Category Archives: carbon footprint

Talking about Earth Day with your kids

I’m blown away by a video that poet and rapper, Prince Ea, did for Stand for Trees. It is quite simply the most poetic expression of pure truth, here on Earth Day 2015. I hope you’ll take a moment to watch this incredible call to action…then continue the conversation in the comments.

I showed my kids the video this morning, and I think they were really moved. I realized recently that I’ve been so wrapped up in raising three kiddos and launching my part-time businesses that I haven’t really had “the talk” with them about environmental issues and my previous (and now regenerated) passion for sustainable living. I’m sure there are more conversations to follow, but this was a good starting place for a conversation.

After twenty-five years of calling myself an environmentalist, I’m finally ready to take my sustainability commitment to the next level. It’s unconscionable not to at least give this planet our best try, and I actually think it will be inspiring to create a “global warming of our hearts.” I know my kids would love to be part of the solution and have bright and shining spirits to share with the world. This is just the beginning, a new leaf.

I wasn’t familiar with Stand for Trees, but there website is really impressive and there programs and impacts are explained very clearly. They seem to have a really savvy approach. I’m hopefully they will be part of the solution. Green Empowerment, the non-profit organization Miel leads, is another group poised to make a powerful positive impact on our planet. Their work is already underway, we just need to support them.

So, I’m committing this Earth Day 2015 to offset my family’s carbon footprint 100% by 2020.

Sorry, but I’m not ready to apologize.

What are you going to stand for?

How will you offset your impact and work together to fix this thing?

With light and love,


Carbon Footprint Average

I feel like I’ve been slackly on our carbon footprint goal. I met my initial goal of using three calculators, but then I stalled out. Mainly because the results were so wildly divergent that it was hard to know what to make of them.  I was careful about the accuracy of my figures and wrote down all our utility bill info, etc., which also made it easier to fill them all out.

Result 1 – EPA carbon calculator – 1/2 ton
Result 2 – Oregon DEQ carbon calculator  – 35 metric tons
Result 3 – Carbon Footprint Calculator – 9.7 metric tons
Result 4 –  Climate Crisis Calculator  estimated that our household emits .3 tons per person (1.2 household) 
Result 5 – The Nature Conservancy – 46 tons (average U.S. household of four emits 110 tons)
Result 6 – Bonneville Environmental Foundation calculated our house, transportation and flights to be 39,571 lbs (19.78 tons) – I would also note that they had probably the nicest calculator (pretty graphics, plus they gave you options between giving details and using averages)

Not surprisingly, it turns out that other environmental bloggers have come across the same inconsistencies. The Global Footprint Network’s calculator was the most fun and had the best graphics, but the results showed up in planet and global acres instead of tons of carbon. So I couldn’t average the result of needing 4.5 planets to sustain our family! 

Interestingly, Brighter Planet sells the service of calculating your footprint to companies with all sorts of goods and services. But I couldn’t compare my results from their page directly. On a side note, I would add that a couple of the calculators did seem most interested in selling you offsets.

Then a co-worker tech guy told me about how studies have shown that even random guesses (like how many jelly beans in a jar) turn out to be nearly accurate once they are averaged. So, it’s admittedly more arbitrary than scientific, but until I can be proven better…carbon experts: bring it on!…I’m going to track our progress from a baseline of 18.7 tons of CO2 annually.

Have you calculated your family’s carbon footprint?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Shopping Spud

As I’ve mentioned before, Spud has become part of my weekend ritual. I enjoy it so much more than packing two kids in the car and blowing at least twice as much at our local Whole Paycheck. We literally can buy all of our produce, plus milk and eggs for $33 to get free week delivery. The best part is that you can quickly set preferences and weekly/monthly orders.

Yet, I’m surprised at how many people I’ve surprised by how many people I’ve chatted with who haven’t heard of Spud. So I’m compelled share more about them. They also have a new online video giving a demo of how easy it is to order, see below. I would add a few more tips though to help make the most of your order:

  • Create a “Standing Order,” which will allow you to order things like butter monthly, eggs bi-weekly, and milk weekly. It means you never forget the essentials!
  • The bonus of a standing order is that they’ll give you a 5% discount on lots of items.
  • Create personal shopping lists for different needs – I have lists for my pantry, dinners, and everyday foods. It’s super easy to edit and order.
  • Always remember to update your order by 9 AM the day before delivery, or two days for fresh breads and meat orders.
  • Again, always remember the Submit Order button.

If you want to play around a while, there’s more fun too:

  • Check out the kid-friendly meals under the recipes tab.
  • Keep track of your food’s carbon footprint. 
  • Follow Spud by Facebook/Twitter for more fun stuff.

If you want to give Spud a try and get $25 free after your first 4 deliveries, use my promo code: CR5-147718.

Tell me about your Spud experience!

Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Family Footprint

One of my goals has been to calculate our family’s carbon footprint. Having tinkered with them before expanding our household, I know how widely the results can vary. So, I initially committed to trying three calculators to compare results before settling on a footprint baseline to gauge progress. 

First I tested the EPA calculator, which estimated that we emit 1,021 pounds per person (U.S. average is 20,750), for a family total of roughly 4 tons. Then Oregon DEQ calculator targeted our total family footprint at 35 tons which seems very high compared to other calculators! 

Lastly, I plugged in our energy bill info and consumption estimates into the Carbon Footprint Calculator, which claims to be the most accurate available globally. It estimated a family footprint of 9.7 tons of carbon. Here are the details:

Your Carbon Footprint:

House – 0.14 metric tons of carbon
Flights – 2.82 metric tons of carbon (4x PDX to EWR per year to see Hubby’s family)
Car – 3.08 metric tons of carbon
Bus & Rail – 0.19 metric tons of carbon
Secondary – 3.47 metric tons of carbon

TOTAL: 9.70 metric tons

Carbon Comparison:

  • Your carbon footprint is 9.70 metric tons per year
  • The average footprint for people in the U.S. is 20.40 metric tons
  • The average footprint in industrial nations is 11 metric tons
  • The average worldwide carbon footprint is 4 metric tons
  • The worldwide target to combat climate change is 2 metric tons

We have a long way to go to have a so-called carbon neutral footprint, but our daily efforts do add up to a comparatively smaller footprint. Yet, cutting our footprint by another half feels like a big goal.

Our effort to drive less and commute by transit cuts our transportation footprint by about half, we drive an average of 6,000 miles and the U.S. average is 12,000 miles for a total of 6+ tons. This could still be reduced, particularly by keeping our camping adventures closer to home. 

More than the driving, it’s obvious that our annual trip to see Hubby’s family back East has a huge footprint, nearly a third of our impact. I paid to offset our last trip, but I not going to fool myself into thinking that this wipes away the pollution. You’re probably asking yourself, how could I have a goal of traveling to Denmark while working to reduce our family footprint?! Well the simple answer is that family matters, and I miss my “family” and friends so much that I can barely stand to wait another year to see them all. To keep our footprint in balance, I am committing to only making the trip once a decade no matter how dearly I miss my adopted homeland.

Have you calculated your family footprint?
Which calculator do this is most accurate?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Preserving Primer

Canning, and food preservation in general, is finding its way back into busy modern lives. Whether you preserve your own backyard harvest or simply store up the fresh farmer’s market flavor for a colder season, food preservation is both more sustainable and more economical.

Unfortunately, there’s also good reason to can for your family’s health. Many commercial canning companies line cans with an epoxy resin containing the BPA chemical .  I’ve known for several years about the potential harm from BPA laced baby bottles , but it was only this past winter that I realized that all my handy tomato cans contained BPA.

This has renewed my motivation to become a confident canner. I’ve only dabbled in canning really, but have fond memories of making blackberry jam. I was eager to do more than just freeze this past summer, but with an infant the learning curve seemed too steep. 

So, I’ve been educating myself lately, well in advance of the harvest peak. A month ago I attended a lunch brown bag at the library, then gleaning some wisdom and recipes from my mom’s group, and an evening class on “ preserving the harvest .”  The most important thing I’ve learned so far is not to be intimidated! If you preserve in smaller batches it doesn’t take as much time as you’d think. Make it part of your lifestyle and have fun with it!

I also checked a few books out from the library  Homemade Living: Canning & Preserving with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Make Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Chutneys & More

There will be more posts throughout the summer on food preservation, and I would love to exchange ideas with other newbies, dabblers and veterans.

What are your favorite foods to preserve for your family?

Sustainable Family Finances
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.