How Your Solar Panels Really Help Save the Planet

Image Credit: Lourdes Balduque/Moment/GettyImages

There's no story in the world bigger than climate change, not even COVID-19. Thinking about whether or not we have a habitable planet going forward can make things feel hopeless and overwhelming real fast, but there are ways your individual actions can have a much bigger effect on the world than you might think.

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Take solar panels, for instance. Even if you're not super into saving the earth, you should care about the massive savings on energy bills you can score through installing the panels on your roof. The technology is also getting cheaper and more efficient all the time. Researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research have just released a study on how one person adopting solar energy can influence an entire neighborhood, and the results are pretty striking.

"It's almost like if you see a solar panel from out of your window, you decide to put one on your own roof as well," says study author Leonie Wenz. In other words, adopting solar energy in your home is kind of contagious — the neighbors closest to you are far more likely to decide to install solar panels if you already have.

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"The findings suggest that seeding solar panels in areas where few exist may flip a community," says coauthor Anders Levermann. "If more solar panels lead to more solar panels, that may generate a kind of tipping point — a good one this time." Your neighbors might wind up thanking you for their greatly reduced energy bills — not to mention doing your part to inspire the fight against climate catastrophe.

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