My road to the NetImpact conference was very fortuitous. Listening to WHYY (our local NPR radio) on a roadtrip in July, I heard a great interview with Muhammad Yunus. One of the call-in questioners was Emily Schiller, a Wharton student who mentioned that she is the chair of NetImpact's national conference entitled "The Sustainable Advantage: Creating Social and Environmental Value". Since GreenMicrofinance, where I work, is based in the Philly area, not far from Wharton, I scribbled Emily's name down and tracked her down to meet. Over coffee I realized that the July broadcast was actually a replay of Yunus' January visit to Philadelphia - he spoke at the Free Library, and I was there. Fortunately it was not too late for us to be included in the NetImpact program, since our missions allign so perfectly. My son describes NetImpact as "MBA's with a conscience."
My session, a Friday lunch RoundTable, is titled " Microfinance Meets Climate Change: How Offsetting Your Ipod Can Provide Clean Energy for the Bottom of the Pyramid". When I began to learn how big a difference just a minuscule amount of locally generated clean renewable electricity can make in the life of microfinance clients, by lowering their overhead and expanding their use of lights andsmall appliances like cellphones or radios, I was astonished. Wouldn't it be great if we could somehow share some of our electricity, which we take for granted and use quite wastefully? Kind of like when your mom scolded you about wasting food, when children were starving in Armenia....
Microfinance can actually make this possible. We'll kick around the numbers at the session, seeing how to balance an average American household's electrical consumption (about 11,040 kWh a year) with a microfinanced entry level solar system's 74 kWh a year. Small as that sounds, it is enough to power four hours of lights, charge a cellular, and play a radio or energy-efficient computer!
After a fair amount of research, we can say with confidence that the amount of energy used in charging an Ipod for four hours daily for a year - get this - would power a third world family for 3 1/2 weeks!
Photo from AME SUD.