Your community, your energy, your choices

I grew up the only girl with four brothers, and then in middle school our family expanded and I got three stepbrothers and a stepsister. I was used to being around guys. Energy systems traditionally have been and still are mostly engineered, designed, operated and regulated by guys. But this dynamic is shifting as more women enter science, technology and engineering fields.

In 2005, some colleagues and I started Women of Wind Energy (WoWE) to encourage and celebrate women’s voices and leadership in the wind and renewable energy industry. We now have 33 chapters in 25 states.

If women understood their ability to change the power of their communities and homes to efficient clean energy, it would tip the scales in our country’s energy consumption.

The energy economy is ripe for more involvement of women. This is how we live, raise our families, and power our homes and businesses. You don’t have to be an engineer or an energy expert. Women have influence as they embrace their earning power and make more of the purchasing decisions about the home as well as their businesses.

As a society, we have the know-how for efficiencies and technologies far greater than are being presented in the market. I am not talking about making sacrifices or doing without. I am talking about better living, consuming less, wasting less and redesigning systems to allow for local clean energy. Data from the World Energy Council show that the average American home uses two times the electricity of an average European home.

It will take all of us to bring about a cleaner energy system that is more sustainable, equitable and just.

Here are some things you can do to make a difference … today:
Your actions
• Get involved in your local community efforts for more sustainable and resilient essential services such as LED street lighting; renewable energy to power schools, water and waste water; or redesign streets for walking and bicycling.
• Ask elected officials and candidates what they are doing to develop sustainable and resilient communities and expect good and intelligent answers.
• Walk, bicycle or ride the bus or light rail. No one is saying give up the car. Just figure out how to get out of it some of the time.
• Choose to buy renewable power as part of your home utility bills.

Your purchases for home or business
• Seek out the most energy-efficient appliances and lighting. It’s easy to get the information online in advance.
• Buy electric or hybrid cars – then buy the cleanest electricity you can.

Your community
• Start a contest for six months or a year with households in your school, church, neighborhood or town to see who can use the least amount of energy. This is a learning exercise for the whole community.

Lisa Daniels is executive director and founder of Windustry, an organization focused on empowering the well-being of communities with clean energy technology and choices.