Raise your solar-power and fair-trade awareness

October is Solar Energy Month and National Fair Trade Awareness Month

Solar Energy Month
On Oct. 1, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared the month of October “Solar Energy Month.” He stated in his proclamation that “under the California Solar Initiative we are moving toward our goal of installing 1 million more roof systems by 2018.”

He also praised the job-creating value of increasing reliance upon solar power, and vowed that by 2020, renewable energy will account for 33 percent of California’s power consumption.

“You’re saving money and you’re helping preserve the planet,” is how Aaron Andrus, who owns local family-run solar-installation business Advanced Energy Solutions Inc., put it recently. Going solar will reduce utility bills (as well as overall demand on the public-utility grid), and solar cells do not release CO2 or other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, unlike power plants that burn fossil fuels.

Andrus’ business installs both off-grid and “grid-tie” (tied into PG&E) solar systems, as well as solar-powered wells.

Andrus said he has seen the price of solar go down in the past two years since he founded Advanced Energy Solutions, while its popularity has increased. “I think it’s getting way more mainstream,” he said.

He added that he “takes care of all the permitting and PG&E paperwork” needed to obtain cash incentives offered by the utility company for switching to grid-tie solar. Also, PG&E meters will literally spin backward when a solar system is producing excess electricity, and send that power back to the electric grid.

Contact Andrus/Advanced Energy Systems at 899-7556, or visit www.advancedenergysi.com for more info.

(Note: Information about solar-related federal income-tax credits may be found at www.pge.com/myhome/saveenergymoney/solarenergy/install/index.shtml.)

National Fair Trade Awareness Month
Did you know that Chico is one of only three cities in California to be recognized by the International Fair Trade Association as a Fair Trade Town? The other two are San Francisco and Berkeley, and we actually beat progressive Berkeley to the punch. Chico became an official Fair Trade Town in February 2009, while Berkeley only recently received that honor, in August 2010.

Additionally, according to Lisa Sun, who manages the Fair Trade Store at the Chico Peace & Justice Center (536 Broadway), Chico was the 10th city in the entire U.S. to become a Fair Trade Town.

I talked to Sun (pictured, at left, with Chico State Fair Trade intern Mandy Kling) recently about the importance of buying fair-trade items—especially such food items as coffee and chocolate, which are often obtained under far-less-than-ideal circumstances for workers (often in African and South and Central American countries) harvesting the cocoa and coffee beans.

“On one side of the spectrum you have fair trade,” offered Sun. “On the other end, you have Walmart, where the worker gets [virtually] nothing and the middleman makes the money.”

Buying fair-trade items is a guarantee of fair wages for workers, she said, as well as safe working conditions, adequate housing and medical care, and eco-friendly farming practices.

Check out CPJC’s Fair Trade Store, which features a variety of items such as textiles, baskets, toys and jewelry, in addition to chocolate and coffee.

“Our motto here is, ‘If you can’t buy it local, buy fair trade,’” said Sun. Call 893-9078 or go to www.chico-peace.org for more info.