Solar Stewards and Environmental Justice
Solar Stewards takes a market-based approach to correcting centuries of inequality and oppression by creating opportunities for investment in communities with a direct focus on environmental justice. Where social justice and environmentalism meet, environmental justice is defined as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.
Tragically, environmental injustices persist and are just as pervasive as ever. With Solar Stewards, communities historically bearing the brunt of systematic oppression and marginalization can receive the resources they need to leap-frog into the clean energy economy and set forth on a new, more equitable future.
Our Social RECs factor in the costs of the following aspects of systematic oppression to help alleviate their detrimental impact and create maximum ESG value for all stakeholders.
THE WEALTH GAP
The wealth gap is the unequal distribution of assets among residents of a country, including the values of homes, automobiles, personal valuables, businesses, savings, and investments. According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, income inequality in the U.S. is the highest of all the G7 nations. This is the direct result of systematic oppression.
Redlining was the systematic denial of various services by federal government agencies, local governments as well as the private sector, to residents of specific neighborhoods or communities. Redlining policies have created and exacerbated the wealth gap, assured communities of color were disproportionately located by toxic brownfields, and leave a legacy of segregation.
Low-income households pay a disproportionate amount of their gross household income on energy compared to households of higher income levels. This Energy Burden is especially prevalent in communities of color, where African American and Latino households are found to pay up to three times more than the average household on home energy costs.
The Wealth Gap
A legacy of systematic oppression in the United States continues to demonstrate the health and economic consequences of environmental injustices. The history of redlining and predatory lending practices has robbed communities of color, and particularly Black families, of the opportunity to own a home, decide where they live, and accumulate wealth, creating an inter-generational wealth gap strikingly prevalent almost a century later. This Wealth Gap has left communities of color to bear a disproportionate brunt of the harmful effects of fossil fuels.
Housing and environmental justice are deeply intertwined, though frequently viewed separately by policymakers and advocates. It is important to connect equitable housing with environmental justice which includes access to safe and affordable shelters with clean, accessible, and affordable energy.
HOUSING IS WEALTH AND EQUITY
AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
Solar Stewards seeks to eliminate the very creation of brownfields, or toxic industrial sites, due to fossil fuels, by supporting the clean energy economy. Disrupting this system assures future generations, regardless of income, will not suffer from the toxic effects of residing next to air pollution, fly ash ponds, slag piles, nuclear waste, leaking pipelines, groundwater contamination, and the myriad of other environmental hazards disproportionately effecting communities of color.
STATE SPONSORED DISCRIMINATION
Starting in the 1930s the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation created maps grading neighborhoods on their credit risks based largely on racial and ethnic demographics. Subsequently, many predominantly non-white neighborhoods were deemed “hazardous.” Banks and mortgage loaners then used those maps to justify denying loans to home buyers from so-called “hazardous” areas thus denying predominantly non-white people from buying homes. Federal agencies backed this system until the Fair Housing Act of 1968, yet generations later the lasting impacts still loom.
REDLINING AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
The negative effects of redlining have a direct bearing on the environmental injustices still perpetrated today. Areas deemed “Hazardous” and “Definitely Declining,” or communities of color, have less tree cover, three times more particulates in the air, and are the number one indicator of environmental degradation in the US.
A NEW MAP FOR A BETTER FUTURE
Solar Stewards dives deep into the inequities and injustices inflicted on historically marginalized communities to create a path towards equity. With impact investment and the engagement of our Climate Stewards, our Solar Host Sites can realize clean, affordable energy on-site, disrupting a legacy of exclusion.
IT IS EXPENSIVE TO BE POOR
A landmark study by ACEEE, The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, built upon decades of research on poverty and energy, confirming that low income Americans pay a disproportionate amount of their income towards energy costs. This disparity is even more exacerbated in communities of color, and unsurprisingly in regions with increased barriers for solar adoption.
OVERCOMING BARRIERS TO FACILITATE CHANGE
Progress has been made to develop, increase, and expand weatherization and utility sponsored low-income energy assistance programs, however this is just a first step in a multifaceted process to address and permanently eliminate the energy burden. Energy efficiency measures are a prerequisite to on-site solar energy applications, creating a ripe opportunity for the solar energy applications to contribute to clean affordable energy to low-income households. Although lagging solar policy and access to capital continue to create barriers, Solar Stewards has forged a pathway to work through these barriers and deliver savings and clean energy directly to energy burdened communities.
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