Live Lighter: Lower Your Energy Footprint
with an Energy Action Plan
Reducing your energy use and making the switch to renewable energy are two of the most significant changes you can make to reduce your costs and your community’s dependence on fossil fuels. On this site we’ll introduce you to energy action planning and show you how you can Start an Energy Action Plan for your home, business, or community. Then we’ll show you what you can do with others to bring the idea of energy descent to your community.
There are businesses and nonprofits in our local community that can help you on this journey. Click to Energy Descent: How to Do It for local and national resources.
What Is An Energy Action Plan?
From its very beginning, the Transition movement asked people to think about how their community could free themselves from the cost and risk of depending on others for an essential resource like energy. Communities began to create Energy Descent Action Plans (also called EDAPs). An EDAP is an action plan to change a pattern of energy use. On this website, we are going to call this plan an Energy Action Plan. Most plans will include strategies to reduce energy use, make energy efficiency improvements, and switch some or all energy use to renewables (like wind or solar). (Click here to see the Resilience.org Energy Descent Action Plan primer.
An Energy Action Plan Starts with a Positive Vision
What kind of future do you want for your family, your business, or your community? When you decide to take action to reduce your energy dependence, you are choosing to make the Transition because you want something good. That good could be:
- Saving money that you could use for other things
- Gaining energy independence from a utility company or from foreign oil providers
- Building a local economy by stopping the flow of money out of state or overseas, and instead building local energy generation.
- Cleaner air and improved health
- More transportation choices
- Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
This positive future you envision needs to be attractive enough that you are willing to work for it, to spend time, and possibly money to achieve it. Talk with your spouse and children, your business colleagues, your community leaders. Think about the people, places, and values that motivate you. How do they inform this vision? (For some people that future vision may be more scary than attractive. Recognize that different people are motivated by different things. Look beyond scary images to see the positive values of love or safety.)
Make this vision as clear as possible. Some people may want to draw a picture or make a collage so they can “see” what their vision will look like. You might want to put the plan in a visible place at home or at work. If you are working on a community scale, you might choose to engage local artists to create a visual for your community website.
- Read up on the process the community of Kinsale, Ireland used to create their Energy Descent Action Plan.
Now Flesh Out Your Energy Action Plan
See the page on how to Start Your Energy Action Plan for guidance on understanding your current energy use. You will need to know where you are starting from in order to measure your progress.
Once you’ve identified all of the places energy is being used (this may take some time), then you can start to look for actions and alternatives.
- For the home setting, Transition Twin Cities has created a small Energy Descent Guide to help you get started. It’s a free, easy-to-understand, 16-page document and includes space where you can note the steps you want to take. We also have a speaker who can lead a workshop on creating your energy action plan. Contact us to schedule a free speaker.
- Take a look at the Energy Descent Action Plan created by and for the town of Totnes, England.
Bring the Idea of Energy Descent to Your Community
Energy is a great topic to explore with friends and neighbors in a Transition group (join one or start one), a workplace green team, or a creation care team. These are just a few of the energy-related actions groups can tackle:
- Show movies about energy problems and solutions.
- Host speakers to help people learn about how our energy system operates, the truth about U.S. energy dependence and U.S. energy reserves, and about energy reduction solutions like solar bulk buy programs, community solar gardens, and weatherization actions. Groups like the Citizens’ Climate Lobby are happy to speak about carbon fee and dividend.
- Use social media to educate people about energy-savings technologies, as well as myths and facts. There is a lot of greenwashing and wishful thinking.
- Host an energy fair or table at community events with literature from your utility company about energy saving habits and devices, and renewable energy programs (like Wind Source and community solar gardens).
- Learn about energy-related legislation and go together to a legislative session to see what your representatives are saying and doing. (You might be surprised.)
- Get an energy audit and tell your friends about it.
- Get together with neighbors or friends and create your Energy Action Plans together
- Start to use accessible solar technologies, like a solar box cooker, solar lights, solar phone charger, and solar hot air on your home. Show others how it’s done.
- Organize field trips to see a passive house, or a solar home.
Hands-on Skillshare Events
- Host home weatherization work parties to teach people how to weatherize their homes and actually do it right then and there. (Cooperative Energy Futures organized weatherization work parties in the Powderhorn neighborhood.)
- Build a simple solar box cooker, or teach and learn low- and no-energy cooking techniques like haybox cooking, fermentation, dehydration and ceviche.
Start a Challenge to Change
Time-limited “action challenges” allow people to try a new activity without having to commit to a long-term change. Let people choose the actions they want to take to achieve a similar goal. Consider together what challenges you will face and how you will overcome them. Set a date for a report-back so people can celebrate success or brainstorm solutions to problems they experienced along the way.
- Transit challenge: Try getting where you’re going using only mass transit, carpooling, biking or walking for a day, a week, a month.
- Emergency preparedness challenge: Prepare for a power outage by living without energy for a day or 3 days.
Ask your neighborhood or town council to provide funds, or matching funds, to underwrite the cost of enhanced energy audits like the one provided by the Center for Energy & the Environment. Underwriting can make these valuable programs accessible for low-income families and senior citizens.
Energy IS a Justice Issue
Transition groups are a place where people can grapple with the moral questions of energy use and production and then seek paths for more just action.
Reducing Costs/Enabling Change: Many energy improvements and cost-saving opportunities are technological fixes that may not be affordable to the people who need them the most. How can we make funding or products and technologies more accessible so our homes and small businesses are better weatherized and use less energy?
Reducing Risk: Some forms of energy are more polluting than others. Where is pollution being produced and who is being affected by it? What is the path to reduce risks for those who live nearby?
Shifting Our Impact Onto Others? While renewable energy has many benefits, it also has impacts. If your renewable energy is not located in your community, how is it affecting the community in which it is located? Some rural communities are feeling overwhelmed by large energy developments. Is removing vast acres of farmland from food production, reforestation or prairie restoration in order to site solar projects on it the best use of that land? Consider the premise of the Madelia Model, that a community can grow or collect its fuel from within a 25-mile radius. How much of our energy can be produced locally?
While developed nations have had abundant energy for more than a century, people in developing nations have often gone without. The reality is that while we face incredible challenges ahead that will require many of us to “powerdown,” some folks still need to get powered up.
There are basic technologies that can improve the lives of the poor in developing nations and you can have an impact with your dollars.
- Consider becoming part of the online microfinance community of KIVA, and join the Transition NOW! Team. At KIVA, a $25 investment is paired with other $25 investments to fund things like solar projects, water projects, farming projects.*
- Research impactful businesses like BioLite, who use their profits to fund work in poor communities. Biolite sells clean-energy camping products in the US to bring clean cooking, lighting and phone charging energy to ½ million people in India and Africa.*
If you’re looking for a place to do some carbon offsetting, consider investing in practical solutions that meet the needs of the 1.2 billion global citizens without access to energy.