The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 24, 2008


Living the low-carbon diet

Cindy Nock hangs out her laundry on the deck of her Canterbury Court home, saving CO2 emissions and energy costs. (Photo by Ellen Huber)

Last July I joined with the Barton, Jolly, Luoma, Zimmaro and Webster households to form a low-carbon living team (LoCaL: Carlisle). Our goal is to reduce our carbon footprints by 5,000 pounds per household. As a team, we began by measuring our household carbon footprints, using a simple online calculator. Our carbon footprints ranged from a low of 36,000 pounds of CO2 emissions in one year to a high of more than 100,000.

When we learned that the average U.S. household emits 54,600 pounds of CO2 emissions per year compared to 27,700 pounds in Germany and 14,600 in Sweden, 10,600 in Mexico and 600 in Kenya, we knew we had our work cut out for us, not only as individual households but as a nation.

Our next step was to develop individualized household plans for reducing 5,000 pounds of CO2 emissions in one year. It seemed like an insurmountable number, but we were determined to try. Here is what I did.

Even though I thought I was doing a pretty good job of living green by hauling bins and bags of items to the transfer station for recycling, using reusable grocery bags and replacing a light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL), I recently discovered there was much more I could do and a long way to go to significantly reduce my family’s carbon footprint.

After reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and discussing with the group the surprising impact on our carbon footprint of not eating meat, (especially beef, unless it is raised locally and grass-fed) our family decided to go vegetarian two days a week.

Estimated lbs. of CO2 lost in one year: 1,400.

Now that I was spending more time at the Farmers Market, local farm stands and the produce section at the grocery store, I was bringing home far fewer processed and packaged foods. I quickly noticed that my trash was greatly reduced. Along with starting a simple compost pile and composting my garbage, I reduced my trash by half.

Estimated lbs. of CO2 lost in one year: 1,300.

I finally fixed that leaky front door gasket to keep cool air in during the summer and warm air in during the winter.

Estimated lbs. of CO2 lost in one year: 800.

I changed all of my frequently used light bulbs in the house (24!) to compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).

Estimated lbs. of CO2 lost in one year: 2,400.

I installed a clothesline (for the summer) and bought a wooden clothes drying rack (for the winter) and pledged to air-dry two loads of laundry a month. I chose towels since they take the longest to dry in the dryer.

Estimated lbs. of CO2 lost in one year: 260.

I programmed my thermostat to heat the house at 65 degrees during the day and 55 degrees at night (and pledged to not change it).

Estimated lbs. of CO2 lost in one year: 1,400.

I now unplug electronic appliances when not using them . . . cell phone chargers, electric toothbrush chargers, computers and turn off lights when not needed.

Estimated lbs of CO2 lost in one year: 800.

With these easy-to-implement changes, I found I was well past my 5,000-pound goal. Is it hard to change these habits? Not really. I’ve discovered that I feel a lot better on those vegetarian days. I am more attentive to the weather and appreciative of sunny days in a different way now that I use a clothesline.

I’m trying to reduce my consumerism in general which is very useful now that times are tougher economically. And I don’t feel bad doing it. Rather I feel good because I’m reducing my carbon footprint. When the time comes to replace my washing and drying machines and dishwasher, I will get energy-efficient ones. In the meantime, I am reducing the number of loads I do. One day I will buy a hybrid vehicle, but until then I am reducing my car trips and carpooling more. I am looking into buying carbon offset points to offset my impact on the environment when I fly and researching offset programs to ensure that those carbon offsets will go toward preserving rainforests and reducing carbon emissions elsewhere.

Based on savings to date, I anticipate overall, annual savings in the range of $800-$1,000. As a result of participating in the LoCaL program, our household has reduced household expenses, waste and CO2 emissions. Losing never felt so good, but most importantly, I feel hopeful again.

You can find out more about this program by going to

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito