What If The Green Hero You Have Been Waiting For Is... YOU?
In 2009, I started a new job with the World-Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) as the Energy and Climate Program manager for the Uganda office. At that time of acceptance, though excited, I didn’t know how important the job would be to me.
Not long after accepting the position, I received the devasting news that my mother was diagnosed with acute pneumonia, an illness that resulted from decades of cooking over an open stove with inefficient firewood. Luckily, my mum, who has been a compass and source of encouragement my entire life, survived the illness.
I did learn that she was not alone in her diagnosis. According to the World Health Organization, four million people die from the disease each year, largely women and children. Fifty percent of the cases result from open stove cooking practices; the dark soot from the smoky cooking stoves covers one’s lungs and over time, the victim can’t breathe, which leads to pneumonia and millions of deaths.
It’s important to understand that our daily activities can have significant impacts on our health, and even our environment. Just like me in 2009 – many people lack awareness of how the things they do, either as individuals, governments, or corporations, can actually be linked both positively and negatively to the serious global threat of climate change.
The good news is that more individuals, governments, companies, and nonprofits are working to reduce greenhouse gases that cause climate change. During the summer of 2019, I was privileged to work at IGS Energy as a fellow of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Climate Corps program. The EDF fellowship seeks to cultivate the next generation of sustainability professionals advancing climate solutions. The fellowship matches and supports graduate students to help organizations meet their sustainability, climate, and energy sustainability goals.
During my time at IGS Energy, I gathered and analyzed the company’s total environmental footprint including greenhouse gas emissions associated with the company’s operations. These included such items as employee commutes, business travel, electricity consumption, and even the very products and services IGS offers: electricity, natural gas, solar, and renewable energy products. From this overall greenhouse gas baseline, I benchmarked the company’s environmental performance against best practices such as the EPA Energy Star, Best Places for Commuters, and the Science Based Targets initiative, among others.
Numerous opportunities abound across the company’s operations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And my work provides IGS with information that leaders will need to make these reductions.
As I discussed and shared my findings with different levels of leadership throughout the company, I came away with a high level of optimism in the deep commitment towards reducing GHG emissions associated with its operations. A major demonstration of this commitment is evident in the creation of IGS Solar. IGS has already installed more than 100MW for commercial and industrial customers as well as serving over 5,000 residential customers. Based on my assessment, their solar business alone has resulted into 100,000 mTCO2e of avoided GHG emissions.
I will carry with me a deep appreciation for IGS Energy and the highly inspirational people working here who will continue this journey. I am also optimistic that more individuals, more local communities, governments, corporations, and nonprofits will take action to reduce GHG emissions. Changing the course of climate change will take all of us doing whatever we can to make a difference.
As we each play our parts, I believe that someday we will live in a world where people’s lives are no longer threatened by the way we produce and consume energy. The heroes are not out there; the green heroes we have been waiting for are you and me.