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May 2021 | Why should we electrify everything?

Everyone โ€” we raised $4,840 since last week's email for India COVID relief. Thank you so much for contributing. Special shoutout to Dana for being our donor #1. Moments like this make me truly believe in the change we can all create together through tiny actions. ๐Ÿ’Œ

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I've been feeling particularly overwhelmed this week by... * gestures around wildly * and our May sponsor could not have been more timely. I was so glad to learn about April22, a marketplace to shop sustainable. The founder, Anya, is in our membership community, and I can't wait to ask her more about what she's building. (E.g. Anya, are you singlehandedly planning the downfall of Jeff Bezos?)

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Okay, small talk is over. Let's chat electrification, our May topic. I used to think it was boring AF until someone offered to buy me a Tesla. Jk, that's just me manifesting, but I did realize how electrification can change all our lives for the better.

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Headshot of Ash Borkar (a woman with glasses and a cardigan)
"The info is always timely, actionable, and never stale." - Aishwarya Borkar, Change.org
Headshot of Meghan Mehta speaking at Google with a microphone in her hand
"Making social change always felt so overwhelming until I started reading this newsletter."ย - Meghan Mehta, Google

    READ |ย Why electrify?

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    • The problem: Non-renewable fuels, which include coal, oil, and natural gas (#FossilFuelSquad) supply ~80% of the world's energy. They release greenhouse gases like CO2 when they're burned, trapping heat in the atmosphere and making them a primary contributor to climate change. (National Geographic)
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    • The solution: Electrify everything! We can't capture all the nuance in this short read, but electrification puts us on the path to fast decarbonization and running as much as possible on renewable energy, instead of fossil fuels. (Green Tech Media aka GTM)
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    • How big the problem is: Fossil fuels are the backbone of the electricity system, generating 64% of today's global supply. This is why these pesky non-renewables are so hard to quit! Check out the graph below on global electricity generation and what powers it. (Brookings)
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    • A simple 3-step solution for max coolness: To shift to an electrified future, we have to make electrification exciting, dispel myths about electrification for contractors and consumers, and remove policy market barriers. Easy-peasy, right? (GTM)
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    • We can start by electrifying our own lives: We'll explore this further in our ACT module but you can actually buy clean energy through your energy provider and more! What we do now REALLY matters and we have the power to shift demand. (GTM)
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    graph from Brookings on fossil fuels and global electricity

    LISTEN | Rich people gotta step it up

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    Last week I promised you a 3-min video explaining what the heck fossil fuels actually are, and as usual, I got distracted by the next flashy thing: electric vehicles (EVs).


    The reason I switched gears (haha get it) is because on Monday, we had a members-only fireside chat with Dr. Kim Nicholas. One of our founding members Joseph asked, "Do you think it's possible to meet any climate goals if electric cars are the default transportation mode for the next 20 years?"


    The answer was a resounding No.


    We have to electrify everything, including cars, AND reduce the need to drive. That's why today's LISTEN module talks about the true cost of EVs. Spoiler alert: EVs are cheaper if you're rich.

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    Today, I'm recommending a 5-minute video from Grist, my favorite climate news outlet. Shannon Osaka, a climate journalist, has a really funny overview on the true cost of EVs and how they're cheaper if you're rich.

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    Some takeaways:

    • EVs are actually cheaper. Comparing the host of the Hyundai Kona regular car vs. the electric version, the EV costs around $17k more new. But the average EV owner will save ~$11k by avoiding gas. Maintenance savings account for another $4,600 in savings. You can even get a tax credit in the US, which is another $7,500, making the EV more cost-effective!
    • EVs are actually...not cheaper. You said you loved this newsletter because it's not confusing, so I wanted to change it up a bit. OK but seriously: EVs are only cheaper if you're rich. To get the tax credit in the US, you need to be making at least $66k/year...and a bunch of other stuff.
    • Users are losers! Although most Americans buy used cars, there's no tax credit for buying a used EV in all states except Oregon.
    • Mo money, mo chargers. The more expensive your neighborhood is, the more expensive charging stations are.


    Some of this, like the tax credit, only applies to the United States, but wherever you live, there's likely some sort of EV conversation going on.

    My take: if you have the means to afford an EV, get one. Especially if you can get one secondhand. Those of us who are "climate privileged" should certainly do as much as possible to take individual action, but we can never forget that the goal is structural change that benefits everyone. Like expanded (and electrified) public transit!

    I'd love to get your thoughts on this one -- there's a lot to unpack with the "electrify everything" movement.

    ACT | Go green by going yellow

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    Let's get right to it. Only one action today!

    1. Go electric and save money with YellowTin.

      Our friends at YellowTin make it SUPER easy to figure out how to electrify your life and make cleaner consumer choices. You can poke around their website โ€” I really liked the info center which gives you an overview of the main electrification product upgrades like solar, EVs, heat pumps, stoves, etc.

      Sign up to use YellowTinโ€™s platform to receive your personalized roadmap to electrification and discover your options to live a more sustainable life.


    If you want more info on things to do around the house, check out our module from last April on home energy. One of the most fascinating things I learned is simply changing WHEN you use energy matters. Do your laundry + dishes when the sun is shining!

    REFLECTย |ย EVs won't save us

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    This NYT article from earlier in May on the "lithium gold rush" is probably one of the most thought-provoking things I've read in a while. It's reminding me that we're building a new world, and as EVs become part of it, we've gotta think about progress holistically.


    Some facts and takeaways:

    • โšก EVs need lithium. Production of raw materials like lithium, cobalt and nickel that are essential to these EV car batteries & renewable energy are often ruinous to land, water, wildlife and people
    • ๐Ÿคข Lithium mining can be v unsafe. Lithium mining is expected to use billions of gallons of ground water, potentially contaminating some of it for 300 years
    • ๐Ÿค‘ We're ignoring these planetary concerns because of a global politics. We're not talking about this enough because... countries around the world are in a technological dominance race. Every country wants to be the first to get its hands on these precious raw materials. Extractive capitalism strikes again!
    • ๐Ÿ„ Indigenous communities are disproportionately targeted. In the US, new lithium mines are expected to harm Indigenous lands and contaminate drinking water for people, livestock, and crops. Big, electric yikes.
    • ๐Ÿง‚ Good news, maybe: There are environmentally friendlier ways to extract lithium (from brine!) that may have a chance at keeping people safe while allowing us to "electrify everything"

    I highly encourage you to read the article. Many of us have this mentality that buying an EV will solve climate change. Electrification is certainly a step in the right direction, but we have the chance to build a new world and keep people safe instead of charging towards "progress" at a cost to humans. As we switch to electric-everything, let's do it right!

    Fight climate change in a way that works for you.

    ๐Ÿ’Œ Thinking about sustainability can be overwhelming after a busy workday, so we're here to help. Join over 4,000 other busy people and subscribe to Changeletter, a bite-sized action plan that'll take you 3 minutes or less to read every week.
    Take action
    Headshot of Ash Borkar (a woman with glasses and a cardigan)
    "The info is always timely, actionable, and never stale." - Aishwarya Borkar, Change.org
    Headshot of Meghan Mehta speaking at Google with a microphone in her hand
    "Making social change always felt so overwhelming until I started reading this newsletter."ย - Meghan Mehta, Google