Five costumes that make Halloween (and our clean energy future) less spooky

October 26, 2022

Halloween is upon us. This spine-tingling night of goblins and ghouls also comes with something even more frightening: environmental costs. Luckily, we have some suggestions on how to make this holiday better for you and the planet, starting with your costume.

First and foremost, when prepping your fright ‘fit, try to leverage existing clothes and accessories you already have. Halloween costumes are a major contributor to the 12 million pounds of textile waste generated per year in the U.S.—eighty-five percent of costumes end up haunting landfills for decades, and you don’t want to add to that problem. By thrifting, using what you have, and getting creative, you can still find a way to compose a costume that impresses/engages/inspires fellow partygoers with a subtle environmental message.

1. Heat Pump

Show your support for heat pumps and dress as one—drawing inspiration from Rewiring America’s Sam Calisch, who converted a cardboard box into a heat-pump replica. With some white construction paper and a creative hand, you, too, can show your support for expanded investment in heat pumps that will enable Americans across the country to be the beneficiaries of accessible clean energy technology.

Credit: Rewiring America

2. Solar Installer or EV Technician

Credit: Tom Daly Photography; Our local Charlottesville, VA friends at SunTribe Solar

Are you a ten-minutes-before-the-party type planner? We’ve got the perfect two-minute costume for you. Instead of popping on a flannel and calling yourself a lumberjack, toss on a plain white t-shirt, a pair of jeans, and a hard hat. Bonus points if you can add some safety goggles or can carry along some power tools.

If you’re not waiting ‘til the last minute, let your local solar installer know your costume plan, and they might be willing to send you a t-shirt to complete your look.

3. Landfill/recycling/compost bin

Not only is the waste from pumpkins on Halloween, but so is the sheer amount of food waste produced in the US annually. Roughly 40% of all generated food ends up in a landfill. 

You can draw attention to this issue with a creative landfill costume. Start by composing an all-black outfit. Then, attach pieces of crumpled paper, wrappers, apple cores, and other miscellaneous items that all end up in the trash. Go a step further and carry around a small plastic bin to point out what’s recyclable and compostable at the party.

Adorable “Mr. Recycling!” credit: Costume Works

4. Solar Panel

For this quintessential clean energy costume, simply break down a cardboard box, color or paint it black, and add smaller rectangles of aluminum foil on top. Boom—you have a solar array. It doesn’t get more classic than this!

Looking for a couples costume? Get your friend or partner to dress up as the sun, and you can walk around your Halloween party telling everyone how much money they could save by switching to solar. 

Credit: Ellensburg Solar

5. Greenwashing

With more Americans becoming concerned about climate change, companies are stepping up to act on climate, or at least appear to, in order to attract and retain customers. Unfortunately, many businesses make lofty public commitments to the environment and make false claims that present their products as environmentally-friendly, while actually doing very little to meet those goals.

Call out corporate greenwashing with a monochrome outfit. Dress in green from head to toe, maybe paint your face green, and carry around a can of green paint and a paintbrush. Attach labels to yourself that say things like, “Eco-friendly” “Sustainable,” or “Made from 3% recycled materials.”

More from the box of tricks

Want to level-up your green Halloween? Opt for candy in paper or aluminum packaging instead of plastic, like Hershey’s Kisses and Junior Mints. Skip the plastic decorations like fake spider webs and toys—stick to the classic carved pumpkin, which can go in the aforementioned compost bin. 

If you’re already being spooked by winter energy bills, take a look at these tips from to weatherize and make your home as winter-ready as possible to reduce your heating costs.

These didn’t make the cut for our top five, but we still wanted to share these runners-up costume ideas:

  • “I just voted” sticker – encourage people to vote for clean energy leaders.
  • Captain Planet – no explanation needed.
  • Mother Earth – either dress up as the earth or carry around a small globe all night.
  • Great Pacific Garbage Patch – similar to the landfill idea, get a (biodegradable) garbage bag and tape plastic trash to it – bonus points if the bag is a darker color which could also symbolize an oil disaster from risky offshore drilling.

Have a happy (clean) Halloween!


Your Vote Matters

October 19, 2022

If you are a human living on planet earth (which most of us are), then clean energy is an issue that affects your life and your future.   It is most definitely “on the ballot” this November.

It doesn’t take much to see how differently candidates for office see our future – some want to increase Americans’ access to solar, electric vehicles, and other sources of renewable energy, while others want to stay entrenched in polluting, climate-harming energy sources that rely on fossil fuels.  We need people in power who listen to scientists rather than downplaying the certainty and scale of the climate crisis at hand.

We need to let candidates know voters care about clean energy and plan to elect candidates that do, too. It matters for federal, state, and local elections too—places where much of the clean energy action is happening. 

Americans want clean energy

Americans across the political spectrum recognize the importance of climate change as an issue and want clean, renewable energy now. Roughly half of registered voters say climate change is either “very important” or “one of the most important issues” in their vote for who represents them in Congress. 

With increasing weather extremes and hurricanes, climate change is now top of mind for many Americans. In fact, public support for government climate action is higher among U.S. adults who have been personally affected by extreme weather events than those who have not. Bold public investment in clean energy is critical to moving us towards a better future. 

Across both sides of the political spectrum, there is broad support for clean energy policy. In fact, many red states are poised to benefit from clean energy development and local jobs, especially as the South turns into a hub for EV manufacturing.

Climate doesn’t have to be as partisan as we’ve made it out to be. Climate Leadership Council CEO Greg Bertelsen argues that “Republicans in Congress can work on climate change and be on rock solid ground with their base,” pointing to their candidate’s success in previous election cycles. 

In a time of polarization, clean energy continues to poll as a winning issue. The 2021 cycle offers many examples of candidates who emphasized clean energy and climate change more than before, and won. For example, Michelle Wu was elected mayor of Boston following a campaign in which she emphasized environmental justice, sustainable transit, and the need to cut carbon emissions across the economy.

If you care about climate change, head to the polls

Politicians listen to their constituents, so showing up and voting is just as important as who you cast your ballot for. We need more voters showing up at each election and at town halls, telling their representatives that climate is an issue that matters to them.

Since 2015, Environmental Voter Project has contacted 8.6 million non-voters and seldom-voters, and over one million of those people have become “super-voters,” meaning they cast a ballot in every election. These were all once environmentalists who never or rarely voted, but now they consistently vote their values, electing climate champions and voting for clean energy. Now every election, one million more voices elevate the importance of climate as an important issue not to be forgotten.

Your vote matters, so make sure it counts

So if you’re ready to head to the polls, make sure you’re registered and know where your polling place is. Until election day, it’s time to be vocal and influence your networks. Tell your friends and co-workers about why you are voting and what issues matter to you—hint: climate change, clean energy jobs, affordable energy, etc. You can also level-up and take your advocacy to the next level by volunteering with Environmental Voter Project and help turn environmentalists into voters, or volunteer to help staff your local polling place and ensure we have safe, fair, and efficient elections for all.

Want to know who the best climate champions are in your upcoming state and local elections? Check out the nationwide candidate endorsements from Sierra Club. Climate Cabinet has some handy state scorecards for AZ, MN, TX, and NC. Your local Sierra Club chapter should be able to provide greater details regarding local races and ballot measures, too.  The League of Conservation voters has a national environmental scorecard, too. 

Americans support climate policies, but at the same time, we underestimate popular support for climate action by nearly half. The climate movement can’t afford to only get political every 2 or 4 years—having climate champions in local offices are key to moving climate policy forward year-round.

We need your voice. Show up to the polls this election—and every election—to vote clean energy.


Four ways red states are benefiting from clean energy development

October 12, 2022

Sometimes American political discourse can feel so divisive that it seems we face an unbridgeable chasm. But on some issues – like in the case of clean energy – there is, perhaps surprisingly, wide agreement on both sides of the political aisle. 

It’s hard to argue with this common sense point from conservative Republican Tom Ridge: “Any reasonable policy will require people across the political spectrum to recognize, first, that climate change is a serious problem and, second, that the United States, with its enormous appetite for energy, must harness all practical carbon-free sources.”

“Any reasonable policy will require people across the political spectrum to recognize, first, that climate change is a serious problem and, second, that the United States, with its enormous appetite for energy, must harness all practical carbon-free sources.”

A large majority of us believe we should be generating more wind (66%) and solar energy (73%), according to Gallup poll results from 2021, and 60% of us favor dramatically reducing U.S. use of fossil fuels such as gas, oil, and coal. Recent polling from Yale University finds a majority of registered voters think developing sources of clean energy should be a high or very high priority, as 52% of Americans think policies that promote clean energy will improve economic growth and create jobs. Yet another poll from Pew Research finds similarly high levels of support for wind and solar, though it notes the gap between Democrats and Republicans has widened.

Climate denial, doubt, and delay, in addition to attacks on climate science, hinder American democracy. This rhetoric shouldn’t be ignored, but there’s no time to delay climate action further. In this energy transition, it’s important to recognize that not only is there widespread support for clean energy, but red states are actually helping to lead it. Here are four ways they are moving the clean energy economy forward.

Clean energy generation

Across multiple measures—total renewable energy generation, most clean power added in 2021, and highest shares of wind and solar on the grid—red states, including Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Florida are renewable energy powerhouses, and voted for Trump notwithstanding. 

“On just about any metric you care to look at, the green transition’s physical assets are more often found on red ground than on blue,” the authors of a recent Bloomberg Opinion column write. “The most obvious reason for this is the ground itself.” Across much of the country’s rural real estate, wind and solar make good economic sense, even if that real estate happens to lie within Republican-led districts. 

Photo credit: WeForum

Clean energy jobs and investment

Growing clean energy development translates to added jobs and investment. In fact, regardless of the opposition from some Republican leaders, the recently passed Inflation  Reduction Act will send billions of dollars to their states to build on progress already being made in clean energy. According to the White House’s state fact sheets on the law, Texas has 238,884 workers in clean energy jobs and will see an estimated $66.5 billion of investment in large-scale clean power generation and storage over the next eight years. 

Photo credit: IEA

Across 30 states, many of them Republican-leaning, jobs in renewable energy now outnumber those in coal and gas, according to the Environmental Defense Fund, and nationwide, clean energy jobs employ 3.5 times more people than the fossil fuel industry.

Billions more dollars have flowed to red states through the Volkswagen settlement for the automaker’s violation of the Clean Air Act. States like North Carolina are using the money to buy electric school buses and other zero- or low-emission vehicles.

Although you won’t find many EVs on the back roads yet in Alabama and Tennessee, thousands of residents in these states have taken on jobs in EV manufacturing to meet growing nationwide demand. Forty-six percent of vehicle production in the U.S. currently happens in the South, so it’s no surprise that more investment is going there. Ford plans to build twin battery plants in central Kentucky, creating over 11,000 local EV jobs, and Volkswagen’s recent Battery Engineering Lab now employs over 4,000 Chattanooga, TN, locals. Hyundai also plans to build its first EV-only plant in the U.S., right outside of Savannah, Georgia. 

Climate goals

When state economies run on increasing amounts of renewable energy, net-zero emissions policies start to look better and better. Nebraska’s largest electric utility, which is publicly owned, recently set a goal to decarbonize its power sector by 2050. Though the state still gets most of its power from coal, wind power is strong there and bound to get even stronger, with an estimated $24.5 billion of clean power investment coming in from the Inflation Reduction Act. North Carolina, too, recently passed climate legislation, putting the state on a path to zero out carbon emissions from electricity. These shifts reflect the reality seen in the poll results: the public supports clean energy and the policies that increase it.

City-level action

Despite significant clean energy advancement, many red states (and, to be fair, many blue states) still lag in important climate measures like carbon emissions per dollar of economic output, support for federal climate policies and fossil fuel industry regulations, building energy codes, and electric vehicle adoption and incentives (though Florida and Texas are in the top three for EV registrations, behind California). Here’s where cities and counties have an opportunity to take up the slack. Places like Orlando, Cincinnati, and San Antonio are pursuing sustainable initiatives through the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge, while the U.S. government’s Clean Cities Coalition Network is helping to advance better transportation options at the municipal level.  

All of this adds up to common ground. Advocates like Conservatives for Clean Energy, a group that focuses on five Southeastern states, emphasize the economic opportunity of clean energy more than the environmental benefits. Regardless of how they frame the issue, however, the goal is the same: To expand the nation’s store of reliable, affordable energy. 

Despite the deep political divisions in our country, we can all unite behind a better, cleaner future. As we near the holiday season and uncomfortable climate conversations arise, we can share how the clean energy transition will benefit all Americans and how many red states are leading the way towards a clean energy future.


Meeting the Moment—What’s Next for the Clean Energy Movement

October 5, 2022

This blog comes from the desk of Wendy Philleo, the Executive Director of Generation180.

As we head into a very busy fall season, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the new clean energy landscape before us and what it means for Generation180’s work and our potential for impact. 

A year ago, the Bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Act (IIJA) was being signed into law. That $550B action paved the way for the $54.2B in the CHIPS and Science Act (CHIPS) and the largest investment in clean energy America has ever made with the $369B Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) signed into law this summer. 

Combined, the brain (CHIPS), backbone (IIJA), and engine (IRA) will spur clean energy innovation while building out essential infrastructure to scale clean energy technologies quickly. They will also create long-term certainty for industry to keep innovating and driving down costs.

All of this is to say, these three pieces of federal legislation are a very big deal. They make the biggest investment in clean energy and climate in U.S. history, and while it took decades of advocates demanding action to get here, arguably the most challenging work is now ahead of us in implementation. Now that we have federal funding, let’s get to work and start proving how clean energy benefits all Americans. 

While it took decades of advocates demanding action to get here, arguably the most challenging work is now ahead of us in implementation.

Here’s where we see the greatest gains for solar schools, electric vehicles (including school buses), and homes.

More Schools Powered by Clean Energy

With nearly 50 million students attending over 130,000 K-12 schools, the education sector – schools in  particular – have an important role to play in our country’s transition to clean energy. Our recent Brighter Future report  found that since 2015, the amount of solar installed at K-12 schools has tripled. Despite this growth, only 9% of schools have gone solar. 

We are on the path to a brighter future, but we have a long way to go to reach our goal of 100% clean energy powered schools. More than $500 million in new federal funding will soon go to readying schools across the country for clean power solar installation and more energy efficiency. These investments benefit schools and the climate while improving indoor air quality and introducing Pre-K students to STEM. Schools ready to go solar can find out more here.

How students get to class each day also matters. There are nearly half of a million school buses on the road today, and the vast majority are dirty diesel buses. The millions of children currently riding these buses are breathing in toxic tailpipe pollution, and we have the opportunity–with more than $5 billion in federal funds for school districts–to switch to clean, zero emissions buses, charging infrastructure and operations.

Electric buses improve air quality and health outcomes, particularly for low-income communities and communities of color that disproportionately suffer the harmful effects of air pollution. Switching all of the nation’s school buses to electric would reduce the emissions equivalent to taking over 1 million cars off the road.

Electrification of Everything Becomes Easier

Which leads us to the choice that all drivers have to make their next car electric. The recent legislation has incentives that make EV ownership a no-brainer with rebates for new and used electric vehicles, $5 billion to build the nationwide network of fast chargers deployed across all 50 U.S. states, and the added benefit of supporting a renaissance of American jobs and manufacturing with EV battery plants and semiconductor factories dotting the country. 

U.S. automakers have picked up on this market demand signal and are working to deliver new EV models at unprecedented speed. With transportation being the leading source of climate-harming carbon emissions in the United States, EV adoption could come at no better time. Our national Electrify Your Ride campaign is helping to capitalize on national momentum around electric car driving by busting myths and encouraging Americans to sign the Going Electric pledge. 

Electrifying your life may begin with a major decision like owning an EV, but it doesn’t stop there. Choices we make every day–like what kind of transportation we use, how we heat the air and water in our homes, cook our food and dry our clothes–can all be electric. 

Americans in every zip code across the country can reduce their energy bills and electrify their homes through new federal tax credits and direct rebates that offset up-front costs. In addition to solar system and EV rebates, benefits for homes include credits for electric stoves, dryers, battery storage, heat pump water heaters, breaker box upgrades, home energy audits, electrical wiring, weatherization, and efficiency improvements. These seemingly small changes add up to big benefits for your wallet, climate, and personal comfort.

What You Can Do

Through this influx of new federal funding, individuals are incentivized to take action. For specific steps you can take, check out our list on how to make your energy matter. The best way for individuals to maximize their impact is to use their voice to influence change at the local, state, and national level.

The best way for individuals to maximize their impact is to use their voice to influence change at the local, state, and national level.

We need to discuss this issue at the dinner table and in our daily lives. Almost 80% of Americans support climate policies, yet a recent study shows that we underestimate popular support for climate action by nearly half. Americans need to raise their voices on this issue and show up to vote for clean energy at every election, whether it’s a local, state or national race.

While this nearly $1 trillion investment spanning the next 10 years is significant, the process of drafting and passing these bills largely left out environmental justice communities – key voices who experience frontline injury from entrenched fossil fuel interests across the U.S. These investments are only a beginning in terms of supplying critical resources to bolster community resilience to floods, hurricanes, wildfires, and other disasters made worse by climate change. 

Unprecedented Times Call for Unprecedented Communications

We are in uncharted territory with this new funding. For this earthshot to be successful, organizations, leaders, and advocates will need to double down on efforts to help schools and communities understand and utilize these new clean energy investments. 

We need a historic investment in communications and outreach to help Americans take advantage of these incentives. These incentives are useless if Americans don’t even know about them. In addition, we need to pay close attention to state implementation to ensure rapid execution and deployment of the funding in these bills and keep the pressure on at the local and state levels.

This is a moment for our country that we will never get back. We have a limited window to make the changes we need in time. Fortunately, we have the solutions and public support to fight climate change is at an all-time high. We just have to step on the accelerator.  Our collective momentum as Americans to demand a better  – a cleaner energy future for all  – is dependent on what we do in the coming years to make the clean energy balancing act finally tip in our favor.

Together, we’ve got this.