Category Archives: carbon footprint

Green News

My Hubby happens to be a news hound, and the Sunday paper is sacred in our household. He religiously culls the ads and shares the comics with our BigGuy. Sadly, anyones who reads the news knows that the atrocious gulf oil spew and need for climate legislation top the headlines.

We are like many “sustainable” families, and  opt to only get the Sunday news in paper form. The rest of the news we read online.

Here are my two favorite places to get green news:

  • Sightline Daily – I’ve received this daily digest in my inbox for almost a decade, and it’s a great quick way to keep up on environmental news from a regional perspective.
  • Grist – They provide a nationally focused environmental news digest, but with a satirical twist. All the news titles have clever/humorous (or really not so funny) titles.
While technically not news, I’m also a fan of several green news blog, like Green from the New York Times and the Huffington Post I find that the fact of the news is most interesting when captured in a cultural context.

Here’s my short personal commentary on recent news: My only hope is that in calamity there can be found opportunity and political will to finally pass national climate legislation. Fiscally conservative skeptics claim that climate policy will have steep economic costs. Yet, the EPA estimates that the climate bill will cost families than than a postage stamp The real question is whether we want to pay the tab today or pass the bill to the next generation at the expense of species, cultures and global stability. 

How do you prefer your news? 
How green do you like it?

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

Google Docs Sharing

Documents may not be so inspiring, but they are oh so practical. In the new year I’ve become a huge fan of Google Docs. I feel like I’ve turned a new leaf in terms of my financial organization, and Google Docs become favorite tool. Being able to share a common document to share is pure genius, even if you just want to share it with yourself on multiple computers. Hubby and I finally have some key documents handy. It’s also been very helpful for sharing info with my Sis regarding the blog admin.

One of my first tasks in getting a handle on our finances was to create a document that lists every account we hold, including account number, password/login, and web page.  I have to admit that up until recently I would repeatedly forget my login/password, and feel feeble and foolish every time. During my first maternity leave I would have placed a bet that my accounts had been flagged “lady who can’t seem to remember anything!” I feel so much relief knowing that I have the info at my finger tips and don’t have to waste my time with the hassle of resetting passwords. Plus, I shared it with Hubby via Google Docs, so now we both have all the info to deal with our finances (I’m sure glad that I didn’t get hit by a bus before drafting that doc! 😉

I created a handy document for “Home Carbon Stats” that includes all the standard info asked on carbon footprint surveys. It makes it much easier to fill them out and to make sure that my results are consistent. It will also help for longer term tracking.

I’ve also uploaded our 2010 Family Goals, which include our finances, recreation, community volunteering and home improvement goals.

I also got a tip from a co-worker Mama recently who has created lists for each of the grocery stores she visits for specific items, like Costco  and Trader Joe’s.

I have two more documents that I’ll share more about later this week, one called “Wish List” and one called “Neighborhood Places.”

Do you use Google Docs? Let me know if you have tips of your own.

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

Get Growing

“In the Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” – Marget Atwood

My kiddos agree. Spring is such a glorious season, and my favorite part is getting out in the garden! I love when it’s finally warm enough to spend the majority of our family time outdoors.  It’s also exciting to teach them as the plants begin to grow with our  favorite kids’ garden books .

Growing your own food is one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint, as the average produce has traveled 1500-2500 food miles to reach your plate. Plus, it really helps you eat what’s in season and growing organic food is a great way to connect with the environment. 

It also a very cost effective way to feed your family healthy food. As you can see from my harvest of tomatoes last year, a few productive plants can provide an abundant harvest. If you can harvest for just a few weeks you’ll easily reap a return on your investment. Although I’ve never actually tried to quantify my “garden investment,” and hope this season to track it better.

Including soil amendment, this past weekend I spent $65 to get my garden started: tomatoes, basil, eggplant, celery, onions, leeks, potatoes, spinach, lettuce, cucumber, green beans, and dill. I had previously planted broccoli, cauliflower, shallots and garlic. I also have an herb garden with marjoram, oregano, curry, parsley, thyme, sage, peppermint, lemon-balm and lavender. We also have blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, rhubarb and apples.  The best advice that I’ve ever gotten is to plant what you love to eat!

You can make your garden even really budget friendly by starting from seed. Although I have to admit that I’m choosing mostly starts this season, since last year I ended up loosing almost all of my seedlings after getting sick. Until my kiddos get a little older and can truly help out with the seed process, I need to stick with the instant gratification of getting beautiful starts in the fresh Earth.

Gardening does have a steep learning curve, but don’t be intimidated. I learn more every year; last year my leeks didn’t produce much and I just realized that I didn’t plant them deep enough. My gardening “bible” is Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening The “companion” workbook is also very helpful, as it provides a handy place to plan your space, log your planting dates, and make garden dreams a reality  Maria Rodale’s Organic Gardening Companion.

Are you planning a veggie garden for your family?
Have you been successful in trimming your grocery bill?

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

Clean Energy Works – Part 3

We are elated to have accomplished our biggest household goal; fully insulating our leaky 1904 home. It was made possible through a new program in Portland called Clean Energy Works, which I’ve talked about in detail in Part 1 and Part 2.

EcoTech did a blow test before insulating, which measured that our old house leaked 5901 CFM (Cubic Feet Per Minute). After all the work was done, the house measured 3823 CFM, a difference of 2078 CFM! Increasing our home efficiency by a third feels like a good investment!

Only time will tell how much of a difference it will make for our utility bill and carbon footprint, but I will be to give seasonal updates and report out after the first year. Our efforts were further validated when I read how “energy efficiency is the best and cheapest way to cover the next generation’s electricity needs.” 

Even though winter is past us (thank God!), we can already feel the difference in our home with the breezy spring. We’ve been talking with our BigGuy about the work being done and have explained that we’ve put a big blanket around our home. It truly feels cozy and snug, and it’s not just me feeling warm and mushy about the money saved and pollution curbed.

Beyond heating and cooling benefits, a benefit most people don’t think about is how much outside sound is reduced when your home is insulated. Our residential neighborhood is on the edge of the urban acitivity and we are totally used to hearing the “sounds of the city” (in quotations because we have a cute book with the same title 🙂 Yet, the general noise reduction has been calming.

What types of home efficiency has you invested in for your family?

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

Carbon Calculator #2

I took my second crack at calculating our family’s carbon footprint by using one from Oregon DEQ. Even if you don’t live in Oregon, I would recommend trying it out. There’s nothing that would exclude non-Ducks/Beavers, although it does have a handy comparison between your footprint, Oregon average and U.S. average. The most interesting thing was that it asked your family’s gross income. You can see instantly how your footprint either increases or decreases depending on your income level. The calculator assumes that your driving and consumption will increase by a third if your salary jumps from $50k to $100k. While I understand the assumption, I certainly don’t think it has to be that way.
It calculated that we emit 35 tons of carbon per year, 53% of comparable households, but 267% of the global average. The calculator broke down the “score” and showed that we were 53% on travel, 78% for housing (before our Clean Energy Works insulation!), 45% for shopping. This calucator was much better than most in considering the impact of consumption: shopping, food, and household supplies. I appreciate this in light of a new study that reveals how “Consumption matters as much as energy and transportation.”
The instant nature of this calculator also made for a more impressive comparison on other big ticket items. If it weren’t for our roughly annual trip to visit family back East, our travel footprint would be a 1/3 of average. The trip costs us 4 tons a year, so I’m glad I paid an extra $25 to offset our last trip. I don’t think purchasing offsets gives us any right to pollute, but it feels like a voluntary eco-tax.
The calculator also had a take action pledge section as the last step. It showed how much various actions would save you in carbon and money, and how much it could cost up front. It was an easy way to see what could give you the most carbon-savings for your dollar.

Give the calculator a try and let me know how your family scores! 

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