Making Intersectional Environmentalism Part of the Energy Circle Mission
As we gather (in much smaller groups this year) for meals with our loved ones and prepare gifts for one another, the holidays provide lots of time for reflection upon the meanings of community and service. As 2020 winds to an end and the already-short days slow our hectic schedules, it's clear that this year, especially, has provided us at Energy Circle much to be grateful for—and much to contemplate. This led us to reflect upon our mission, and its connection to the world around us now. With all of the disruption 2020 has wrought, it is more essential than ever to connect to the core of our motivations, and what drives us every day at Energy Circle to support our clients and partnerships in every way possible.
Connecting to Our Mission
Buildings—including the homes we all live in, whether urban apartment building or country farmhouse—rank as one of the top contributors of energy usage and carbon emissions. Buildings generate nearly 40% of annual global GHG emissions and residential and commercial [buildings] accounted for about 21% and 18% respectively (39% combined) of total U.S. energy consumption in 2019. Even so, these buildings must be maintained, repaired, and more must be built. Yet, how does this connect to digital marketing? Hold on a moment, we’re getting there.
Energy Circle was founded with the mission to leverage our marketing expertise and digital strategy acumen to fix more buildings, by supporting contractors, manufacturers and institutions making it happen. If we can provide savvy, strategic marketing resources and leadership to the better building world, we can help them build their businesses and, in turn, help them garner resources to invest in science-conscious best practices and environmentally sustainable innovations. If we’re successful in helping our clients, they will be impactful in bettering building sustainability methods and standards, and in turn these more efficient, sustainable buildings will lower energy use and the built environment carbon footprint across the country.
Although our day-to-day at Energy Circle includes thought leadership in everything from Local SEO best practices to Facebook advertising, as well as content marketing and website development for our clients, it is all with this mission in mind. Our passion for environmental sustainability and a greener future for the built environment of the United States serves as a foundation for all that we do in digital marketing for the HVAC, solar, and home performance sectors. As we take stock of the year that’s ending and plan for the one ahead of us, it’s more clear than ever that focus on this mission is critical to the support of our local communities, the better building community, and the global community.
Anti-Racism and Sustainability—How They Work Together
From Greta Thunberg’s inspiring activism to the Black Lives Matter movement, initially founded in 2013, increased momentum this summer, 2020 has been a year of focusing on the big picture—including issues of both environmental awareness and social justice. There is an inextricable link between the increased urgency of our need to address both climate change and social justice, and working toward a solution for either will support the other as well. To be successful, environmentalism must also be anti-racist. The intersection of environmental issues and racial justice is undeniable:
Data shows that communities of color have been most exposed to poor air quality and environmental conditions.
Research has found that non-white and Black residents often live in communities with higher burdens of exposure to airborne particulate matter (aka bad air quality) than white communities.
During climate change-influenced natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, communities of color are often disproportionately impacted by the damage, and relief is slower to arrive.
We also know that low-income households face an energy burden three times higher than other households, and as such energy costs are typically disproportionately higher in neighborhoods of people of color.
This is just a sampling of the ways that we know race and environmental concerns intersect—and that’s just in the United States. The good news is that we can make changes—shifts both large and small—to combat these elements of climate change and sustainability that impact us all—but especially those communities with fewer resources or lower incomes.
By prioritizing sustainability and environmental initiatives, we can work together to combat the circumstances—like those we talk about above—which so strongly impact Black communities and communities of color. For example, the high cost of energy mentioned above? A report published by the U.S. Department of Energy asserts that household energy efficiency improvements in these communities can reduce this burden as well as improve comfort and indoor air quality—the latter being a paramount concern to most families these days.
At the root of these improvements lies the principle of intersectional environmentalism, described by journalist Leah Thomas as “an inclusive version of environmentalism that advocates for both the protection of people and the planet. It identifies the ways in which injustices happening to marginalized communities and the earth are interconnected. It brings injustices done to the most vulnerable communities, and the earth, to the forefront and does not minimize or silence social inequality.”
The long and short of it is: if we can support the environment where these populations live, we can better address the elements of social inequality that pervade their communities, and work toward true equality in all ways—including where and how we live.
How Intersectional Environmentalism Connects to Energy Circle
But what does this all have to do with Energy Circle, home performance, and digital marketing? Hold on a hot second and I’ll bring it home for you. As we talked about above, Energy Circle’s mission is to provide resources to building contractors so that they can work more sustainably and efficiently, ultimately reducing the carbon footprint and energy use of the built environment. By acknowledging the connection between anti-racism and sustainability initiatives (intersectional environmentalism), we can focus on improving living conditions for the most marginalized communities. And, by prioritizing vulnerable populations, we'll inherently be addressing those people and places that have been most impacted by damaging environmental practices and the effects of climate change.
The question, however, is how to do this. Right now, our work at Energy Circle impacts the efforts of intersectional environmentalism on the periphery—our next job is to figure out how to directly contribute to the movement, and leverage our commitment—our mission. Programs that serve low-income and marginalized communities typically do not require much marketing assistance—the kind of support that we can offer—but they do frequently lack the resources necessary to fully support the communities that they serve. We know that demand exists for these programs and that the constraint to their proliferation is financial. How to make them more accessible and affordable for more communities—and to bolster the resources of the existing programs—is the problem that we strive to solve.
As we finish off a tumultuous year meditating upon all that has transpired and reflecting with gratitude upon the strength and resilience of our industry and communities, we recommit to our mission to make the world a better place, one home at a time.