Google has funneled $300 million into making solar panels more accessible to the average home owner. Apple has committed the better part of a billion dollars toward a solar farm that would power its facilities and almost 60,000 residences. Tesla makes headlines with ever-increasing frequency for its advances in fossil-free motoring, and is working to bring a solar battery to green-thinking households.
Powerful commercial voices like these go a long way toward normalizing industry participation in green initiatives. But what about the public’s sentiment on these matters? Going off grid via a shiny array of solar panels or making the leap for a new electric car can be a daunting transition. Short of reaching impulse-purchase frugality, what can be done to normalize big steps away from day-to-day carbon use in the public consciousness?
The answer may lie both nearer and farther away than expected, with significant cultural institutions worldwide. The Eiffel Tower, the most visited paid monument on Earth, retrofitted a pair of powerful new wind turbines in partnership with Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SETE) and UGE International Ltd. Almost silent and painted to blend in, these upgrades capture wind from any direction and were built without any forced outside impetus. Nick Blitterswyk, CEO of UGE, remarked, “When visitors from around the world see the wind turbines, we get one step closer to a world powered by clean and reliable renewable energy.”
Landmarks like the Eiffel Tower capture the imagination, but private traditions can feel closer to home. Organized religions have begun to lead by example on this front. Plans are in place to install photovoltaic solar systems on the entirety of Jordan’s 6,000 mosques. Prior to this, one neighborhood banded together to donate JD16,000 (just over $25,500) for such an installation at its local mosque. Pope Francis’ comments on climate change have elevated political discourse on the subject, but his predecessor converted the Paul VI audience hall into a completely green-energy facility with over a thousand solar panels, and commissioned an eco-friendly hybrid Popemobile.
Time-tested cultural entities, though not always geographically close, occupy a large part of the everyday mindset. What’s next, and how much impact will it have? Solar-panel sunglasses for the Statue of Liberty? Wind-turbine beanies for Mount Rushmore? Time will tell.