52 Weeks of Green

Challenge #1: What’s your carbon footprint?

This year we’ve resolved to get leaner and greener: a 52-week commitment to making a new green-inspired choice every week in order to form new habits and greener behaviors. By the end of the year we hope to emit measurably less carbon and leave a smaller footprint.

No cheating – here’s the green choices we already make. This is the baseline for us to build upon.

We already: take public transit to work (nearly) every day, drive 80+mpg scooters in the summer (as an alternative to public transit), use canvas grocery bags (almost always – we’ll work harder), support local organic farmers, rarely eat red meat, use CFL light bulbs (we’re replacing old incandescent lights as they blow), and almost always eat fish that is Seafood Watch approved. We use a programmable thermostat with the heating set to 66 degrees, and dropping down to 62 degrees overnight and when we are away from home. We have many Energy Star appliances and new windows throughout our home. Recently, as it is a tad cold here in Chicago, we have begun closing the vents and doors to rooms rarely used and closing the curtains on all windows as an additional barrier to the elements and another way to reduce our heating bill.

Pulling the Plug on Energy Suckers

Boy, oh boy do we have a lot of gadgets plugged in around the house! All these little devices are also little electricity suckers – slurping up the juice even when they’re not turned on. This week our goal is to start forming a new habit of unplugging appliances and electronics when we’re not using them. From the toaster and electric can opener (yea, I’m lazy, for some reason I need to use electricity to open cans – what was I thinking when I bought that thing?) to computers, TVs, and stereos, there’s a lot of unnecessary energy drainage happening around this household.

However, first things first, the best way for us to form new habits is to make it easy. If it isn’t easy to do every day with minimal effort, then we’re kidding ourselves, it isn’t going to happen.

We’ve started with the easiest – the toaster, and other random kitchen appliances. The hair dryer and electric razor. These outlets are very accessible, and it’s no problem plugging in for use and unplugging when done.

The TVs, stereos and computers, well, that’s a work in progress this week – attacking those messes is like putting my hand down into a pit of snakes with all the tangles of wires and cords, trying to avoid the bite of static electricity currently invading our house. The goal by the end of the week is to untangle the mess and make the surge protectors more accessible so that turning on and off the outlets is as easy as turning the TV on or off has always been.

Smart Meter – coming soon

Will the unplugging of these devices make an impact on our footprint? Right now it’s hard to tell precisely how much, but pretty soon we’ll be able to closely monitor our electricity usage better than ever before. Our village has been selected to take part in a Smart Meter pilot program through Commonwealth Edison here in Chicago. They’ll be installing our new meter within the month. Once the program launches, we’ll be able to log into an Internet account and track our energy usage every day – so we’ll know exactly how much impact our daily choices are making.

Any ideas on how we can be even greener and leaner?

What are you doing to reduce your carbon footprint?

Sharon Dewar

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