16 Big Green Ideas We’re Thankful For

treehuggerIt’s the season of giving thanks, and these big ideas deserve gratitude.


By Jaymi Heimbuch
San Francisco, CA, USA | Wed Nov 04 12:00:00 GMT 2009

Jim Esposito Photography L.L.C./Getty Images

Green Holidays | Less Is More | Thanksgiving

At Planet Green, we’re always grateful for any new invention or concept that carries an aura of sustainability. But now we’re entering into the season where it’s time to voice that thankfulness. There are quite a few major ideas that have changed the way we function within our daily lives, our communities, our cultures, and within the movement for sustainability. Some of the ideas have become so integrated into our thinking that we only notice them in their absence, while other ideas are still being developed by scientists, researchers and activists – though we know they’ll be a substantial part of our lives soon. Some of the ideas are ways of viewing the world and our role in it, while others are specific tools that help us live our green ethics. Without further ado, here are (most of the) big ideas we’re thankful for:

1. Green Blogosphere

We’ve got to put this at the top of our list. The green blogosphere has done wonders for connecting people to one another, spreading green living ideas, creating an ever growing community for eco-activists and burgeoning greenies, and giving a platform for the spread and creation of sustainable thought. We’re thankful for all the blogs that are part of this network, and all the people who create and read them – and that means we’re thankful for YOU!

2. Microfinance

Kiva just celebrated a landmark achievement of facilitating the loan of over $100 million in its 4 short years of existence. Kiva started the popular movement of microfinance as a viable option for redistributing wealth and helping small business owners make a living. More programs, such as MicroPlace and the Women’s Microfinance Initiative, have been starting up and helping to shift money around in small, sustainable, and significant ways.

3. Online Social Networking

Social networks online have been an incredible big idea to help green. Twitter not only helps people spread stories and thoughts, but also gather for events and raise funds for charities – charity:water’s twestival is one example. Recently, 350.org held a global day of action, the turnout for which was heralded as impossible without the help of online organization. Networks such as Facebook and WiserEarth help people connect with each other and causes. There seems to be no end to the green good online social networking can do.

4. Smart Grid

The smart grid is helping us integrate renewable energy into the electric grid, and use what energy is created in an intelligent way. The installation of smart meters facilitates communication between utilities and consumers, making energy consumption visible, and therefore much more manageable and efficient. While there are big questions to be answered regarding issues such a privacy, smart grid projects are getting the attention and funding they need to move forward and modernize our energy use.

5. Renewable Energy Sources

Tapping into the abundant natural energy sources that are renewable and clean is an idea for which it seems impossible to express enough thankfulness. Transitioning our electricity from being generated with fuels that require steps such as wiping entire mountains off the face of the planet, and have consequences as dire as dissolving the shells of corals and crustaceans, to being generated with fuels that are as abundant and constantly present as the sun and wind will help us in immeasurable ways change the course of our current destructive path to one of sustainability.

6. Neutral Carbon Footprint Accounting

Having a way to measure the carbon footprints of businesses, products and services is a key issue for sustainability, since you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Companies like HP and Apple are among many working to make their carbon footprint apparent to consumers; however, we currently lack a standardized method for accounting and comparing footprints. AMEE is one company working to create that neutral and transparent carbon footprint accounting platform, measure the footprint of everything on earth. A trustworthy number associated with everything we consume will help us reach our own sustainable carbon footprint.

7. Reuse Economy

Communities organized around keeping products in the consumer stream are a vital way to reduce waste, slow manufacturing of unnecessary items, and shift our concept of “need.” Services that help us accomplish this and that we love include thrift stores, swap parties, garage sales, Craigslist, and similar systems. They’re all part of the eco-nomics of sustainability.

8. Freeganism

Like a reuse economy, we’re also thankful for an economy that doesn’t require money – or even the exchange of products or services. Freeganism means zero waste, and that’s an equation we love. Freeganism covers everything from keeping perfectly good food from going to landfill, all the way to the service of tool libraries where members can utilize whatever is in the shed when they need it for free. Craigslist and Freecycle are two of our favorite community-oriented websites that help facilitate freeganism, as well as larger events such as Really Really Free Market.

9. Farmers Markets

Speaking of markets, farmers’ markets are of course on our list of big ideas we’re thankful for. In a way, a farmer’s market is such an old idea that it feels a little odd it would need to be included. But as we’ve moved away from buying food from local farmers and on to buying processed edible products from the agro-industrial complex, we’ve been lucky enough to realize just how incredibly valuable farmers’ markets actually are for our health, and the health of the planet. Getting to know our farmers’ markets again and creating our meals from the seasonal, sustainably grown foods found there is again a great big green idea.

10. Sustainable Cities

Cities that can thrive without damaging the ecosystem in which it exists, or the rest of the planet is a big idea we love. Making cities walkable, with loads of urban gardens, buildings that are efficient and nontoxic, regulations that promote zero waste…the list could go on. We’re seeing pieces of this happening in cities across the world, and we’re seeing ideas for new eco-cities. Ulitmately, we’d love to see all cities converted to enjoyable places to live with zero footprint.

11. Cradle-to-Cradle Design

Perhaps one of the biggest ideas to come from biomimicry is cradle-to-cradle design, and manufacturing, using, and recycling something as completely as any natural system. The earth wastes nothing when it comes to creating new life and reusing old stuff…why would we settle for anything less in the products, buildings, and systems we create?

12. Birth Control

Scientists have noted over and over again what happens to ecosystems when a species’ population booms out of control. Humans are no different. Birth control is a big idea that can can solve our own destructive growth without us having to give up our fun. It is also one of the cheapest solutions, beating out any other low carbon technology being researched for controlling our GHG emissions.

13. Less Is More

It’s not just people we need less of in order to be sustainable, we need less of everything. A Less Is More mentality gets us back to smaller portions of higher quality food, smaller cars with better fuel sources, smaller homes that offer more benefits… Having less is ultimately more.

14. Commuter Bikes and Electric Vehicles

Getting out of cars and onto bikes is a big idea we’ve seen boom. From bike share programs to wonderfully hacked bikes for getting groceries, along with companies and cities becoming more bike friendly, the commuter bike is making a comeback. And along side it, so too is the electric car. It’s old news – as in century old news – and yet we’re only just getting around to making the electric car a fact of daily life. Despite being slow to come around, we’re grateful.

15. Biomimicry

Biomimicry is an idea that seems obvious, and yet is cutting edge within science – looking at the way Mother Nature does things and using that as inspiration for how we want to get things done. Janine Benyus is one of the major leaders in biomicry, creating AskNature.org as a resource for cataloging all the many ways in which nature has already answered any design questions we can think up.

16. Inalienable Rights for Nature

Perhaps one of the biggest ideas we’re thankful for is this – nature has a right to flourish without humans mucking it up. Many cities and countries are recognizing this within their legislation, such as Ecuador and Switzerland. We look forward to seeing the rights of nature more widely acknowledged on a global scale.

This list isn’t comprehensive, so be sure to leave comments with the big ideas you’re thankful for!

More Things to be Thankful For
Five Climate Change Events To Be Thankful For
10 Green Things to Be Thankful For
Thanksgiving: So Much to be Thankful For

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