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Becoming a Climate Healer: Ripples of Good

This is a story about ripples. Ripples as culprits, and ripples as cures. It’s about a positive future that we can all start creating today and start experiencing now.

First, Ripples as Culprits. You’ve already heard about your carbon footprint, and the problems the planet faces because of our collective carbon footprints. Where do these carbon footprints come from?

It’s simple, and actually beautiful. We are all connected by the amazing economy that we’ve created. Of course, our electricity, gasoline, car, clothing and much of our food come from national and international supply chains. Even a “locally” grown tomato has a supply chain. The seeds and the grower’s equipment come from far away; and they each have a global supply chain. Every day, our lives are supported by the efforts of millions of people around the world.

They touch our lives, and we touch theirs. Because we are all connected by commerce, a decision to buy something or use something ripples out through these connections to impact thousands of economic activities. This is your economic ripple. Because these activities rely on fossil fuels for energy, they each emit some greenhouse gases. And that’s how your beautiful economic ripple gives you an accidentally harmful carbon footprint. The average yearly carbon footprint of a United States citizen is about 40,000 pounds.

Now let’s look at Ripples as Cures. Meet your carbon handprint: positive changes that you cause, measurable in pounds of CO2. Sure, you have a footprint, but you also have a handprint, which benefits the climate — like when you plant a tree or install an efficient light bulb in your home or in your friend’s home. With handprints, we are climate healers. Your handprint is unbounded; there is no limit to it. It can be as large as your imagination and creativity and efforts allow. You could change the world.

Ripple effects become your main tool: you do something good that is designed to spread to others, and from them to others again.

Folks in York are making handprints right now. A benefactor has donated 100 water heater fiberglass blankets to be given free to any York resident. Just ask. Each blanket recipient starts by following the instructions provided to wrap the water heater tank in their cold basement or garage. The blanket’s heat retention will save them a few dollars per month. Next, each blanket recipient invites two friends or neighbors to do the same, and those recipients tell their friends and neighbors about the blanket benefits. The circle continues to grow, compounding the results of the initial opportunity.

Think of it. If you participate, there are ripple effects in your energy supply chain: as you spend less on fuel or electricity, there is less CO2 emitted to the atmosphere. Then, when you invite two friends to participate, there are ripple effects in your social network, and these effects ripple across our community, saving hundreds or thousands of people a little money and reducing their carbon footprints. An action in York can spread to other towns and other states and even to other countries.

The few dollars saved each month become a seed you can plant to improve your financial security. The key is not just to spend it mindlessly, but to save and reinvest it mindfully. Tell your bank that you want a no-cost handprint savings account, connected to your existing accounts. If the blanket is saving you $2 per month, use your online banking app to set up automatic transfer of $2 from your checking account (which is saving the money) into your savings account.

In a few months, use the money accumulated in your handprint savings account to plant another savings seed – maybe a few LED light bulbs. Those will increase your total monthly savings by $4, so you change the monthly transfer to $6.  A few months later, more accumulated savings allow you to invest in more savings, and a “snowball effect” takes shape.  Because many energy saving measures have a payback time of less than a year and a lifetime of many years, you can turn the water heater blanket seed into thousands of dollars in less than 10 years.

Now you know about handprints and about ripples as cures for the planet. Your power to put this into practice has no limit. I wish you success, for everyone’s sake.

Greg Norris

gnorris@mit.edu

https://handprinter.org

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