On August 18, 2017, Grace Farms had the distinct honor of hosting Living Sustainably | Beyond Recycling featuring Scott E. Thompson, a Certified Sustainability Professional, who discussed the simple and effective lifestyle changes that can start you on your way to a greener life. Thompson took us through some steps to reduce our carbon footprints both in our homes and in our daily lives, which we’ve summarized below.
Single Stream Recycling & Composting:
Thanks to single stream recycling available in most areas, as well as a larger presence of recyclable materials, every person has the ability to divert waste from the landfill or burn plant. In most homes, with proper recycling, you can produce more recyclable material than actual garbage and by composting you can limit your garbage even further. Thompson has found that composting at home is an easy option, but for those people who don’t have the time or ability to compost on their own, he recommends services like Curbside Compost. The best way to reduce waste in your life is to learn more about the Zero Waste Movement and follow “The Five Rs.”
Home Energy Audits:
Connecticut residents who are United Illuminating customers pay a nominal fee for home energy audits, and could incur roughly more than $1,000 in savings as a result. These audits include changing lightbulbs, sink and shower fixtures, sealing and caulking air leaks in your home, evaluating insulation and HVAC systems, making suggestions for Energy Star appliances, and outlining a plan that delineates the costs, savings, and potential return on your investment for making your home even more energy efficient.
One of the single biggest things you can do to move the needle on your carbon footprint is to add solar panels to your home, and greatly reduce what you spend on electricity. There are options that make the process of going solar very affordable, including government tax incentives, and the potential to go solar with no upfront investment, by financing or leasing. Thompson suggested visiting Solarize Connecticut for more information if you are considering taking this step for your own home.
There are many simple ways to conserve water, including using low flow sink and shower fixtures or using a barrel to collect rain water and applying it to gardens and other outdoor water needs. Hot water used in the home requires a lot of energy, so on-demand hot water heaters are a great solution, as is using solar hot water, which is a very efficient and economical technology.
Passive Solar Design:
If you have the opportunity to renovate your current home, incorporating the right design can greatly reduce energy use. Passive solar design uses the orientation of the sun, overhangs and awnings, and highly efficient windows to capture the sun’s heat in the winter and minimize the solar gain in the summer. There are several passive solar design architects nearby, and Thompson surmises that while you might spend ten percent more on the building, you will save in electricity over the life of the structure by maximizing the solar gain. Buildings designed this way are also healthier to live in because of the increased exposure to natural light.
Considered the second best way to reduce your carbon footprint, decreasing the carbon emissions on your transportation is a top priority. The most fuel efficient gas-powered cars on the market only provide thirty to forty miles per gallon, while a hybrid, like a Toyota Prius, allows for about 48 miles to the gallon. The best option is to use an electric car, which can be offset by federal and Connecticut incentives, and achieves the equivalent of about 125 miles to the gallon. Of course, a commuter bike, taking the train, or even walking is an even more efficient alternative to any of these, and telecommuting provides the most energy efficient option of all.
Thompson points out that our eating habits can also greatly influence our carbon footprint, and individuals have great power to make changes. When we eat lower on the food chain—consuming more plants and grain than meat—it makes a big difference for the environment, as does eating USDA organic foods, which are non-GMO and don’t use pesticides. Frequenting farmer’s markets helps in this effort, and Fairfield Green Food Guide provides a comprehensive listing of farmer’s markets and farm stands in the Fairfield County area.
From a lifestyle perspective, engaging in more energy efficient activities such as cross-country skiing, sailing, running, and surfing can make a difference to the surrounding environment. Additionally, making your own cleaners using a few simple ingredients can save you money, decrease chemicals in your home, and reduce your waste. Planning eco-friendly trips, and getting actively involved in national and regional organizations that protect our environment can make a difference, too. The Sierra Club, for example, is one of the largest environmental organization in the U.S. and has many facets to engage people from all different backgrounds and areas of interest, and there are several local organizations as well.
While considering changing all of these behaviors collectively may seem overwhelming, Thompson suggests applying one principle at a time until it becomes a way of life, and laying out a simple five-year plan to make the process of reducing your carbon footprint more manageable and achievable.
Grace Farms Foundation is very committed to our own sustainability efforts, including composting, pictured above, and our geothermal system, which you can learn more about in this video. If you are interested in learning more, or becoming involved with Grace Farms’ sustainability efforts, please email us at [email protected].