts for the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft which could enter service by 2035. 
  • Walmart, which has 144 stores and 40,933 associates in Alabama, is committed to zero emissions across its global operations by 2040, without relying on carbon offsets.
  • Protective in Birmingham powers its corporate headquarters with 100% renewable energy. 
  • Milo’s Tea, a homegrown Alabama company, is composting 30 tons of tea leaf waste daily, which adds up to 1.5 million tons a year. 
  • Honda, which has a plant in Lincoln, plans to make and sell battery-electric and fuel cell electric vehicles. By 2040, they expect EV & fuel cell electric cars to represent 100% of its vehicle sales. 
  • Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and Southern Company, the parent of Alabama Power, have both resolved to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. According to the Berkeley Lab, 46 U.S. utilities have pledged to go carbon free by the same time frame.

Giant companies and institutions are making giant goals.

Electric Cars and Solar Energy

Birmingham AL UAB EV Electric Vehicle Charging Station
Courtesy of Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition

One thing is for sure—efforts to reverse climate change are good for Alabama business and jobs

Need some examples?

This fall, The University of Alabama, Alabama Power and Mercedes-Benz U.S. International (MBUSI) teamed up to create a state-of-the-art research and workforce development center designed to meet the needs of the booming electric vehicle market. 

In another partnership with Mercedes-Benz, Alabama Power is constructing a massive solar farm in Lowndes County which will cover a significant portion of the electric needs for MBUSI’s Vance assembly plant and the new Bibb County electric battery plant. The Solar Project is expected to create about 300 construction jobs while generating more than $9 million in tax revenue for Lowndes County over the life of the project.

Not to be outdone,TVA has recently helped attract tech giants Facebook and Google to North Alabama thanks to their commitment to solar power. According to TVA, their clean economy initiatives have helped the utility bring in an eye-popping $45.9 billion region-wide over the past five years. As a result, North Alabama is now the epicenter for solar in Alabama, according to Scott Fiedler, TVA’s spokesperson.

TVA
Solar Farm in Colbert County, Alabama. Photo via TVA

And how many jobs can solar power bring? In Alabama 700+ people are employed by the solar industry. Georgia and Tennessee, who have each gone “all in” with solar, employ six to seven times more people in the field than Alabama.

Project Drawdown—Resolutions in 2022 and Beyond

Let’s start on our 2022 climate resolutions by tapping into some solutions.

One of the best resources for climate solutions on the internet is  Project Drawdown. Founded in 2014, the nonprofit organization seeks to:

“Help the world reach ‘drawdown’—the future point in time when levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline.”

The site, which is filled with climate solutions, can be intimidating, especially when “gigatons” and trillions of $ are used to describe the impact of the solutions. 

To simplify everything, we’ve listed seven sample resolutions below with local contacts to get you started in 2022.

Resolutions you can keep here in Alabama

East Lake
Tree planting at East Lake Park on November 16, 2019. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now
  1. Get a Home Energy Audit in 2022: Obviously, reducing the amount of energy your home or office uses is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and save money on electric bills. The Department of Energy has a great DIY Energy Audit website. Locally, check out energy saving companies like Eco-Three in Birmingham 
  2. Minimize Food Waste in 2022: Food waste isn’t just wasteful. It’s also an enormous contributor to climate change. Instead of throwing away uneaten food, store, freeze, or re-purpose food for future meals. In Birmingham, connect with Magic City Harvest, whose mission is to recover perishable food and give it to those who can use it.
  3. Composting and Recycling in 2022: Composting your food and yard waste benefits the climate, including  reducing greenhouse gas emissions at landfills. Recycling is beneficial to the climate crisis in two main ways: by limiting the amount of raw materials being used and limiting the amount of waste going into landfills. Connect with Cooperative Extension on how to start composting and learn about recycling’s  impact on Alabama.
  4. Plant a Tree in 2022: When trees grow, they help reduce climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the air, storing carbon in the trees and soil, and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. This past September, Bham Now published a “how to plant a tree” story. Check it out.
  5. Buy an Electric Car in 2022: Electric cars not only reduce carbon emissions—they do not spew out particulates and ozone-causing pollutants. Interested in buying an electric car? The Alabama Clean Fuels Coalition will have all the answers—from where you can “charge up” to info on specific models.
  6. Consider Rooftop Solar in 2022: Why wait for a solar farm? Build your own solar plant on your roof. The cost of solar energy continues to drop making it more and more affordable here in Alabama. Need technical advice on solar contractors? Contact Energy Alabama.
  7. Use a Carbon Footprint Calculator: Much like a jogger or cyclist keeps track of his or her miles, a carbon footprint calculator tallies your impact on the planet. Use EPA’s old reliable calculator.  If you want to be even more ambitious, try Techstars Alabama EnergyTech Accelerator member company Sustaio and use their Climate Score platform.

Local Climate Advocacy

Green New Deal
Green New Deal Birmingham Campaign graph. Photo via GASP

Another resolution you can make in 2022? Climate advocacy. If you are seeking ways to address climate and environmental inequities, local and statewide conservation organizations have big plans in 2022. 

Let’s begin with GASP, a Birmingham-based group advocating for a Green New Deal for Birmingham

Led by Executive Director Michael Hansen, the organization plans to organize citizens from the ground up in all of Birmingham’s 99 neighborhoods.

The campaign aims to develop a plan that is not just a list of policy prescriptions, but something much deeper, that addresses the issues that are affecting local people and offers solutions to them.

“We’ve divided up the work into five categories,” said Hansen.

Here is his list.

  • Responsible energy that looks at our energy system and how we can transition to clean renewable energy. 
  • Transit justice—people need a way to get to and from work and shouldn’t have to rely on a car.
  • Clean air and water issues 
  • Equitable investment from governments and businesses that’s fair and distributed throughout the community.
  • Transparency—making sure you can hold the government accountable 

Climate Advocacy on the Coast and Statewide

Nature Conservancy Oysters
(ALL RIGHTS) January 23, 2011. Nearly 400 volunteers came out to Mobile Bay in Alabama to help restore the Gulf of Mexico. Photo credit: © 2011 Erika Nortemann/TNC

Beyond Birmingham, there are several groups tackling climate change statewide. 

For example, The Nature Conservancy, Alabama Chapter (TNC), one of Alabama’s largest and most prominent conservation organizations has made dealing with climate change one of their top priorities.

“Restoring our coastline in a way that makes our communities more resilient to a changing climate is important,”  Mitch Reid, Director at The Nature Conservancy told us in a recent interview.  “We need to restore and build out marshland and oysters reefs so that our communities can absorb these rising and changing sea levels.”  

Reid also emphasized the importance of keeping Alabama forests intact. 

“Alabama forests are part of a natural climate solution because they absorb millions of tons of carbon dioxide across our landscape. The Nature Conservancy’s Working Woodland program seeks ways to help forest landowners get credit for the work their forests are doing for the planet.”

In addition to TNC other groups throughout the state are providing valuable climate change resources and solutions. They include:

A Climate Summit in 2022?

Conference
Alabama Rivers Alliance River Rally in 2018. Photo via ARA’s Facebook page

One last possible resolution/action item for 2022 is a much-needed climate summit in Alabama. 

Mike Kensler, the director of the Office of Sustainability at Auburn University has been calling for one.

“It needs to be a practitioners conference,” Kensler told us. “Who’s doing what? How can we learn from each other? What are our next steps to make sure that the state of Alabama is resilient? Make sure public health, environmental health, economic health are always served by the decisions we make addressing the challenges of climate change.”

Kensler hopes such a summit can be modeled after the recently held 2021 Georgia Climate Conference this past August. More than 430 Georgians from all walks of life attended. They tried to answer the following two questions:

  • What does a changing climate mean?
  • What can we do about it?  

Your 2022 Climate Resolutions

Birmingham, Alabama, Little River Canyon
Little River Canyon. Photo via Pat Byington for Bham Now

Whether you are in charge of the largest company in the state or an individual who cares about protecting our natural world, what will your climate resolutions be in 2022? 

Perhaps Scott Fielder with TVA said it best. 

“Being environmentally friendly is not red or blue. You’re not on a Republican team or Democrat team. It’s all the green team. The only question is how to go about it.”

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Pat Byington
Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.
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