Virginia’s transition to electric vehicles is well under way

March 8, 2023

We talk a lot about electric vehicles at Generation180. While the average daily commute is less than fifty miles, transportation remains the number one source of carbon emissions in the country. To make a dent in this problem, we need to switch to electric vehicles. Thankfully, the federal government and all 50 states are working to provide a seamless and predictable charging experience—ensuring that the well-traveled road to electric vehicles remains quintessentially American.

In this op-ed, I share how the new National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Program will help Americans charge up no matter where their summer road trip takes them.  We don’t have to wait any longer to make our next cars, trucks, or SUVs electric. 

—Stuart Gardner, Electrify Your Ride Program Director

Earlier this month, the Biden-Harris administration provided a progress report on America’s network of publicly available electric vehicle (EV) fast chargers. Unlike the nearly 150,000 gas stations across the country, electric vehicle chargers are less ubiquitous, thus triggering our country’s collective “range anxiety” as we transition to a future where cars are plugged in, not gassed up. As the country gears up to make charging spots as familiar as gas stations are today, states — such as Virginia — will play pivotal roles in building our electric future.

At the end of 2021, the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act invested $5 billion toward the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Program, and $2.5 billion for a discretionary Charging and Fueling Infrastructure grant program available to all 50 states. Virginia is expected to receive approximately $106 million under the NEVI program and is on track to electrify 1,080 miles of roadways by 2024.

Situated at an important national transportation hub, Virginia is home to more than a half dozen major freeways. Under NEVI, Virginia has designated eight “Alternative Fuel Corridors” or AFCs, throughout the commonwealth to foster a convenient and reliable public charging network, which includes more than 985 miles of interstate.

Virginia is also the perfect entryway for the budding technology of electric vehicles and the national charging infrastructure connecting north to south and east to west. In Virginia, there are currently more than 1,200 public charging stations available to the 40,000 registered electric vehicles. While EV registrations in the U.S. have doubled over the past year to about 5% of all new cars, they still only make up 0.5% of all registrations in Virginia.

All of that is changing. Today, nearly every car manufacturer in the U.S. offers an EV model. Convenient and seamless charging for longer drives is essential to accelerating the transition to electric vehicles. Historic barriers to owning an EV, such as battery range and price, are becoming less of an issue as technology advances. While a recent survey by Consumer Reports, finds “charging logistics” to be the top barrier for Americans transitioning to electric, it won’t be for long.

Why does all this matter?

Because a shift away from gas-powered vehicles is critical to addressing the No. 1 source of carbon emissions in Virginia, transportation. Reducing climate-harming emissions isn’t the only reason to drive electric: Electric vehicles also save Americans money at the pump and cost less over time because they have fewer moving parts to maintain.

A recent survey found that 76% of Virginians support having a policy requiring auto manufacturers to provide a minimum number of new electric vehicles for sale in Virginia. Almost three-quarters (73%) of Virginians from that same survey also responded that reducing dependence on fossil fuels and transitioning to clean energy is important. Besides those very valid reasons to switch to EVs, for those Virginians with a passion for driving, nothing can compare to the near instant acceleration of an electric vehicle.

For electric vehicles to truly proliferate, charging infrastructure must serve the diverse American population, beyond those able to charge at home (about 80% of charging today). Whether you’re charging at home, at work, the grocery store or movie theater, leaving your car to recharge while you go about your day will soon become as routine as locking your car.

Our network of public chargers is growing. Virginians shouldn’t let charging anxiety keep them from taking steps to plug into the clean energy future, today.

This piece was originally published on February 25th in The Virginian-Pilot. Read the op-ed here.


On your plate and in your clothes—where will climate change solutions pop up next?

February 22, 2023

Have you noticed how new clean tech innovations keep popping up lately given all of the R&D funding out there? Lab-grown meat, algae-based bags, compostable bottles, hydrogen batteries—it’s hard to keep track! With many high-impact climate solutions ready for their close up—which ones are worth following? Here’s our take on five, cutting-edge clean energy innovations worth keeping your eyes on. 

Climate Solution #1: Mushrooms, mushrooms, mushrooms – what can’t they do?

Mushrooms hold massive untapped potential as a climate change solution, particularly as a replacement for meat—a food source well-known for its high carbon footprint. And we’re not just talking about swapping your burger patty for a roasted shiitake mushroom—we’re talking five-star restaurant worthy, nutrient-dense Fy. 

Fy is a mushroom created from a microscopic fungus discovered at Yellowstone Hot Springs in Montana. It’s packed with protein and all nine essential amino acids, and highly versatile. It can be manipulated into a range of meat-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free foods, and even dried into flour. The protein is grown quickly in cafeteria-size trays through fermentation-based technology—like a kick-ass sourdough starter. In less than four days, a tray of microbes develops into the protein equivalent of 20 to 25 chickens.

Nature’s Fynd, using Fy in products ranging from breakfast patties to cream cheese

In addition to serving as a meat alternative, mushrooms are being used as a sustainable packaging alternative, too. As brands look to use more environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic packaging, mushrooms are playing a starring role. Mushroom packaging material is often composed of a combination of fungus roots called Mycelium and agricultural waste such as hemp and corn husks. It’s a highly durable material, so there’s no need for extra bubble wrap or styrofoam—at the same time, when it’s served its purpose, it’s compostable and doesn’t contribute to landfill waste.

Climate Solution #2: Algae – From food to fashion?

While we’re not sold on turning to algae for fuel, there is promise this plant has potential when it comes to solving some of the fashion industry’s environmental challenges.

Currently, cheap synthetic fabrics like polyester are made from fossil fuels, and the most common dyes used to make certain textiles shiny are derived from crude oil. Algae, on the other hand, acts as a carbon sink–—pulling emissions out of the air. It’s also fast and cheap: it requires 80% less water than cotton and grows 8x as fast. Startups are now developing algae-based dyes and yarn. Although in its early stages and a bit too pricey for the mass market (like this $120/t-shirt from Vollebak), you might be wearing an algae-based ‘fit sooner than you think.

Climate Solution #3: AI is in the air

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are drastically changing industries across the globe, including clean energy. If you imagine a future powered by clean energy and distributed resources—with renewables and the grid coexisting—AI is going to be an integral part of managing energy demand.

AI-based software can be used to make sure that grid operators are making the best economic and environmental decisions. Peak Power is doing just that. It applies AI knowledge to optimize batteries, EVs, and grid-interactive buildings. This platform makes sense of all types of data inputs: solar panel output, energy demand, historical weather data, energy use trends, peak rates, etc. and assesses when the best times would be for you to buy or sell energy on the grid. Mobilyze is another interesting startup that leverages the power of AI to promote the widespread use of electric vehicles as well as increasing access to EV charging where it is needed most.

As we collect more data and knowledge from current power systems, we can identify and predict patterns to help us run more efficient and resilient clean energy grids. 

Climate Solution #4: Lab-grown meats

We’ve heard about lowering the carbon footprint of your meal by eating plant-based, but what if animal-based proteins were less resource-intensive? That’s where lab-grown meat comes in. 

Although once an element of science fiction, this protein is nearly ready for menu primetime. Cultivated meat is derived from a small sample of cells collected from livestock, which is then fed nutrients, grown in enormous steel vessels called bioreactors, and processed into something that looks and tastes like a real cut of meat. 

Upside Foods is one of several startups seeking FDA approval to start bringing it’s slaughterless-meats to high-end restaurants and supermarkets. They grow meat, poultry and seafood directly from animal cells. In addition to eliminating inhumane animal treatment, cultivated meat production—at scale—will use less water and land than conventionally-produced meat. Upside was the first-ever company to successfully produce multiple varieties of lab-grown meat, receiving several awards for their innovation.

Plate showing upside's lab grown chicken

A dinner plate featuring Upside’s lab-grown chicken.

While many people get squeamish at the idea of cultivated meat, pea-protein “chicken” nuggets, enriched foods, and GMOs, are all going to be necessary components of the recipe to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. We are going to need to embrace the role technology can pay in helping feed a rapidly growing population amidst a more unpredictable, unsustainable climate. 

Climate Solution #5: Don’t scrap your scraps—compost instead

Composting isn’t a new, cutting-edge technology, but it when done at scale, it has massive emissions reduction potential. Wasted food accounts for about 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and more than a third of all food—$408 billion worth—grown for human consumption in the U.S. never makes it to someone’s stomach. 

One of the biggest contributors to wasted food happens at home. So what can you do about it? Compost!

Composting organic waste rather than sending it to the landfill can reduce more than 50% of carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions. Beyond just reducing emissions, composting also acts as a carbon sink: by offering direct nutrients to plants to enhance their productivity and ability to store carbon in soils. Plus, it enhances soils and can help reduce demand for nitrogen fertilizers. 

A newly launched startup called Mill Industries wants to make it easier for everyone to compost at home. Mill will send members a high-tech bin to send leftovers to instead of in the trashcan. The bin turns those leftovers into food grounds which get mailed back to Mill and used to make chicken feed. Going through this process can prevent a half-ton of greenhouse gas emissions per household a year.

Many cities and localities are already stepping up by advancing organics recycling and compost utilization, such as through innovative compost pilot programs and legislation that requires large food waste generators like colleges to both separate and recycle food waste.

Whatever you choose to try out from this list, keep in mind that more climate change solutions are always coming – that’s the benefit of living during a time when low-zero-carbon emission solutions are increasingly abundant. Just try what sounds interesting to you – you might be surprised by the results.


Generation180 at the Washington DC Auto Show

February 6, 2023

Generation180 hosted Ask an EV Owner events this past weekend at the Washington DC Auto Show.  We initiated conversations about common misconceptions, highlighted benefits, and demystified EV ownership with our EV Ambassadors. Our Ambassadors helped the EV-curious crowd answer questions about going electric and had a lot of fun, too!

The Washington DC Auto Show is remarkable! Here’s a look at some of my favorite things from the show as a first-time attendee of a car show. It’s THE place to be to see all of the new vehicles coming to market. See here for everything that was on display.

#1 – Everybody’s making electric vehicles

Going electric isn’t just for cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs; the show highlighted electric transit buses with zero tailpipe emissions, too. Just imagine how much quieter (and cleaner) our neighborhoods could be! Especially within some of the busiest metro cities.

Washington DC Metro City Electric Bus

#2 – More sleek electric cars, some crafty marketing

Polestar had its new electric car on display; the coolest feature about the company is that they only manufacture EVs. The Polestar brand sold over 51,500 units in 2022. The great thing is they ALL were electric!

Polestar Electric Car

#3 – Signing the Going Electric Pledge

More and more car show attendees are actually in the market to buy a car… and based on the number of Going Electric Pledges signed during the weekend,  lots of individuals are planning to make the switch to electric cars.  Whether new or used, in one month or five years, electric cars are increasingly making it onto car buyers’ shopping lists. But, we can do more; EVs account for only about 6% of the US market share. Learn more and sign the Pledge yourself!

#4 – Oh my! Test drive an electric car inside?

Since EVs have zero tailpipe emissions, the auto show hosted an indoor track for test rides as part of the show’s EV display. Research shows that just riding in an EV can increase an individual’s consideration rate by two times. However, if someone is to test drive an EV, then research supports that one’s consideration increases to three times as likely. Check out the long lines of participants waiting to experience the ride!

Hyundai IONIQ 5 Limited

The 5th thing we loved at the Washington DC Auto Show… our EV Ambassadors

Electric cars were the hot topic, for sure! However, I’d argue that the EV owners were more exciting. During the Ask an EV Owner panels, attendees heard first-hand from actual EV owners about the benefits of driving electric.  And did you know, word of mouth has the biggest impact on what cars people buy? These panelists knew what they were talking about!

We hope to see you at a future Ask an EV Owner event, either as a panelist or in the audience!  In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. You can contact me at

— Shakaya Cooper, Program Associate, Electrify Your Ride


The Inflation Reduction Act is a big f***ing deal

January 25, 2023

The Inflation Reduction Act is the largest climate investment ever made by Congress, a whopping $369 billion over 10 years. The 1,000+ page bill is complex, so we cranked up the fun and made a bingo board to make it easy to see how the IRA can help you and the planet.

Play along and send completed blackout bingo boards to  to win some clean energy swag!


Driving green instead of yellow: An interview with the first electric school bus driver in Maine

January 11, 2023

With significant investment from federal and state governments, the math on electric school buses now pencils out. Electric school buses are a cleaner, safer alternative to dirty diesel buses—and cheaper to operate. While electric school buses cost three to four times a traditional diesel bus, new incentives through the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program are making it easier for schools to advance school bus electrification.

One district that’s been reaping the benefits of clean energy for a while is in Bar Harbor, Maine. Since 2016, a group of passionate students have driven clean energy and climate change initiatives, including getting their high school to switch to solar power. In 2021, they dipped their toes further into the world of clean energy and acquired the state’s first—and only—electric school bus.

We sat down with Andrew Keblinsky, the driver of their electric school bus, to discuss his experience transitioning rigs. Here is that interview, edited for length and clarity. Enjoy!

Generation180: How long have you been driving school buses? 

Andrew: I’ve been driving school buses since 2014—it happened to be the first job I landed in 1974. In September 2021 when we got our electric bus, thanks to a grant from the Volkswagen Diesel Emissions Settlement, I started driving electric.

Generation180: What were your initial thoughts about electric school buses?

Andrew: I thought they were expensive and I figured the return on investment would be forever. But we did get a grant, so we paid the same as we would for a diesel bus. But, that was my initial thought. Wow, as a bus driver for 39 years, I LOVE it now. 

I consider the bus my office: it’s where I go to work every day. The bus that we have is a Lion Electric. I like that it’s quiet and silent and has zero diesel fumes, making it a better space for me and my students to breathe. I had been driving Thomas or Blue Bird diesel buses, but this particular eLion bus is wider. It’s easier for me to walk up and down the aisle, and the aisle is wide enough that students can’t put their feet across the aisle, which is a great change. 

I have the longest route (63 miles) each morning and afternoon, compared to everyone doing about 25-30 miles, and it navigates well all over both the back and country roads.

Generation180: Did you make any adaptations start driving an electric bus?

Andrew: Nope, and I wouldn’t go back. I don’t need to be working, but I do it because it makes me a part of the community. But now I own the electric-only route and I love the electric bus. The students and parents lobbied hard for the bus and it’s a community win. I’m at the point where I’m attached to the bus, the route, and the process. If someone put me back in a diesel bus, I would quit. I do have leverage… I’m in charge. 

“If someone put me back in a diesel bus, I would quit.”

Andrew Keblinksy, behind the wheel of MDI’s electric school bus

Generation180: Is there anything you missed about diesel buses after making the switch?

Andrew: *Scoffs* Oh no, not at all! The range on a diesel bus is better. I only have 128 miles on a full battery, but I charge during the school day, and I never face any range anxiety. 

Because it’s silent, it came with a speaker that plays chimes that remind me of an ice cream truck, so students know you’re coming down the road. 

I never thought I’d be a crunchy granola or a Birkenstock person, but here I am. I’m into it and I am all for bus electrification. And now I own an e-bike. Yes, I’m an old guy riding around on an e-bike. I draw attention. 

“I never thought I’d be a crunchy granola or a Birkenstock person, but here I am. I’m into it and I am all for bus electrification. And now I own an e-bike”

Generation180: What do you like most about the bus?

Andrew: The air suspension makes it a really smooth drive. It’s also cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter, and has a great air conditioning system. 

I’m out in the country and have to back into the driveways, but I’ve had no trouble navigating them with the electric bus. We haven’t encountered any problems in the winter, even with colder temperatures and if it’s zero degrees in the morning. The only thing cold weather impacts is the range and that it takes longer to charge. 

Generation180: What did parents and students say – did they like them?

Andrew: Students really like the bus. They respect it and keep it clean. I feel lucky and have wonderful students. 

The community played a large role in us getting the bus and really embraced it. The nearby town of Hancock sees us driving, and we draw attention. Maybe I will be part of the spark for more communities to consider electric buses. 

Generation180: Do you have any advice for bus drivers that might be wary about giving up a vehicle they are comfortable with for an electric model?

Andrew: I think everybody should keep an open mind. I think we need to find an alternative to fossil fuels because we’re paying the price, so people should support electric buses. Give it a try — see what you think! 

This is the second issue of our electric school bus driver interview series. Here’s the first part, an interview with Juan Noriega from Cajon Valley School District.



You don’t want to miss this 2022 recap and what’s next

January 5, 2023

Happy New Year! Growth was the word for Generation180 in 2022: Expanding into new states, growing our network of clean energy ambassadors, launching a new comedy program–and much more. Here’s a look at highlights from last year and a sneak peek for what 2023 will bring. We’re excited to continue our collaboration with you in the new year!


How apartment buildings and condos can help turn the tide toward EVs

December 21, 2022

So you live in an apartment complex with onsite parking, and you want to get an electric car. Where will you charge your new ride? It’s a big question for many people who live in multi-unit dwellings, a.k.a, multifamily housing. Increasingly, property owners and residents are installing electric vehicle (EV) chargers, recognizing the appeal—and climate necessity—of going electric.  

Close to a third of U.S. housing is in the multifamily category, and most charging happens at home. As more drivers seek the benefits of EVs—no polluting tailpipe emissions, lower fueling costs, quieter engines—multi-unit housing has a chance to play a major role in the transition. But even when the benefit of installing chargers is clear, the process may not be. How much will it cost? What funding is available? What type should be installed, and where? 

Some landlords might feel it’s easier to direct EV drivers elsewhere.

“When I was a renter, I asked the property management about EV charging. They asked me not to try to install charging at my parking spot,” says Brennan Balson, an EV driver since 2012 who joined our November webinar on EV charging in multi-unit dwellings. “Instead, they asked me to use a public charger at an affiliated property down the street. The pricing on that unit was fair, so I took that option.”

If you’re curious about having a similar conversation and want to bring EV charging to your multi-unit dwelling, check out our toolkit. In it, you’ll learn how to start the conversation about charging at your building, how to make a strong pitch, and what you need to know in terms of charging types and installation. 

It’s a misconception that installing chargers is pointless in certain places because apartment dwellers can’t afford electric vehicles. 

On the contrary, as the saying goes: If you build it, they will come. 

“That’s been my attitude all along,” Tim Baker, fleet manager for Washington State’s King County Housing Authority, said during the webinar. “If you put the stations in, cars start showing up, because people realize they can charge at their home. That’s going to incentivize them to maybe buy an electric vehicle.”

If you put the stations in, cars start showing up, because people realize they can charge at their home. That’s going to incentivize them to maybe buy an electric vehicle.

Ayesha Hudson, a real estate developer in Washington, D.C., who focuses on housing in undervalued neighborhoods, echoed this during the webinar. “There are a lot of affordable electric vehicles now,” she said. “People in our community, perhaps if they saw the infrastructure more, we would be more inclined to look at an electric vehicle.”

Here are some tips for getting charging installed where you live.

Research available funding and incentives

Many cities and states have funding available to support EV charging infrastructure. Utilities also have incentive programs (see this example from Pepco) to help cover the cost of equipment and installation. Don’t overlook the technical support many such programs offer as well. Initiatives like this one in California’s Santa Clara County can help determine where a charger could be installed and whether electrical upgrades are needed.

Photo Credit: PlugIn Sites

Look at pro-charging policies in your area and at your place of employment

“Right to charge” laws in several states, including California, New York, Maryland, and Virginia, allow homeowners facing condo associations or other entities to install charging stations, as long as they meet certain guidelines. Both states and cities like San Diego and Seattle are creating incentives, funding, and support for charging stations at multi-unit properties. You can also check to see if your employer offers EV charging at work or seek out companies that make EV charging infrastructure and EV incentives available to employees.

Map out alternatives in the meantime

If installing a charging station at your residence is taking awhile (or not happening at all), don’t let that dissuade you from making the switch to an EV if you want one. Balson points out that apps like PlugShare make it easy to find charging stations near you.  “Some automakers offer discounts and even free charging if you buy a new EV from them,” he adds.

Want more? Check out the many tips and resources in our guide and watch our webinar.


Sustainable Gift Guide: 10 Climate-Conscious Gifts to Give

December 7, 2022

Don’t end up on the naughty list! Shop climate-smart this holiday season.

If you’re going to give, opt for one of these thoughtful choices and you’ll avoid giving something that will inevitably end up in a landfill after a couple of months. While not exhaustive, the following is a list of our top choices for a “green” holiday season with homemade, upcycled, and low-impact materials.

From your “I don’t need a gift” dad, to your tech-loving neighbor, to your impossible-to-shop-for Mother-in-Law, these gifts are sure to spread some holiday cheer.

1. Solar-powered toys

Kids love new technology, and parents love toys that encourage creativity and problem-solving through play. Solar-powered toys are the perfect solution and they provide the same level of fun as their battery-operated counterparts. From solar-powered race cars to robots, there are a variety of clean-energy powered toys to choose from. 

2. Recycled-plastic Barbies

As part of a push by the $104 billion global toy industry to make its overwhelmingly plastic products more sustainable, Hasbro Inc. has announced 33 new products, including this “Barbie Loves the Ocean” doll made of recycled plastic trash collected in Mexico before it can pollute the Pacific Ocean.

3. A sustainable cookbook

Consuming less meat helps lower both your personal water and carbon footprint, but it can be challenging to get started. By gifting a sustainable cookbook, you can encourage others to adopt more environmentally-conscious eating habits like eating plant-based, seasonally, locally, and with less waste. We love Everyday Cooking for family-friendly meals, The Korean Vegan for adventurous taste buds, and The Zero-Waste Cookbook for wasteless meals.

4. National parks pass

There are more than 2,000 federal recreation sites in the US: national parks, national forests, grasslands, seashores, battlefields, historic sites, monuments, and more. By gifting an America the Beautiful Pass, you’re giving a loved one access to all of these beautiful sites and supporting the National Park Service in managing these national treasures and historical lands in the process.

5. Solar-powered tech products

Solar-powered products aren’t just limited to toys for kids! Stay on top of the latest tech-trends and opt for something solar-powered for the tech-geek on your list. Backpacks, phone chargers, portable power stations, lights—the list is endless!

6. Homemade treats

One of the most budget-friendly and tasty gifts you can give someone is food. Even if you’re not in the running as a contestant for Best Amatuer Baker or Top Chef, there are several delicious treats you can whip up in 30-minutes or less. By layering ingredients in a jar for hot chocolate or cookies, you have a beautiful jar to present your friends with that you spent time preparing just for them. Jars filled with granola, roasted nuts, or homemade chex-mix work well, too (note: check for any food allergies first).

7. Plants and succulents

Plants improve memory-retention and have a positive effect on mental health, making them an excellent choice for a gift for anyone. Since succulents are highly resilient and long-lasting plants, owners don’t need a green thumb to care for their new plant! If you’re still worried about them caring for a plant, you can plant a tree in their name with The Arbor Foundation.

8. Products from certified B-corporations

Do you already have a specific gift in mind? Before jumping right to Amazon or another big-box store, check to see if the item you’re looking for is available locally or made by a B-corporation (you can sort by industry to find a specific product). These are businesses that are graded each year to ensure they meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. 

9. Going big on a car? Go electric

If your family happens to be in the market for a new vehicle this year, the holidays can be a really good time to buy. And this year, now more than ever, you’d do well to consider driving electric. Purchasing an electric vehicle is not just a gift for the planet and our clean energy future, but also frees yourself from a future of gas station visits, transmission repairs, and oil changes—on top of one of the most fun vehicles to drive!

10. Generation180 merch

At Generation180, we don’t put coal in stockings—we’re #fossilfuelfree! Check out our collection of swag for everyone from EV-lovers to climate comedy enthusiasts. 


P.S. Did you know that Americans throw away 25 percent more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period than any other time of year? By choosing to wrap your gift in something reusable like an attractive cloth or towel, or decorating and reusing an old grocery bag or newspaper, you can take your green-gifting to the next level.

P.P.S. If you prefer to give nonmaterial gifts, such as gifts of time and experiences, check out the SoKind registry to help you focus more on fun and less on stuff.


Solar and Farming Go Together Like Turkey and Mashed Potatoes

November 23, 2022

If the thought of pouring rich gravy over your turkey and mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving has you salivating, you’re not alone. The two go together perfectly.

But you know what’s even better? When those potatoes are grown using dual-use agrivoltaics, a new idea that’s gaining momentum across the country.

It may sound complicated, but dual-use agrivoltaics is a simple concept. By placing solar panels over their fields, farmers can generate clean energy and grow food on the same plot of land – in football terms, you might even call it a “double-header” or “two-fer”. Depending on the crop, seeds are planted underneath or in between rows of panels and create a win-win situation by keeping farmland in production while generating renewable energy.

This is a climate solution we’re ready to get behind. While schools, malls, and other large parking structures are obvious choices for distributed solar—farmers are now getting in on the action with their wide swaths of open fields.

Photo credit: NPR

Farmers across the country are finding that many crops benefit from the shade and moisture that solar panels provide, and also like the extra income each month from the electricity generation. Just like mashed potatoes and gravy are good on their own, but mouth watering when combined, solar and agriculture are just better together.

Here’s why it’s so important that we expand this technology.

Solar is essential for a fossil fuel-free future

Just about any scenario in which humanity breaks ties with fossil fuels involves solar playing a starring role. A recent study from the Net Zero America project, initiated by Princeton University, highlights this point; for America to be powered entirely sans-carbon in 2050, solar production will have to ramp up more than 20x today’s current load.

The science is clear that we need a lot more solar. But, where are we going to put all these panels, and will they come at the expense of food production? Which communities stand to benefit from this energy revolution, and which will get the short end of the stick?

When done right, all parties—farmers, solar companies, and everyone in between—can reap the rewards. Research shows that when leveraging agrivoltaics, “solar panels provide shade for plants to grow more efficiently with less water, [while] the cooler and wetter microclimate created by the plants helps the solar panels cool down and operate more efficiently.” Sounds pretty symbiotic.

Solar-blueberry researchers

Photo credit: University of Maine Extension

Not all crops thrive underneath panels. A project in Massachusetts had better results with cranberries than blueberries, and peppers in Arizona have done especially well. It seems that leafy greens, potatoes, and carrots are some of the best-suited crops for agrivoltaics, since the shade helps them thrive.

Speaking for the trees… and solar panels

The people of Virginia are facing this topic head on. The Randolph Solar Project is a massive undertaking in the middle of the state, which requires the clearing of 3,500 acres of forest to make room for the enormous array. In return for the cleared land, the people of Virginia stand to gain over 1,000 jobs, increased government revenues, and 800 MW of power.

SolUnesco is the developer of the Randolph project, and maintains that its consideration for local ecology—including building wildlife corridors, protecting drinking water sources, and limiting erosion—makes the project a win-win for the environment and humans alike.

But Virginians are still skeptical about whether the pros of the Randolph project outweigh the cons. Its state legislature recently passed a bill that established an advisory board that will study its impacts in more depth.

Arjun Makhijani, founder of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, sums it up well: “Solar [arrays] on farmland should be required to be dual use.” Areas cleared or designated for panels alone are often unnecessary and wasteful.

By building on existing knowledge and trying new strategies, there shouldn’t be any reason why solar power and certain crops can’t exist symbiotically. We just need to make sure everyone has a seat at the table in order to get it right.

“It’s not so much about green energy at all, but economics”

That’s what Kerri Johannsen, energy program director with the Iowa Environmental Council, had to say about the decision for farmers to adopt solar installations on their land.

That doesn’t mean Iowans don’t care about the environment. At the end of the day, a farm needs to generate profits in order to continue operating.

Wild swings in energy and input prices, a pandemic shock, and trade tensions with China have slashed farm incomes. Farms are arguably the backbone of countless communities across the nation. Small operations make up half of America’s farmland and nearly 90% of farms overall. Bankruptcies are on the rise, and the future of farming is on track to be dominated by a few gigantic companies.

We can help reverse this trend by encouraging more farmers to take a look at solar, and increase the ways their land can work for them, and the planet.

The additional income can be the difference between selling a farm that’s been in the family for multiple generations, or setting your kids up for a secure future in the clean energy economy. In Pennsylvania and Oklahoma, income from clean energy on farms represents 6% of gross income. This energy income tends to be much more stable month-to-month than certain crops, which can be affected by poor weather and global production levels.

Farmers can have their cake (or pie) and eat it, too. Adding solar panels that cover certain crops can increase yields, provide a sorely-needed income source for their families, and generate clean energy. What’s not to like?

So, as you’re savoring your turkey and mashed potatoes this Thanksgiving, remember that clean energy and food production can pair together just as well.


Thanksgiving joy with a side of climate stewardship

November 17, 2022

Ahh, Thanksgiving. Turkey, stuffing, your aunt Patty’s sweet potato casserole with the little marshmallows baked in. It’s a time to express gratitude, to be with our friends and family–and a chance for reflection on what the day may signify for Native Americans and celebrate Native American heritage.

At Generation180, Thanksgiving means thinking about our relationship with the Earth and our climate impact. Thanksgiving involves meat consumption and extra travel, which definitely produce extra CO2 emissions this time of year. But taking steps to reduce our carbon footprint on Thanksgiving doesn’t have to mean self-deprivation or riding your bike to visit relatives two states away. 

The holiday can be an opportunity to try out new, more climate-friendly ways to celebrate—that actually add up to make an impact without taking away from the meaning of the holiday.

Pile on the delicious veggie sides

Lowering meat consumption is one of the most high-impact steps individuals can take for the climate. Fortunately, vegan turkey alternatives have come a long way—and some have made the switch to a meatless roast or Tofurkey as the centerpiece of a delicious, planet-friendly feast.

Comic credit: Mark Parisi

If replacing a traditional turkey is non-negotiable, consider purchasing an organic, sustainably-raised bird from a local co-op or market. You also might swap out meat- and dairy-heavy sides with plant-based alternatives.  For example, instead of pork stuffing, give locally-sourced vegetable stuffing a try. 

A big impediment to eating a more plant-based diet is not knowing which dishes to make, and not thinking they’ll taste quite as good. If you know your plant-based side recipe is a winner, it could be a great way to introduce your family and friends to new veggie options. 

Raising farm animals in the US sucks up around half of the freshwater supply. A single pound of beef can require up to 8,000 gallons of water before it gets to your plate, while a pound of tofu needs just 302. Lower demand for meat, especially beef and pork, would mean more precious water to go around, and a healthier environment overall.

It’s up to each individual to decide what they’re comfortable with. Moving on from turkey will make the biggest CO2 impact, but reducing meat and dairy based products will have an effect, too.

Moving people and turkeys around emits a lot of carbon

During last year’s Thanksgiving holiday, nearly 48 million people took to the roads. The ideal way to minimize your footprint consists of two parts—enjoying your meal close to home, and sourcing ingredients locally.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

Buying from local vendors has a multitude of benefits, including higher nutrient levels,  supporting the local economy, and of course, fewer emissions. It’s impractical to try to source every ingredient from within a few miles of your home, but doing so as much as possible should be the goal. Whether it’s crab cakes from the local market in Maryland, or farm-to-table cranberry and strawberry sauce in California, take advantage of ingredients native to your neck of the woods.

On the travel side, commuting via an electric vehicle powered by renewably-sourced electricity is the gold standard. EVs are increasing their ranges every year, and charging stations continue to proliferate.

Showing up to your meal in an EV could prompt conversation among family and friends. Take the opportunity to extoll the virtues of EVs—not only are they better for the climate, but they are just better technology and tend to require less maintenance, and many states have tax breaks for new EV purchases.

Ultimately, the less transportation required to move you and your food around, the better.

Sustainable agriculture is making big strides

Emissions associated with growing food, and the deforestation that comes with it, account for a quarter of the global carbon footprint. In order to meet Paris 2050 targets, we’ll have to cut that number by 75%.

Yet other sectors, like transportation and energy generation, have historically gotten much more attention from policymakers and entrepreneurs.

The Biden administration is changing that narrative. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is about to dole out $1 billion in grants for “climate-smart agriculture” projects, and billions more in funding is in the queue. The investment represents an olive branch to farmers, who are often skeptical that directives from the top won’t hurt them in the interest of helping the environment.

Known technologies, such as rotational grazing and cover crops, should see increased adoption from this massive investment. The funding should also move new technologies, like carbon capture in soil and high-tech irrigation, further ahead.

Agrivoltaics are showing promise in improving crop yields in the face of drought and other changes in climate. Promising research has shown that growing tomatoes under solar panels can increase yields and protect farmers against weather challenges.

But growing food is only one piece of agricultural emissions—there’s also the problem of moving it all around. Transportation sucks up 14% of total energy used for food production.

Reducing food waste is probably the simplest way to reduce those emissions. You can get started by bringing extra food from your big meal to a local shelter, making full use of your veggies (homemade vegetable stock or carrot top pesto, anyone?), turning leftovers into sandwiches, and composting your waste. 


Photo credit: Delish

Have a great meal and reduce your footprint

If you haven’t been to your local farmer’s market before, perusing the stalls before Thanksgiving could lead you to discover ingredients you never knew were grown locally. A new plant-based side dish could be a hit with your guests, and become a staple of your meal going forward.

Even small tweaks, such as buying local ingredients, including more plant-based dishes, and reducing food waste can make a big dent in CO2 emissions related to the holiday.

So, be sure to enjoy the holiday, and don’t forget the opportunity to normalize talking about climate and clean energy.



Seven practical steps to save our planet: An interview with Hal Harvey

November 9, 2022

Regardless of the final outcome of the mid-term elections, there are concrete steps that you, individually, can choose to take right now for clean energy progress.

In The Big Fix: 7 Practical Steps to Save Our Planet, co-authors Hal Harvey and Justin Gillis lay out how and why individuals can make a big impact. In this week’s issue, Gen180 Executive Director Wendy Philleo interviewed Hal–a leading strategist in the nonprofit sector’s efforts to reduce the impacts of climate change–on what he hopes readers take away from the book.

The following interview has been edited for clarity and length. See the full video interview here.

Wendy Philleo: All right. Well, welcome Hal Harvey, good to see you again. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me about your new book, which I have here, The Big Fix: 7 Practical Steps to Save Our Planet that you wrote with Justin Gillis. 

Hal Harvey: Thank you. It’s a delight to be here. And I really appreciate the chance for this conversation.

WP: Great. Can you share a little bit about your background and a little bit about why you came to this decision to write this book. Why now?

HH: Sure thing, I’m an engineer by training with degrees in both civil and mechanical engineering. I got involved in the energy business when I turned 18, because I was obligated to go register for the draft, because Jimmy Carter reinstated it in order to build the so-called Rapid Deployment Force in the Mideast, which was aimed at protecting American interests against foreign oil producers. And so that put a pretty sharp focus on the question of oil and oil imports. What I was doing at the time was home construction solar homes with my brother. And we came to realize that it was not very complicated or difficult to build a solar heated home. 

And to have this dissonance on the one hand between getting ready to go to war, not so long after the Vietnam War wound up in its tragic way – and on the other hand, having readily available technologies to save energy. And this was at the time when cars got an average of 13 miles per gallon. So we weren’t just importing [oil] we were wasting it in just copious quantities, we still are.

WP: Your book felt like almost a call out for a revitalization or renewal of civic engagement, in a way, because you talk a lot about citizens flexing their muscle, exercising influence and finding these levers – sometimes secret levers, because people don’t know about them. Can you talk a little bit about a few actions that you think are most important for people to know about?

HH: So this is the right question, because what motivated us to write the book is to identify the places where citizen actions can make a big difference. I mean, the normal reaction to a political issue that you care about is to write a letter to your Congressperson. That turns out not to be the most effective thing to do. Civic engagement is wonderful, but if you know who makes the decision that most affects the planet, then you can make a strategy for changing that decision. 

And that’s what the book is all about. When you send in your utility bill at the end of the month, does that money land on green choices or dirty choices? Who decides whether your money goes to solar and wind or coal and natural gas? And the answer is the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of your state. How many people have stood before their state’s Public Utilities Commission and said, ‘Hey, let’s get this straight. We need to quit cooking the earth.’ How hard is that? And how complicated is it? And what happened? So we tell in this book, not only how to identify those levers of power, but stories about how people got involved and pulled those levers that made a big difference.

WP: Just how many Public Utility Commission Commissioners are there in the U.S.? 

HH: Just over 200. So roughly five per state. These people control 40% of the carbon emissions in our economy. That’s amazing. That’s a big number, and those 200 people are obligated to listen to you. They’re called Public Utilities Commission’s because they’re supposed to serve the public. They have hearings and you can stand in front of them and make your point. Now, a lot of the conversation at these meetings is a sort of a regulatory patois between utility lawyers and PUC lawyers. And that requires lots of specialized knowledge. 

But let’s say you live downwind of a big coal-fired power plant and your kid has asthma. The PUC is obligated to listen to you and your kid. You can tell them what it’s like to be a mom to have a kid who can’t breathe, and that it’s the PUC’s responsibility for that, and therefore it’s on them to change. You know, the climate change picture is pretty horrifying if you study it closely. My suggestion is people should study it enough to get concerned, but then flip to the solutions as fast as possible.

“People should study it enough to get concerned, but then flip to the solutions as fast as possible.”

Because that’s enabling. It’s energizing as well. And when you focus on solutions, your strategy becomes much more pointed than just raising awareness. It turns into how do I save this planet? How do we keep it from just burning right up?

WP: I think the problem with energy issues is that it feels complicated, and it feels like it should be left to the experts. Right? So what do I know about building codes? Or what do I know about utilities? I do feel like there are barriers around this type of engagement—how does the average person get comfortable doing this?

HH: Well, it’s good to have some logic, I would recommend a couple of days study before working to intervene in one of these decision-making venues. It’s also a great idea to look and see who else is doing this work in your region and if you can piggyback onto them. 

Every good argument has ethos, logos, and pathos. So ethos, this is your ethical standing. Every single National Academy of Sciences scientist has argued for rapid action on climate change. You don’t have to be that scientist, but it’s totally legitimate to point out that they are all saying it, there’s your ethos. Your logos, it’s now cheaper to build a solar farm from scratch than to just pay the operating costs of a coal-fired power plant. It’s amazing. Again, you don’t have to fight every detail there. And pathos – how does it make you feel when your kid has asthma or when soot is sitting on your windowsill at the end of every single day? So take those elements, put them in human terms and present them. It turns out, that’s a very hard combination to defeat.

WP: Love that. That’s very empowering. How has the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts and the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act changed the equation for you in terms of the recommendations that are in this book?

HH: We wrote the book before that all happened. So the question is, do those recommendations survive? And it turns out, they not only survive, they thrive. We argued for rapid decarbonization of the electric grid by switching from fossil fuels to renewable fuels. Well, the IRA just made that even easier because economics is now a tailwind instead of a headwind. So across the board, I think it accelerates and emphasizes the suggestions in the book. We have reached an interesting point in the energy economy of the world – it’s now cheaper, I often say, to save the world than to destroy it.

“It’s now cheaper, I often say, to save the world than to destroy it.”

WP: I think one of the things that’s frustrating is knowing that renewable energy is popular across the ideological spectrum – that most (70%) of Americans support climate action. It’s actually a more popular issue than people realize. How do you deal with the disconnect in how people see momentum at the state and federal levels? 

HH: Well, to some extent, the waters have been purposefully poisoned by people who resist change. I mean, if you look at the Koch brothers who have made close to hundreds of billions of dollars in the oil and gas business, and then you look at their political contributions, the answer becomes sort of glaringly obvious in some cases. But we also have some responsibility ourselves to think about civic action and how to overcome this. It’s often counterproductive to talk about climate change, instead of clean energy, because the numbers for clean energy are even higher than for climate change, regardless of the fact that they’re the same thing. Start with interests, bring in local examples, and identify those secret levels of power – there’s still powerful economic interests that will fight this, and we can’t win by being too precious. 

WP: I thought it was really interesting at the end of your book that you added a chapter around religion. That was a surprise to me, and I thought it was really interesting. Can you talk a little bit about why you added that and more broadly about what role you think culture needs to play in terms of speeding up this transition?

HH: You know, there’s a great moral question hanging over all of this, which is, do we have the right, as citizens of today, to leave behind burnt offerings for citizens of tomorrow?

“There’s a great moral question hanging over all of this, which is, do we have the right, as citizens of today, to leave behind burnt offerings for citizens of tomorrow?”

Do we have the right to destroy the topsoil, to alter the weather patterns to extinguish life in the oceans, to let mighty forests burn, to flood out entire towns? More than half of Pakistan was underwater this year, in terms of the population. So I don’t think we have that right. I don’t think we have the right to cheat future generations for our near-term. And I don’t think we have to. We have to make some hard choices. Avoid doing that. So from my perspective, it is an ethical question, not a religious one. I’m not a religious person. But I hope I’m an ethical person – I try to be on a good day. And that’s where the question arises, you know, what is our obligation? 

WP: And from a broader cultural perspective, what do you feel needs to happen on that front? It feels like a real shift needs to take place in terms of speeding up the rate that we need to act. 

HH: You know, we need to first of all be optimistic about the future, rather than harp on problems. A little bit of optimism goes a long way. I had a friend who said optimism is a social change strategy.

“Optimism is a social change strategy.”

And he’s right. That’s one thing we have to do – ‘pull up your socks’, as they say, in England, go get something done. 

WP: I think that’s part of the challenge, right? Like how do we make building codes, heat pumps, you know, Public Utility Commissions sexy so people think about these issues? It’s not an easy thing, but I think there’s a way to do that and starting with the solutions and the optimism and reaching people in different ways is really important. I’m glad to hear that you feel optimistic and that we’re up to the task. If there is one takeaway that you want to leave people with, what is it?

HH: There’s a lot you can do. It seems like a big intractable problem, but there are opportunities in every corner. In order to find those opportunities, you have to know something – not a lot – but something about the energy system in which decisions are the most critical, who makes those decisions, and how you can intervene in those decisions. It takes a couple of days of homework. It pays to look for groups that are similarly strategic in your region, and then jump in without fear. Right? If we have an ethical duty and great opportunity to quit poisoning our children, let’s do that. 

WP: And take advantage of this opportunity of innovation and economic gain as well.

HH: Yes, exactly. It’s all right there in front of us. 

WP: Well, thank you for taking the time. I really appreciate it. 

HH: Thank you Wendy, really delighted to have this chance to catch up.


Why Art Matters

November 2, 2022

Ultimately, our laws and policies change because the hearts and minds of people change. One way in which we can bridge the gap between scientific facts about climate change and the emotions necessary to inspire action is art.

The art of Nicole Kelner has attracted attention both in and outside the climate and scientific community. Learn more about her work and the role art has to play in the climate movement in this Q&A.

Generation180: Tell us about your background as an artist.

Nicole: I have not always been an artist, but I grew up loving art. I took AP art and took a college level class in high school that I had to drive all the way to Philadelphia for. I didn’t pursue any art classes formally after high school, but creativity has always been a part of my work.

Generation180: Can you walk us a bit through your background in the climate space and your shift into art full-time?

Nicole: I co-founded an after school program teaching kids how to code and sold that in 2019. After completing a zero-waste challenge in 2019, I had a wake-up call. I did a lot of research in order to live a zero-waste lifestyle for that long in a city and decided that I wanted to devote the rest of my career to working in climate. I didn’t know what that would look like, especially since I didn’t have a formal climate-related degree. I was overwhelmed thinking about how I could make a difference on climate as one person, but I eventually found my place.

I started by leveraging my operations background and worked with both Climate Finance Solutions and Dashboard Earth. During the pandemic, like everyone looking for ways to stay positive, I started painting for fun. I challenged myself to paint a watercolor a day for 100 days and began painting a lot of pieces about climate.

My art quickly gained a lot of attention. I quit my job in April and now make art about climate change full-time. I used to just be a member of My Climate Journey, but now I’ve come full circle and am thrilled to be part of their team as their artist-in-residence.

Generation180: You’ve gone viral on Twitter on multiple occasions. Tell us more about how you share your work with others.

Nicole: Primarily Twitter! It’s a great space both for finding inspiration, networking, and sharing my work with others. I also share my work on Instagram and LinkedIn, and offer climate art workshops.

I’m wrapping up my first book, A Brighter Future: Illustrating Climate Change and Solutions, that’s available for pre-order. 

Generation180: Do you have a favorite piece? Explain why.

Nicole: That’s a hard one. In August, I made a piece when the IRA passed that’s still being circulated widely.

It was one of the first pieces that I feel like I made unique content that is useful, actually helps people understand a wonky climate policy, and was fully formed in my brain alone. This piece really showed me that art can make a complex climate topics (read: 300 pages of policy jargon) accessible to everyday people. I’ve even made additional local and state versions, too. 

Generation180: Are there any recent projects that you’re excited about?

Nicole: I just finished a piece for The Guardian and got to work with an investigative journalist which was new for me. I also loved my latest work for RMI and UndauntedK12

Generation180: Who are your favorite artists and which influencers are you following?

Nicole: There are so many—lots of climate scientists and illustrators. I love Pique Action, Ed Hawkins—he inspired my climate stripes piece, creators like Alaina Wood, and illustrators like Mari Andrews.

Generation180: Do you have any advice for artists looking to engage more in the climate movement?

Nicole: We need more of you! Finding any way of taking your own superpower and turning it into climate action is my general advice for anyone, and it can be applied to artists.

“Finding any way of taking your own superpower and turning it into climate action is my general advice for anyone.”

Just get started! Do a side project in climate just to begin to dabble in it, like a musician could do one song in their next album about climate.

Generation180: What gives you hope about our clean energy future?

Nicole: Honestly, all of the investment going into it. By working with MCJ, I get to hear about the companies in our portfolio and learn about the inspiring, innovative technology being created to advance climate solutions. Then, I get hired by them to illustrate their mission. 

I am constantly in the hope mindset and I keep my art focused on hope (with a little dose of we need to do heavy lifting). But it’s essential for us to have hope to be able to get the work done. 

“It’s essential for us to have hope to be able to get the work done.”

Want more? Check out Nicole’s print shop here, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.