Off the deep end: How to make a snowballing climate action fund.

The snowballing climate action fund is a way to start by spending a little money on climate action, and gradually increase the amount you’re able to spend on it by setting aside savings. I’m going to describe it at the level of an individual apartment, but as I’ll explain later, it’s really applicable at any level from individual households, to the entire globe.

The notion is pretty simple, and can be done in a set of easily definable steps. We’ll start with power consumption:

Step 1: Calculate your average monthly power bill. It’s possible that your power company already has this number, but you can also just take the average of all your bills over the course of a year and use that. For the sake of this post, we’ll say our average power bill is $75.

Step 2: Figure out how much money you’re willing to invest. This is NOT money you’re going to “get back later” as savings, it’s money you’re willing to write off because it’s in favor of making the world a better place. If the answer is zero, then that’s fine – we’ll start there.

Step 3: Identify a way to conserve power. Since we’re starting off with no money, this is mostly going to be basic behavior change. Use lights less. Lower the thermostat and wear sweaters more. Adjust your fridge temperature. Unplug your appliances when not in use. Really, anything that will result in you consuming less electricity and/or gas.

Step 4: When your power bill arrives, calculate how much money you saved, and set aside that amount. Let’s say your power bill was $70.73 after your first month. That adds $4.27 to your climate action fund. Set that money aside. Keep track of it in a spreadsheet, create a separate savings account, put it in a jar – whatever it takes. That’s money that is now ONLY to be used for lowering your carbon footprint, or for adapting to the predicted impacts of climate change in your region.

Step 5: Spend the money. Now – $4.27 isn’t much, so you might choose to wait another month and try to increase that. Maybe you can conserve more energy and get your power bill down into the $60 or even $50 range, which would give you a good deal more money next month. I would caution that you not wait too long to spend it, however, because the goal IS to spend it, and by spending it to increase the amount you add to that fund every month.

In our scenario, you want to spend the money on things that will lower your power bill more. Maybe you spend it on replacing your incandescent bulbs with florescent bulbs, or your florescents with LEDs. Maybe you want to spend it on weatherstripping or bubble wrap for your windows so you can turn down the thermostat. The goal is to keep increasing that fund, so that the amount available to you keeps increasing.

And to be clear – you’re not saving money here. I’m asking you to SPEND money, but the trick is to spend money that you were ALREADY SPENDING, rather than taking the money saved as just an increase in your general funds available.

Step 6: Repeat step one with a different aspect of your life. Maybe it’s your transportation costs, or your grocery bill, or the kinds of entertainment you use – find another aspect of your life where you can cut costs, and go through the same process – look at ways to spend less money, and transfer the money you WOULD have spent into your climate action fund. The longer you do this, the larger the monthly contribution to this fund should get, getting bigger and bigger like a snowball rolling down a snow-covered hill (hence the title).

Step 7: Once you reach a point where you can’t think of anything else to save money on, but you’re still pouring money into your fund every month, it’s time to start looking for other things to do with it. Maybe you can spend the money on gardening materials so you can grow some of your own food (if you have space and sunlight). Maybe you can spend it on a small solar panel to put in that window that gets so much sun, and use that to charge devices, or run a small light. Maybe you can use the solar panel to power grow lights and use them to grow food.

Another possibility is that you can enter into an arrangement to help a friend or a group of friends get THEIR climate action funds started by buying them a lightbulb or something.

And this brings us to scaling up. This kind of scheme could be undertaken by a group of people, who then all go in together on a large solar panel that sells back to the grid, and adds money to the fund THAT way. It could be an effort by a whole community to raise money to get the local school generating more power than it consumes.

It could be done by the federal government both through energy savings, and through running a climate action micro-loan system.

When it comes down to it, the idea here is to work towards the end of money as a limiting factor in climate action, even for those of us who can’t afford to own property.


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