Want to Go Solar in New York?

SunCommon helps people who want to go solar in New York

Want to Go Solar in New York?

Make Hay (And Energy) While The Sun Shines!

Some things are just better in a particular season. Like wool socks. Fresh tomatoes. Pumpkin Spice everything. It’s true, too, if you want to go solar. While adding solar to your home or business is a smart and potentially cost saving decision at any time, spring is actually the IDEAL season to go solar and save money.

Hello, Sunshine!

Here’s a fun fact: on average, there’s 15-20% more sunshine in March than in February. Plus, the amount of daylight increases by two minutes each day. More sunshine plus more daylight means more energy fueling your solar array. And that’s not just for immediate use. In New York, your utility allows you to “bank” the unused energy you produce as credits toward your energy bill in the off-season. (It’s true, check it out.)

That means that solar’s goodness keeps on giving throughout the year (unlike a Pumpkin Spice latte that only lasts you a few minutes). Installing a solar system this spring will pay back dividends next winter and every winter after that.

The Warm Fuzzies

Thinking about solar, but wondering if it’s the right direction for you? Allow us to go a little deeper…

The advantages of green energy are many, not the least of which is making a break from fossil fuels and using the sun’s clean energy to power your life. And that’s huge for our communities and  for the world. 

But we get it. Sometimes, you need a little more “What’s in it for me?” than simply saving the world. To that we say, how about reducing your electricity bill, possibly by as much as 90%? Win-win, right?!

solar company helping people go solar

Not to mention, you can also get over 50% of the cost of your solar installation covered if you’re eligible for New York State and Federal incentives! (P.S. This spring, one of New York State’s best incentives is going to drop, making now the absolute best time to go solar!)

Or how about the fact that installing residential solar will actually raise the value of your home? Or that solar plus the addition of a Tesla Powerwall energy storage system will allow you to sail through power outages without the use of a generator? Finally, did you know that going solar with SunCommon means you’re getting a custom installation from one of only nine NYSERDA Quality Installers with Gold Status?

So. Much. Winning.

Spring Into Action

If you’re ready to go solar, don’t wait until Pumpkin Spice Season. Or even the amazing Farmer’s Market fresh tomato season. NOW is the time to maximize your investment, bank as many solar credits as you can, and cut your energy bill and carbon footprint to boot. Let’s talk!

Ready to speak with a Solar Expert?

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Solar Saves New England Over One Billion Dollars

Solar Saves New England $1.1 BILLION

New Data makes it crystal clear. Solar helps everyone. There’s been debate across the region about how valuable solar is, and this analysis puts that debate to bed.  Newly available data demonstrates the enormous benefit of local distributed solar power to everyone in New England. From 2014 -2019 small scale solar in new england saved utilities and every resident more than 1.1 billion dollars. 

These massive savings stem from two main factors: 

  • Solar avoids the purchase of other types of electricity from the grid. In New England, that other type of electricity is usually fossil fuels. 
  • When solar operates, it reduces electricity prices, so it drops the cost of electricity for everyone in New England.

If solar is so great, why are incentives still dropping?

This newly available data has not been considered, as local utilities have consistently reduced incentives for solar in recent years. So, while there has been some debate, we can clearly say that this is going in the wrong direction, as we work to decrease costs for everyone while building our renewable energy future. 

So while incentives are dropping this year in Vermont, there is still time to get in on the current rates. Learn more here.

Why else is this new data important?

Not only has local solar effectively lowered utility bills for everyone, it has also reduced public health and climate risk from fossil fuel pollution. More than 99% of the time, when solar is producing energy at our homes and businesses, we’re turning off dirty power plants in New England. We’re burning fewer fossil fuels and we’re protecting the health of our local communities. Now that we’ve learned this new information, it’s time to get policies in place to accelerate this clean energy transition.

solar-saves-new-englanders-money-wcax-news-report-from-synapse-data
Click image above to view the WCAX report.

As we look forward to 2021, we are excited to help rebuild our economy by installing more solar. Not only will it help our local economy, but it will reduce our use of dirty fossil fuels. This new analysis makes it clear that solar is not only an environmentally-responsible investment, but a financially-responsible investment, as well.

So, how do I go solar?

The process for going solar is simple. It starts with filling out our Get Started form. You can do so by clicking the get started button. If you want to know more details about the process and the steps involved between signing up and turning on the power, click the button below to find out more.

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The Best Fall Recipes by SunCommon

Our Favorite Fall Recipes

Holiday gatherings might look a little different this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring something delicious to the table! The SunCommon crew collected some of their favorite fall recipes for you to share with the ones you hold dear.


Carrot Souffle

“My favorite Thanksgiving dish!”

Prep time: 30 minutes

Marlaina_Headshot_025s

Marlaina Hunter
Marketing

Casserole Ingredients: 

  • 1 lb Carrots, cooked
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla 
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • Dash each of nutmeg and cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Topping Ingredients:

  • 1 cup corn flakes cereal (crushed)
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts 

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°.  Cook carrots and puree in food processor. Add eggs and blend. Add sugar, flour, baking powder, butter, spices and blend until smooth. Pour into greased casserole dish. Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over casserole. Bake 1 hour.


Superhero Muffins

“This one is an easy sell to the kiddos.”

Prep time: 10 minutes

Jarred Cobb

Jarred Cobb
Operations

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups almond meal
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (use gluten-free if sensitive)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup currants or raisins, optional
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup grated zucchini (about 1 zucchini)
  • 1 cup grated carrot (about 2 carrots)
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup Grade B maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Paper muffin cups

Instructions:

Arrange a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 12-cup standard muffin tin with paper muffin cups. In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, oats, walnuts, currants or raisins, if using, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, zucchini, carrot, butter, maple syrup, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups filling each to the brim. Bake until the muffins are nicely browned on top and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 25 to 35 minutes.


Ultimate Apple Pie

“It fills the space with the warm scent of apples and spices, and nothing says fall like apples and spices!”

20190730_Zoila_Turcois_254A9509

Zoila Turcios
Sales

Pie Crust Ingredients: 

  • 2 ½ cups of flour
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • ½ Tsp of salt
  • 1 cup of diced cold unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup of ice water

Pie Filling Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp of flour
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • ¼ of water
  • 7 medium sized apples, sliced. (I use macoun and snowsweet apples) 
  • 1 ½ Tbsp of cinnamon
  • 1 Tsp of pumpkin pie spice

Instructions:

Pie Crust: Place all dry ingredients in a food processor, pulse until all are combined. Add in the butter, making sure not to handle butter too much to keep it from warming up. Pulse until it appears like a dry sand mixture. Slowly add the ice water, pulse one more time.
Place the dough on a board or counter, press it all until you mold it into a ball, or square, cover it and place it in the fridge for 2 hrs or overnight.

Pie Filling: In a pan, melt the butter on med-high, as it begins to zimmer, add the flour, whisk in the sugar and water, bring to a boil, lower the heat, until it becomes the consistency of honey. In a separate bowl, add the apple slices, once sauce is cooled a bit, add it to the apples, along with the cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice. Fold all ingredients together.

Then… Roll out the pie crust to your desired size, place on the pie plate, add filling, decorate it as you wish. Preheat the oven to 425°. Place pie in the oven for 15 minutes. Then, without opening the oven, lower heat to 350° and bake for an additional 45 minutes.


Cheese Bread

“This makes for the most amazing toast or soup companion. If you’re new to bread, this is also a super easy way to start.”

Prep time: 30 minutes

20180402_Patrick_Portrait_254A1003 2WEB

Patrick McCormack
Storytelling

Ingredients: 

  • 1/4 cup butter; softened 
  • 1-3/4 cup warm (100-115°F) water 
  • 3/4 cup gruyere or cheddar, freshly grated 
  • 1 tsp tabasco or Frank’s 
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar 
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 5 to 6 cups all purpose flour 
  • 1 tbsp salt, or to taste 
  • 1 pack active dry yeast

Instructions:

Dissolve the yeast with the sugar in 1/4 cup of the warm water and allow it to proof. In a large bowl, mix 5 cups of flour and the salt. Make a well in the center and add the remaining 1-1/2 cups warm water, the butter, the Tabasco, and the yeast mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon or spatula or with your floured hands until the dough is well amalgamated. Turn out on a heavily floured board (use 1/2 cup flour) and knead for 10 to 12 minutes or until the dough is smooth, elastic, and rather satiny in texture and all the flour on the board is absorbed; add flour if you need it. Place the dough in a buttered or oiled bowl and turn to coat on all sides. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, 1-1/2 to 2 hours or slightly more.

Punch down the dough, turn it out on a lightly floured board, and knead in the cheeses. When thoroughly blended, cut the dough in half and let rest for 10 minutes, then roll out each half into a rectangle about 11 x 6 inches and let rest for 2 or 3 minutes more. Roll each triangle up, pinching the edges as you do so, and tucking in the ends so that the loaf measures about 4-1/2 x 7-1/2 inches. Place the dough in two well buttered tins, cover, and let rise in a warm spot until the bread has reached the top of the tin, or slightly higher, or has more or less doubled in size.

Bake on the center of the middle rack of a preheated 375° oven for approximately 30 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when removed from the tins and rapped with the knuckles on both top and bottom. Bake directly on the oven rack, without the tins, for a few minutes to firm the crust. Cool the bread on racks before slicing.


Cranberry Bread

“This recipe was, and still is, an all-time favorite of mine growing up. It is extra special because it comes from a book my parents used to read to me when I was little: Cranberry Thanksgiving by Harry & Wende Devlin. It reminds me of the fall and is something I plan to make for my future kiddos.”

Prep time: 30 minutes

SunCommon's Lisa Borducci

Lisa Borducci
Sales

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups flour 
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda 
  • ¼ cup canola oil 
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp grated orange peel 
  • ¾ cup orange juice 
  • 1 ½ cup raisins 
  • 1 ½ cup chopped fresh cranberries 
  • 1 ½ cup walnuts

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350° and grease a 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan – set aside. Mix all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda) into a large bowl. Combine canola oil, egg, orange juice, and orange peel in a separate large bowl. Pour wet ingredients into the large bowl of dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Fold in raisins, chopped fresh cranberries and walnuts into the mixture. Pour mixture into greased loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour at 350°, or until a toothpick in center comes out clean. *BAKING TIP*  If the bread is browning on top but is still wet on the inside, cover with aluminum foil and continue to bake until the inside is dry/cooked through.


Pumpkin Brownies

“I’ve got a sweet tooth… Plus, this recipe is a super simple upgrade to your average brownies.”

Prep time: 10 minutes

Maddy Headshot

Maddy Brydges
Storytelling

Ingredients: 

  • Brownie mix of your choice
  • 1/2 can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 6 oz cream cheese
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

Instructions:

Preheat your oven to whatever instructions are on the brownie mix box. 350° works well. Make the brownie mix in a separate bowl. Follow the directions on the box. Add the chocolate chips to the brownie mix. Stir them in and set the bowl and set to the side. Mix the pumpkin, cream cheese (softened), sugar, and pumpkin pie spice in another bowl. Mix until very smooth. Spray your pan with cooking spray before starting. Pour half of the brownie mix into the pan and spread out so the entire bottom of the pan is covered. Next add the pumpkin. You can either spoon the pumpkin filling onto the brownie in chunks or spread it out evenly. Cover the pumpkin with the rest of the brownie batter and smooth out the top.

Now you’re ready to bake! Since you’re adding some depth with the pumpkin mix, you’ll need to cook a bit longer than what the box mix says (~12 extra minutes for the pan I used). To check if brownies are done, dip a fork into the middle of the brownies. If the fork comes out clean, they’re done!


Love these recipes? Print them out as recipe cards and keep them forever, or share them with a friend:

 

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The Importance of People Power: Q&A with Artist Crystal Stokes

The Importance of People Power: Q&A with Local Artist, Crystal Stokes

crystal stokes vermont artist for people power beer

Crystal Stokes is a Morrisville, Vermont native with a gift for the arts. As a lover of nature, family, and knowledge, Crystal’s upbringing in Vermont was dynamic, and as a biracial woman and artist, she has leaned on her work to express her thoughts and find beauty in the world.

Crystal has been creating realistic portraits since she was in grade school and was recently chosen to produce a very special piece for the Alchemist Brewery’s new “People Power” Beer, with proceeds benefiting the ACLU.

Zoila Stokes, SunCommon Solar Advisor and sister-in-law to Crystal, hosted a Q&A session with Crystal earlier this week to discuss her inspiration behind the People Power can, the importance of local Certified B Corporations (like SunCommon and the Alchemist), and what this project means to her.

(Note: A full-text version of this interview is available below.)

Using Business as a Force for Good


Certified B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. B Corps are accelerating a global culture shift to redefine success in business and build a more inclusive and sustainable economy. Learn about “How We Roll” as a Certified B Corp here.

Q: Have you always been involved with art? When did you start?

A: I started drawing when I was young, as most of us do. I’ve always been artistically inclined, but in my mind, it was more of a form of therapy than an idea for a career choice. It wasn’t until 2013 that I actually allowed myself to take the time and explore pencil in charcoal and started sketching portraits. A year later I went to the store and bought some inexpensive black and white acrylic paint and taught myself how to work with the medium to create the photo realistic portraits I paint today.

Q: What mediums do enjoy creating in most?

A: I prefer working with acrylic black and white paint. The pigments meld well together, allowing more to the imagination and providing a sense of duality.

Q: How did you get involved with this project for the Alchemist?

A: A few years ago I was reading through the Seven Days newspaper and I stumbled across a call to artist for a keg painting event at the Alchemist. I submitted my work and was then asked to be a part of the event. Since then, I’ve worked with Jess Graham, the Art Director, and the Alchemist off-and-on until they reached out to me a few months ago to see if I wanted to create the label for the People Power collaboration.

Q: What was your process creating the art for the can? What inspired you?

A: Art for me has always been an extremely therapeutic and personal process. It’s a place I can go to, and feel safe within my own skin. This is a feeling we don’t all have the luxury to experience. When I was asked to collaborate with the Alchemist to benefit the ACLU, the first word that came to my mind was ‘safety’. I close my eyes and imagine what it would be like to truly feel safe in my own skin, without the judgement and opinions of others consuming my thoughts.

Q: What does it mean to you personally when you see your art being put out into the world, all while contributing to a great cause?

A: Creating this piece was not an easy process; there’s so much emotion that came up. Insecurity, vulnerability, happiness, sadness, anger, and frustration. With all the emotion that comes up, I sometimes [find it] really hard putting my work on display. An artist friend of mine recently said, ‘A piece is not truly finished until it is exposed’. I have recently worked this into my artistic process and I am so grateful to have the opportunity to expose this piece to the world.

We have all experienced such an enormous shift this year, so many things have happened we could not have imagined possible. In a positive light one of those things for me was this opportunity. Had this been last year, this opportunity might not have presented itself. This to me says that our world is evolving and I’m really happy to evolve with it.

Q: What role do you see Certified B Corporations playing in driving forward equity and inclusion?

A: I can’t speak for all B Corps on what they can do to drive inclusion. I do know that having conversations like the one we are having now is a great first step. Asking yourself what you can learn from a situation that might be somewhat vulnerable instead of placing the responsibility on the other person to change.

Being empathetic is not always something that comes natural to us all. One thing that has helped me become more empathetic is showing up for a conversation and leaving my emotions at the door before I walk into the room. Pausing, listening, paying attention to eye movement, body language, and tone, as well as being completely and emotionally available whenever possible have also been helpful tools. We are all continuing to evolve together, whether we like it or not, and I think there’s so many opportunities for us to acknowledge our weaknesses and strengths and grow stronger together.


Looking to make a positive impact on your corner of the world? Find out if solar is right for you:

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Vermont Candidates for the 2020 Election

Vermont Candidates for the 2020 Election: It’s time to vote!

We’ve seen how important science is to managing this pandemic. And like the pandemic, what elected officials do with science will determine our collective fate on the climate crisis.  

vermont candidates for the 2020 election

Since SunCommon’s early days, we’ve invited government officials and candidates for office to meet with our employees, share their vision of a clean energy future, and hear from us about this renewable energy business, the jobs it creates, and the benefits we bring to our beloved Vermont. So, with election day 2020 quickly approaching, we invited the major candidates for Vermont Governor and Lieutenant Governor to meet (virtually, of course) with us at SunCommon. We’d like to share these visits with you.

Voting in our local and national elections is our duty to our democracy, and we hope that this information will help inform you as you weigh the candidates. And if you need help registering to vote, we put this page together with useful resources to navigate these new ways of voting, and so that you can be sure your vote is counted.

Candidates for Lieutenant Governor

Molly Gray

Molly Gray met with SunCommon employees to share her thoughts on climate change and clean energy. More of Molly Gray’s policy positions can be found at mollyforvermont.com. (See section on home page: “Preserving our Working Lands and Environment for Future Generations”).

Scott Milne

SunCommon contacted the Scott Milne for Lieutenant Governor campaign 5 separate times, but they  declined our offer to meet. His campaign website describes policy positions on clean transportation and energy infrastructure, with a plan for renewable energy and the environment here. (See pages 25 & 26).

scott milne vermont candidate for election

Candidates for Governor

Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman

Lieutenant Governor Zuckerman met with SunCommon employees to share his thoughts on the climate crisis and clean energy. More of Mr. Zuckerman’s policy positions can be found at at zuckermanforvt.com.

Governor Phil Scott

The Scott campaign also declined our offer to meet after repeated inquiries. Governor Scott did visit SunCommon in early 2019, and here’s a short video of some thoughts he shared then. Mr. Scott outlined the work his administration has taken part in to support the clean energy industry and environmental conversation here.

phil scott vermont candidate for election 2020

Now get out there and vote, like our climate depends on it.

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Checklist for Buying an Electric Vehicle

The SunCommon Checklist for Buying an Electric Vehicle

what to know before buying an electric vehicle

Solar power and electric cars go together like peanut butter and jelly.  

We can’t have a clean energy future without getting our vehicles off of fossil fuels. AND we can’t eliminate carbon emissions from our transportation and clean up our air without clean energy to power our cars.

At SunCommon we’re working hard to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles in our communities. In 2019, we created the Drive Electric Pledge, by which we committed to not purchase any more fossil-fuel-burning vehicles as long as there are viable electric alternatives. So far we have 13 fully electric SunCommon vehicles, and dozens of our staff have switched over to electric for their personal vehicles. With a couple of years of EV driving under our belts, we want to share what we’ve learned so far to help YOU make the switch when the time is right.


Here are some questions you should ask yourself before buying an Electric Vehicle:

Do I want a battery-powered electric car or a plug-in hybrid electric car?

Many car manufacturers are making two kinds of EVs: Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV) and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV). The PHEVs have a battery AND a gas tank. These cars usually can drive 20-40 miles on just electricity, after which they will switch over to the gas tank. BEVs are all electric — no gas tank, no fossil fuels. A PHEV might be the best option for you, and it’s certainly better for the environment than an all-gas vehicle. But to fully address our climate crisis, we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground, so we’ll focus primarily on BEVs for this checklist.

buying an electric vehicle and where to charge it

What federal tax credits are available for each model of car?

There is a federal tax credit available for electric car purchases. (If you lease your EV, the dealer gets the tax credit.) The tax credit amount can be as high as $7500 and depends on the make and model, as well as on the total volume of cars that each individual car manufacturer has sold. The maximum tax credit for a particular vehicle is available up to the first 200,000 cars sold. Six months after hitting 200,000 sales, the tax credit is cut in half, and is halved again after another six months. After an additional 6 months, the credit goes to zero. FuelEconomy.gov has all vehicles listed with their available tax credits to help you with your search. As of September 2020, the only car manufacturers that have sold over 200,000 vehicles are Tesla and Chevy.

Are there other tax credits or rebates I need to be aware of?

Yes! The two other places you want to look for discounts on your electric car are those offered by the state and by your local electrical utility. Specific car manufacturers may have additional discounts as well. These rebates change frequently as they are generally offered in smaller batches. Plug-in America has a good website for sharing all of the rebates that are available for interested EV drivers.

Do I want to lease or buy a car?

The primary consideration here is whether the car’s current electric range and features will work for you for the longer term, or whether you’d prefer a shorter commitment. The majority of EVs right now are small to midsize sedans with a range between 150-250 miles. EV manufacturers are promising that new crossovers, SUVs, and trucks will hit the market starting in 2021 into 2022 with expected ranges near 300 miles. That is currently just speculation, so it may take longer. Also, as we mentioned above, leasing and buying are eligible for different incentives. One benefit of leasing a vehicle is that because the dealer will take the tax credits and incentives, you end up with a very low monthly payment.

What range do I need out of my car?

Before you switch over to an electric car, spend some time looking at maps to know how many miles you’ll need from your EV. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What is your daily driving round trip?
  • What is the longest drive you’ve taken this year?
  • Will you need to use this car for long road trips?
  • Does your household have another non-EV available?

Once you have an idea of how far you’ll need your EV to go on one charge, check out some cars and their respective ranges — here’s a list of all electric cars on the road today with their ranges. The largest range you’ll find on the road today is a Tesla Model 3 or Model S with about 330 miles in their extended range model. After Tesla, there are a handful of models by Hyundai, Nissan, Chevy, and others with ranges between 230-250. There is another group of vehicles with ranges of 75-150 miles. If you are shopping for a used EV, you’ll also find that most early models have ranges between 80-120 miles. These lower range vehicles are good for a second car or a commuter vehicle but may be frustrating if you do a lot of driving.

ev mileage ranges
charging an electric vehicle

Where can I charge my car? At home? What about work?

Having easy access to charging is an important aspect of being a happy EV driver. While you may be able to get around using only public charging stations, charging at home and starting every day with a fully charged car gives you more options and removes much of the potential for “range anxiety”. Most EVs will come with a standard charger (110 volts) that can plug into a standard outlet. This is a start, but these chargers generally take over 24 hours to fully charge.

The best option is a “level 2” charger (240 volts), which you can have installed at your home. This is the same plug as a dryer uses and can fully charge your car in about 8 hours. Businesses and public buildings are increasingly installing level 2 chargers in their parking lots for the public to use, which is a good option if you don’t have a charger at home. There is an expanding network of public level 2 chargers, and also “fast chargers” which can charge your car up to 80% in 30-40 minutes. (Check out the one we recently installed in Waitsfield, VT!) There are considerably fewer public fast chargers, but we are seeing more of these popping up recently. Here’s a map to look up all the charging options near you

Does my utility company have any special rates for charging EVs at home?

Driving on electricity is cheaper per mile than a traditional gas car. Both gas and electricity rates fluctuate, but in general, charging your EV battery at home is like paying $1.50/gallon. This Energy.gov website can give you a closer estimate depending on where you live. Something else worth looking into is whether your utility company has special rates for electric vehicle charging. Because charging your car at home brings in more revenue for your electric provider, some utilities will offer a special rate to incentivize home EV charging. As an example, here is a link to Green Mountain Power’s discount charging rates.

What else should I know about electric cars?

When you’re looking at the cost-benefit of electric cars versus traditional fossil fuel cars, you could also consider maintenance costs. There is a lot of information out there, but the latest research says that EV maintenance costs are about 50% of regular gas cars. With no internal combustion engine, fewer liquids to circulate, and the regenerative braking system, oil changes aren’t necessary and there are simply fewer components to fix and replace.


If you ask an EV driver if they’re happy they made the switch, you’ll mostly likely hear a resounding “yes!” Once you get used to it, driving an electric car feels like a no-brainer. It’s cost competitive with a typical gas burning car, it’s a smoother ride, it’s cleaner, it’s cheaper to maintain, and it’s more fun to drive. And reducing our dependence on fossil fuels relies on all of us making this switch. So do your research and test drive one of the many EV models available to you. You’ll be happy you did.

If you still have questions, let us know, or see if we already answered them in our Electric Vehicle FAQs blog!

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Fossil Fuel Divestment Q&A

Fossil Fuel Divestment Q&A

The Divestment Movement has been in the news recently with schools such as the University of California and University of Vermont making firm commitments to remove fossil fuel companies from their investment portfolios. Meanwhile, advocates continue to pressure other schools, businesses, and investment groups to divest their financial investments from fossil fuels, as every day the climate crisis grows more serious. While the early days of the modern divestment movement led by 350.org and other activist groups were primarily symbolic, the movement is picking up speed again as the world and our nation feel increased urgency to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

duane image for divestment blog

To share some of our perspective on divestment, we sat down with SunCommon’s Co-founder and Co-President, Duane Peterson, who has kept SunCommon’s 401k plan fossil fuel free since 2016. 


Why is divestment important?

“The burning of carbon-based fuels is destroying Earth’s atmosphere. The remedy is to leave remaining fossil fuels in the ground and power our economy with clean energy instead. Investments in energy corporations that persist in ruining our planet is not just immoral but really bad financial planning. Just as shares in coal companies are now nearly worthless, oil stocks will tank too as humans turn away from their deadly products.” 

Why did SunCommon decide to divest?

“The Divest/Invest movement launched in 2014 to encourage people to get their investments out of corporations harming our atmosphere and instead help grow the sectors restoring our environment. It’s turning away from the harms that got us here while simultaneously supporting the solution. At its core, SunCommon is a market solution to the climate crisis. So it is our obligation to get our own investments out of climate-killing companies and into firms that are doing the right thing for the planet.”

So wait a minute, do we say “divestment” or “divest/invest”? What’s the difference?

“Well, they’re similar, but “divest/invest” has specific relevance to today’s climate movement. The divestment movement has been around for a long time, before we were talking about divesting from fossil fuels. Divestment is most well known for the actions taken to end Apartheid in South Africa starting in the 1960s. Under social and political pressure, businesses and investors pulled their financial investments out of South Africa, which put pressure on the oppressive political class to end the era of legal discrimination, segregation, and racial oppression. This divestment movement was ultimately successful, leading to the democratic election of anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela in 1994.

So now with the urgency to address our climate crisis, we’re putting pressure on organizations around the world to divest/invest — to pull their financial interests away from fossil fuels and then invest them into clean energy and low-carbon solutions. So divest/invest specifically brings focus to reinvestment into the future we’re working to build.”

How did you start the process for SunCommon? Were financial institutions supportive? Who were the allies to make this happen for the organization?

“As a Benefit Corporation and certified B Corp, SunCommon is committed to caring for our employees, the communities in which we do business, and the very habitats that sustain our lives. So we offer our employees good pay and great benefits to support them and their families. One of those benefits is the employee retirement program that SunCommon contributes to, and we wanted to make it fossil-free.

Our 401k advisor, Hickok & Boardman, hadn’t done that before, but we chose to work with them  because they share our values and provide really great service. They are true pros and are very conversant in the regulations concerning our fiduciary duty to our employees’ retirement funds. So when we committed to figuring out how to divest/invest SunCommon’s retirement plan, they helped us get it done and do it right, which is exactly what we wanted from that trusted partner. Today our employee retirement plan totals $3.3 million, all fossil-free.”

How has divesting impacted overall 401k performance for SunCommon employees?

“The performance of SunCommon’s retirement plan has grown handsomely over the years.  Employees can choose from among 16 offerings across the various asset classes to suit their investment needs.”

Who else has done this?

“SunCommon is in really good company here. From the Rockefeller Foundation (funded originally with oil money), to the New York City Employees’ Retirement Fund, to our own University of Vermont — lots of thoughtful and responsible institutions are on board. Over 1,200 organizations have taken this step, committing to divest over $14 trillion dollars out of fossil fuel stocks. That’s really a lot of money to take out of a harmful industrial sector!”

What recommendations do you have for other organizations considering divesting? Or for employees lobbying their company to divest?

Folks should only divest/invest if they want to rid their investments of stocks in companies that are harming our planet while protecting their portfolios from financial loss like the shareholders of coal stocks have suffered. If that’s true for you, find an expert to help you out. We found a local financial partner who was willing to work with our specific goals, and it worked out very well for SunCommon.”

DISCLAIMER:  We’re not offering investment advice but sharing our own experience. You do what’s right for you, after doing your own due diligence based on what works for you. If you’re an employee and want to get your company on board with divesting, share this blog post with your coworkers, or learn more here.

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Understanding Your Carbon Footprint

How much CO2 does your lifestyle produce?

The United States has the highest carbon footprint per capita in the world, and is second only to China for country with the highest total emissions. The average carbon footprint for a single person in the United States is 16 tons per year.

Where do my emissions come from?

A carbon footprint is the measure of greenhouse gases produced by the activities one participates in. Generally, they are calculated based on one’s location, transportation, heat and electricity consumption, diet, family size, and waste management practices.

There are many, many carbon footprint calculators out there. This one from conservation.org is helpful because it adjusts in real time as you change values in the tool.

How much do you think you emit, compared to the average household?

It turns out there’s a fairly straightforward litmus test. Household income is the primary determinant of a person’s actual ecological footprint. Meaning, if you’re on the wealthier side of the income spectrum, chances are you are responsible for more carbon emissions than the average American.

How can I lower my emissions?

1. Going Solar and Heating/Cooling with Electricity

About 30% of the average person’s carbon footprint comes from home energy use. Solar can offset that! Every kilowatt of solar installed saves over 1.5 tons of carbon emissions annually. For the average five-kilowatt residential system, that’s a reduction of more than 15,000 pounds of CO2 every year! While you won’t realistically be able to eliminate your home’s greenhouse gas emissions entirely, solar power goes a long way in shrinking household usage. Once you go solar, you can add electric heating appliances, like air-source heat pumps and energy efficient electric water heaters—and power them all with the sun! We’ve even found a few great ways to cool your home without using your air conditioner, which will help further reduce your energy consumption.

residential rooftop solar climate change
eat local fight climate change

“If cattle were their own nation, they would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.” (Drawdown.org)

2. Eat Less Meat

Seriously! Adopting a plant-rich diet actually has a way bigger impact than you may think. The meat industry has an outsized impact on greenhouse gas emissions because of its sheer scale. Globally, raising livestock produces “7.1 Gigatonnes of Co2-equiv per year, representing 14.5 percent of all anthropogenic GHG emissions,” according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Cattle alone are responsible for 65% of emissions, mostly because of methane—which has about 84 times more warming potential than CO2. Cattle are responsible for 20% of the United States’ methane emissions.

3. Travel Consciously

Emissions from transportation are actually greater than from electricity generation. That’s because generation is shifting from coal to renewables and natural gas. But cars still primarily run on good old gasoline. The best thing you can do for the climate is reduce the impact of your vehicle. Driving less often is the main thing you should strive for. Taking your car off the road for a year can save as much as 2.6 tons of CO2 emissions.

Realistically, most of us cannot survive without a car. But there are some steps you can take to make your travel more efficient:

  • Drive gently. Accelerating and braking slowly conserve energy output for these processes.
  • Keep your tires pumped up. Low tire pressure hurts your fuel economy.
  • Air condition only when necessary. This is an energy intensive process that increases your emissions.
  • Use cruise control. On long drives, this trick can help to save gas.
  • Carpool. This way, you’re splitting emissions between the number of people in the car.
  • Drive electric. Especially if you’re charging with renewable energy.
SunCarnival

4. Family Planning

We found this take from Drawdown interesting! It may be a hard one to swallow, but you can’t argue with the numbers. Having fewer children means fewer people in the world. One less person in the world means an average of 16 tons of energy not consumed by them annually. Adding a person means more flights, car rides, and demand for goods and energy. 

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Where does our electricity come from?

Have you ever wondered where your electricity comes from? As we work towards a future powered by 100% renewable energy, it’s important to know where we’re starting.

Today’s grid: old, dirty, and inefficient

Our current power system is over 140 years old and was designed around cheap and abundant (and dirty) fossil fuels. The grid has become increasingly complex over the years as our energy demand has grown, our sources of energy have shifted, and technology has evolved. 

Today, renewable energy is actually cheaper than fossil fuels, so why are we still supporting this old and inefficient grid system when we have better alternatives? 

There is an abundance of research indicating that a grid powered entirely by renewable energy is possible and will happen. The most recent study coming out of UC Berkeley outlines the process of getting off fossil fuels quicker than anticipated, at no extra cost to taxpayers. The only thing it lacks is political support. 

It’s all based on supply & demand

Your utility company purchases electricity from various sources — could be solar panels on your roof or a nuclear power plant 200 miles away. Electric demand varies constantly, depending on the season, time of day, and a number of other factors. And when demand is higher, electricity is more expensive. 

A power provider must always be prepared to handle the maximum demand placed upon the system at any given moment. The utility’s goal is to provide consistency and affordability to consumers. Therefore, they must be able to predict when demand will be highest. Luckily for them, there is a lot of data to help them with those predictions.

For example, ISO New England and New York ISO share, in real time, where 100% of the energy in our region comes from. The chart below shows on July 21, 2020, over 92% of the energy consumed in New England came from natural gas and nuclear power. So this is a good baseline to answer our question “where does our electricity come from?”

Photo from ISO New England website

More of a visual learner?

Here’s a short video explaining our electrical grid.

From the power plant to your home

Now that we understand how utilities provide electricity to ratepayers, the next step is understanding the outdated system that delivers electricity from power plants far away to our houses, buildings and other infrastructure around the region. This is sometimes called the “hub and spoke” model.

Our current system uses high voltage power lines to transport lots of electricity over very long distances, from the powerplant to substations. At the substation, the electricity is converted to a lower voltage necessary for powering our homes and businesses. Unfortunately, there is an estimated energy loss of 8%-15% through this whole transmission process.

With all of this infrastructure already in place, it’s no surprise that utilities want to continue burning cheap fossil fuels. Consequently, we are experiencing a worldwide climate crisis that demands we change our ways. Our sources will require a shift from dirty power plants to renewable energy projects. Therefore, we need to think about how we support efficient, local, decentralized electrical generation. The plot thickens!

ISO New England Control Center

The role of regulation

At this point, we need to consider state utility regulatory policy. States and local utilities are gradually being required to increase the percentage of renewable energy they bring onto their grid. Therefore, they must rethink the “hub-and-spoke” model they’ve been relying on for the last century.

To meet these renewable energy requirements, they have two main options:

  1. Pay local renewable energy producers for their power that is generated by the hydroelectric dams, solar panels, and wind turbines.
  2. Purchase “renewable energy credits” from other, larger far away power generation systems. (Electrons produced by the renewable energy source may never make it to our state, but the state still puts those credits towards the renewables requirement. This allows states like Vermont to say they have “carbon-free” electricity, while purchasing credits from a nuclear power plant in New Hampshire or a hydroelectric dam in Canada.)

What will the grid of the future look like?

If we want a future powered by clean, efficient renewable energy, we need to ensure our state and federal policies require it. We must move beyond utilities merely paying for renewable energy credits and telling customers they’re consuming clean energy. It’s just not true. And, producing our energy locally is better for everyone. Supporting local renewables and energy storage allows for this transition while creating an affordable and more resilient grid. It also inevitably supports a local economy, keeping dollars local while creating lots of jobs.

Along with requiring energy to be produced locally, we also need public utilities to plan for and invest in the construction of the grid of the future. This means power lines and substations that allow for greater decentralized energy production taking place across the country. And, it means investing in energy storage infrastructure (i.e. giant batteries). That way, even if the sun isn’t shining, we’ve got energy stored up to keep the lights on.

As these policy and infrastructure changes begin to unfold, it will become easier to understand where your power comes from. Hopefully it will come from your own roof or from the community solar array down the road. That is the YOUtility we’re dreaming of.

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Plastics are Everywhere!

Plastic Free July is a global movement, dedicated to solving the world’s dire plastic pollution problem.

By collectively reducing single-use plastics around the world and using plastic-free alternatives, we can make a difference and clean up our planet. SunCommon has encouraged our staff to participate in the Plastic Free July Challenge and track their plastics usage for the month.

This challenge has really made me pause and think about all the times I interact with plastic in a day—and not just single-use plastics, but the “long-term” plastics that are just as bad for the environment. (They’ll eventually end up in landfills, too. Right?) It got me wondering, is it even possible to go plastic free? 

I started the challenge by taking the Pesky Plastics Quiz and then followed up by doing an inventory of all the plastic in my house. I encourage you to do the same—the length of your list may surprise you. Plastic is EVERYWHERE! And I’m realizing that because we interact with plastics so frequently and without ceremony, we’re basically oblivious to its ubiquity.

stop-using-plastics

Here’s a few items in my home that are sometimes overlooked as plastic:  

Single-Use Plastics: 

  • Cereal bags 
  • Caps on liquid cartons (milk, juice, etc.)
  • Mascara, and generally all make-up
  • Oreos. They come in a plastic tray and a plastic sleeve. 
  • Toothpaste tube
  • Popsicle wrappers

“Long-Term” Plastics: 

  • Cell phone, charger, headphones
  • Kitchen appliances: coffee maker, toaster oven, refrigerator
  • The handles on most pots and pans
  • TV
  • Light switches and outlets
  • Sunglasses 
  • Car Dashboard

So, while going a day without interacting with any plastic is nearly impossible in today’s society,  going a day without single-use plastic is totally possible! There are plastic alternatives popping up on the market. And simply being more aware of all the plastic that surrounds can help us make better decisions. For instance, next time you are at the grocery store, take note of how an item is packaged. Opt for the jelly in the glass jar instead of the plastic, and choose milk that comes in a carton instead of a plastic jug. Little decisions like this do matter, and they can make a difference.


Repurpose or Eliminate Single-Use Plastics

If you’re feeling a little guilty about the plastic you do use, that’s normal. The good news is, you can repurpose or eliminate a lot of the single-use plastics in your life! 

plastic-bag-basket

Pinterest has no shortage of ideas for repurposing plastic:

bees-wrap-replaces-plastic-wrap

You can eliminate some of the plastics in your life, too! There are lots of plastic alternatives coming to the market. Here are some of my favorites: 


What about Recycling?

Recycling, if done properly, can be a great solution to plastic waste. However, recycling is actually rather complicated and many of us have been “wishcycling” for years. Wishcycling happens when we toss plastic items into the recycling bin, without knowing if those items are actually recyclable. The intention is in the right place, but the result is quite the opposite. When non-recyclable items get mixed in with recyclable loads, they are considered contaminated and will be sent to landfills. 

what-is-wishcycling

Ever notice the little numbers on the bottom of plastic containers? They represent the type of plastic material the container is made with, but do not necessarily indicate if the item is recyclable. Many plastics can theoretically be recycled, but the cost of recycling it is more expensive than the cost of making new.  Plus, the recyclability of each material is dependent on the municipality doing the recycling—so be sure to check out what is accepted in your area.


So, what will your first step be toward reducing or eliminating plastic from your life for Plastic Free July? When you share this post on Facebook or Twitter, be sure to let us know — And don’t forget to @suncommon and use the hashtags #SunCommon and #PlasticFreeJuly!

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