Zero-Waste: Is That A Helpful Term?

The other day, our kids were at school, so my husband and I took a rare walk just the two of us. Like many couples these days, our conversation turned to current events and the upcoming election. We discussed climate change and the need for the United States to re-join the Paris Climate Agreement. He said that big, government moves must happen in order to make a difference. I immediately thought of GreenLifeNH and our aim of “Inspiring Positive Change Toward a Greener Tomorrow.” Sure, strong federal policies are imperative, but we can also do things on a personal level. Collectively, we can make a difference. For example, think of how many plastic bags have been avoided since bringing your bags to the store has became more mainstream. It’s not a law in many places, but it stills happens and helps the Earth.

It would be dishonest to say that all of my home’s earth-friendly habits were immediately welcomed and embraced. It took a while to get this house on-board with composting, dousing everything in castile soap and saying goodbye to paper towels. We still keep a few paper towels on hand for “emergencies” (they’re hidden away in order to avoid thoughtless use) and sometimes Windex really does work the best. But, nevertheless, our routines have evolved over the past few years, one step at a time. As I mentioned here, sometimes people initially balk at new ideas and then slowly grow to accept and enjoy them.

Take-out has been a source of happiness for us during the pandemic. We order-in about once a week and recycle and compost a lot of the packaging. I also think we should be supporting small, local businesses during this time. But is it zero-waste? No

During our walk, my husband also shared that he finds the term “zero-waste” unrealistic. Does it make people afraid to embrace this type of lifestyle? It might. No matter how hard we try, waste and trash happen because we live in the world and can’t be perfect all of the time. Not to mention, we are also living through a global pandemic. Protecting our mental health is important too.

A recent morning after I’d been working and the girls had been playing. Some of our toys were handed-down, others were purchased new. Honestly, some broken pieces will likely end-up in the trash. But we will also pass a lot onto others.

So what can do? Should we change the term from zero-waste to less-waste? Maybe we should! Take one step at a time – do a trash audit, buy some fabric napkins, eat less meat. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. And if the term “zero-waste” makes you uncomfortable, say good-bye to it! Embrace the term “less-waste” instead. Or, better yet, call it nothing and just keep truckin’. – Rachel

*The “Real Change” photo was borrowed from @sherylsandberg

How Was Your Week?

The girls and I went apple picking this past week and had a lot of fun with our bounty! Homemade apple sauce, apple pies and lots of crunchy fruit to snack on! Also wishing I had purchased more cider donuts. Gould Hill makes the best ones I’ve ever tasted. Plus, my husband and I mailed our ballots this week! Do you have a voting plan? Remember – voting is an easy and cheap way to help the Earth! What was a highlight of your week? Share below! In the meantime, let’s take a look at what’s happening around the web…

Halloween is on its way! Kids VT offers some tips for an eco-friendly and festive holiday. Hannah does too!

Are you a big tech person? I’m a bit old-fashioned but my husband loves all things gadgets. That can be tricky when trying to balance zero-waste ambitions. Good news – Apple is improving their ways!

When Covid hit, a lot of us started buying things more locally. I know I did! I had always shopped at Farmer’s Markets and the Concord Co-Op, but I suddenly found myself using our local assets even more. What if we lived that way all of the time?

Recycling is a tricky issue. Some places are abandoning their recycling programs, while others aim to find new ways to improve theirs! For example, The Guardian writes about a super-enzyme that eats plastic bottles six times faster! EPA America is also hosting The America Recycles: Innovation Fair, which will showcase recent advances in recycling technology, product development, and materials usage.

And here’s a recap of other topics Hannah and I discussed this week on GreenLifeNH!

Like what you see? Make sure to subscribe (look on the bottom of the home page)! Thank you and enjoy your weekend!

Products We Use: Crayola

Dear Readers,

I am a homeschooling mom of three (thanks, COVID) and I have an embarrassing array of markers, colored pencils, and crayons for my kids to choose from. This is partially because my mom passed on all my childhood art supplies (yes, she saved them) and partially because I love art supplies and, before my zero waste lifestyle, I used to get a new set of something almost every year.

Colored pencils are really the coloring medium for kids because they can be resharpened, don’t break easily, and don’t go bad (plus, Crayola makes them from reforested wood). Crayons come in second because they can be resharpened and don’t go bad (but my toddler is excellent at breaking them). Also, you can melt them down and turn them into new rainbow crayons.

But markers, alas, markers! They are so vibrant, so fun to use! And so unsustainable. They are made from plastic. They dry up super fast. And, if my toddler gets her hands on them, they lose their tips and are useless forever. In order to mitigate this, I try to give them access to only a few at a time, to enforce the top rule, and to recycle them when they give up the ghost.

Recycle markers? In 2013, Crayola launched the Colorcycle program, which allows you to recycle markers (any kind of markers, not just Crayola). It’s a great way to introduce your kids to recycling because markers are something they use (unlike bean cans). Have your kids decorate the box with their markers and wait until it fills up to mail it in (I just checked, though, and you need to hold onto for the time being because of COVID).

Why am I promoting Crayola? It seems like big business. Shouldn’t I be supporting a small, local art supply company. For one thing, if you have kids, you need a lot of art supplies. It’s like fish and water. And Crayola is really focused on sustainability. Look at their sustainability page! How many companies use 100% solar power to make their U.S. products (Enough to make over 3 billion crayons & 700 million markers a year)? How many companies are poised to be carbon negative by 2022? And I already mentioned the colored pencils and the marker recovery program.

So draw on, friends!

– Hannah

Guest Post! Foraging Fungi in NH Forests

Hannah Kivikoski has been a nature enthusiast and animal lover since childhood. She explored the American outdoors with her mother, driving and camping across the country. Now, with her husband, two sons, one dog, three cats, four chickens, one bunny, and a bucket of worms, she works on introducing nature into her suburban NH neighborhood. She is known as the mushroom lady by some, and the wild gardener by others.

When I was a little girl, and my mom and I would venture into the woods, I was always fascinated by the fungi. All of those beautiful mushrooms scattered alongside the trail; different colors, different levels of decay, different sizes, and shapes. We would make a game out of how many each of us could find. Three years ago, I received an email from Prescott Hill Farm in Laconia, NH – they were offering a mushroom walk, or “foray” led by New Hampshire Mushroom Company. I was so excited that there was finally an opportunity for me to learn, in a tangible way, more about these beautiful trailside fungi. 

Mushrooms are as familiar as they are alien. I for one am taken by their mystery, and the sheer variety of this beautiful kingdom. After my first foray with Eric Milligan, founder of NH Mushroom Company, I became increasingly aware of how very little I knew about mushrooms. Eric taught us that mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of mitochondria, threadlike organisms, that I cannot pretend to fully understand. He taught us that mushrooms are misunderstood, understudied, and remain an enigma to even mycologists. He, however, was able to identify all the mushrooms that our group found during the foray, giving us both the common and scientific name. To say the least, it was incredibly impressive.    

I have been lucky enough to go on four forays with NH Mushroom Company. Each time I have learned new things and built upon my previous knowledge. I have grown ever so slightly more confident in my own mushroom identification skills. This summer was a challenging year for mushroom hunters. The “flash drought”, as Eric called it, caused many mushrooms to decide not to bloom. It was not optimal breeding ground for their spores, and so they will remain unseen for another year. With this said, on my most recent mushroom walk, we were able to find Hericium americium, Lion’s Mane mushroom. This is a choice, edible mushroom, also scientifically proven to have incredible healing properties. It can cross the blood-brain barrier and stimulate nerve growth, helping people with Alzheimer’s, dementia, depression, and anxiety, just to name a few. A popular recipe for Lion’s Mane mushroom, is a “faux” crab cake. With a taste and texture similar to fresh crab, a vegetarian does not have to miss a thing, and can enjoy this alternative protein.

Earlier in this year’s mushroom season, right in my own backyard, my son and I found Chicken of the Woods, or Laetporus sulfurous. This mushroom is aptly name for its similarities to chicken. It is a polypore mushroom, growing on the side of oak trees or stumps. It can be prepared just as one would prepare chicken. We fried ours, and ate them in chicken sandwiches. Even my husband, who is moderately afraid of my foraged feasts, enjoyed this find.    

There is so much to learn about the wonderful world of mushrooms, but Eric encourages his pupils not to be discouraged by the vastness of the realm. There are some excellent books and identification guides to be purchased, specific to our area. I would urge anyone interested in mushroom hunting to try a foray with NH Mushroom Company. There is a lot of information about mushrooms, but as with anything, make sure that you are paying attention to the right sources. Never eat anything without being one hundred percent positive what it is, “When in doubt, throw it out!” There is so much to enjoy in our NH woods, let the fungus among us be yet another. 

Thank you, Hannah, for your fun and educational post! We loved learning about this topic. – Rachel

Halloween Costumes that will please your kids and the planet

It’s that time again! I love Halloween. It’s so much fun to watch children transform into the stuff of fairy tales, myths, and yes, even Disney movies and video games. For that one night they get to be whoever they want and, hidden behind masks, traipse from house to house in their neighborhood knocking on doors. Fun stuff!

But store-bought Halloween costumes are truly the worst of the worst waste-wise – basically a cheaply made suit worn once (or a few more times, if you’re lucky) and then trashed because it got wrecked, doesn’t fit anymore, or the kids have moved on. So, how can we green Halloween costumes?

Here are a few options. I have listed them from easiest to hardest. You can decide what works best for you based on your child, your time, and your skill set.

IDEA ONE: Put out all the dress-up clothes you can find in your house (including your own random hats, jewelry, etc and anything you have stored away in the “too big bins”) and let your kids make costumes from that. You can always embellish these with a handmade mask or borrow an extra whatever form grandparents or friends. This is how Halloween costumes used to be created (see: ghost costume made from a pillowcase).

IDEA TWO: Do that same thing, but with neighbors or family involved. This will give you a bigger selection and increase the cool factor because your kids can choose from other people’s clothing and costumes, which is always fun. Make it a (socially distanced) party and include some cupcakes to up the ante.

IDEA THREE: Put out an ISO message on Facebook or Craigslist and see what people in your area have. You never know who will have the size four Cinderella costume of your child’s dreams. (Please use the normal precautions when making these kinds of transactions).

IDEA FOUR: Buy a used Halloween costume at Goodwill. We have had really good luck at Goodwill over the years, often finding the exact costume our kids want because, let’s be real, kids aren’t always particularly creative and, when my daughter wanted to be Cinderella last year (see above), we found three different size four Cinderella costumes at the local Goodwill.

IDEA FIVE: Buy a used Halloween costume online. There are lots of places selling used Halloween costumes these days. Just Google “used size 4 Cinderella costume” or whatever. But do it quickly because used things do not ship as quickly as Amazon.

IDEA SIX: Sew or create your own Halloween costumes from clothes you already own or clothes from Goodwill. I have to admit that, even though this is the hardest way to get a zero-waste costume, this is almost always how we do it. Why? Because I actually do enjoy the process of coming up with and making costumes, but I don’t like to buy new fabric or materials. Here’s how we do it:

  • The kids tell me what they want to be (I try to steer them toward something like “Astrophysicist” over “Ninjago”, but in the end, it’s their costume).
  • I ask them to draw me a detailed illustration of their dream costume.
  • We search their closets and the dress up bin for anything that will work. For example, my son will be a Gryphon this year, so we looked for brown clothes in everyone’s closets. My older daughter will be a pegasus, so she looked for anything white.
  • We make a list of anything we still need and visit Goodwill. Goodwill has literally never let us down. Going toward the beginning of October is best if you want a specific costume, but if you’re just looking for brown pants, anytime is fine. I try to think of the clothes we find there as “fabric”, so an adult large dress shirt is perfect to make a girl’s dress, etc.
  • With the kids’ help, I create the costumes. Usually this has involved changing the size of a few pieces of clothing and adding elements like ears, tails, or, in the case of the Ninjago costume, drawing a whole bunch of weapons onto a gray sweatshirt.
  • Usually the kids do a few bits and pieces, but I do the trickier elements because they are still young. Older kids could do this process entirely by themselves, which would be a lot of fun and give them a sense of ownership over their costumes.

I hope you and your children have a wonderful Halloween this year. Post pictures of your found or created costumes to inspire others and let me know if you have other ways of greening Halloween.

– Hannah

What Is Fracking?

Fracking: the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks, boreholes, etc. so as to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas.

Fracking was a hot topic during last week’s Vice Presidential debate so I thought it would be helpful to discuss this technique and its effect the environment. To be clear, both Harris and Pence stated that their campaigns support fracking, even though many environmentalists are opposed. The NRDC offers this helpful summary. While fracking provides natural gas and other fossil fuels, it also strains the Earth’s resources. For example, the extraction process uses a high amount of water, and this can aggravate a region that’s already suffering from a drought. Fracking chemicals also contaminate the water supply. Other issues include gas and oil pipe leaks, air pollution (such as methane, which is a contributor to climate change) and earthquakes caused by the fracking process.

In order to offer a balanced argument, I looked into why fracking should be supported. Forbes offers that fracking “has abruptly lowered energy prices, strengthened energy security and even lowered air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions by displacing coal in electricity generation. The lower energy prices have meant more money in the pockets of American families and businesses. And the lower emissions are certainly good news for our health with large reductions in air pollution dispersed across the country and, at least for the near term, our climate.” While the NRDC article counters this theory of lowering pollution, no one can argue that lower prices and cost savings aren’t benefits for the average family. Yet are we being forced to pay in a different way?

As a lay person, choosing a side seems useless. It’s like arguing that SUVs are environmentally better huge pick-up trucks (which it’s possible they are), when we should be focusing on electric cars instead. (Full disclosure – I drive a small SUV because it’s what currently works best for my family. Not perfect here.) Rather, this country should be putting time and focus into strengthening our use of solar and wind energy, in order to eventually move away from fossil fuels entirely. Here’s where The Green New Deal comes into play. I wish the VP candidates would have supported that platform during the debate, rather than shying away and dangling the proverbial fracking carrot in front us instead. – Rachel

What Happened This Week?

Fall is in the air! I’ve pulled out the warmer coats and soups are starting to simmer on the stove. Used local leeks and potatoes to make this favorite for dinner this week. In the meantime, the election is imminent! Let’s see how politics affect the environment. Plus some other fun links to share.

Recycling continues to be a controversial issue in New Hampshire. Some argue it saves money because it diverts waste from the land fill (and all of the fees associated with disposing of that waste) while others argue that it costs tax-payers more. As always, you can avoid this issue by reducing, reusing, refusing, repairing, rotting and respecting.

The Green New Deal was a hot topic during this week’s Vice Presidential debate. I’m sure you’ve heard about this plan, but do you know the details? We offer a summary.

Eversource hosted “Energy Saves Day,” where they provided energy-saving tips while we hunker down during the colder months. There are some great suggestions on this sheet. For example, did you know you cooling your food, before putting in the fridge, saves energy? I didn’t!

A fun video from the Northeast Resource Recovery Association: Tuck Your Worms in at Night: Subpod Food Scrap Composting Setup. You can also learn basic composting techniques on GreenLifeNH!

And here’s a recap of other topics Hannah and I discussed this week on GreenLifeNH!

Like what you see? Make sure to subscribe (look on the bottom of the home page) and tell us (via the comments section below) what else you’d like to hear about! We are all on this journey together. Thank you and enjoy your weekend!

Build your Eco-Hygge Survival Kit Now!

While I would argue that we never need AC in New Hampshire, heating our houses to at least 55 degrees in the Winter is usually a must so that pipes (and people) don’t freeze. But how can we keep ourselves comfortable and even cozy without turning up the thermostat? The answer, I think, is eco-hygge.

What is hygge? If you’ve somehow missed this wonderful word, “hygge” (pronounced hoogah) is a Danish and Norwegian word for “a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment” (thanks, Wikipedia).

Hygge usually brings to my mind a cup of hot cocoa, a warm fire, some wool socks (not the scratchy kind), good friends or a good book, and maybe some quiet music in the background. All wonderful things on a chilly New England (or Scandinavian) day.

What do we need to do to prepare for the coming months so we can stay cozy and warm without using a ton of fuel and wasting unnecessary of resources? Prepare your Eco-Hygge Survival Kit now so you’ll be ready when it gets chilly.

ECO-HYGGE SURVIVAL KIT CHECKLIST

(As always, please don’t jump to your amazon page or run to Target if you are missing something from this list – Ask around, shop used and local, or make do with what you have on hand!)

FOR EACH FAMILY MEMBER:

  • Soft wool socks (If you don’t have any good ones, I recommend Darn Tough socks from Vermont or Solmate recycled socks).
  • Warm slippers (I have had my Glerups for four years and they are amazing. Worth the investment!)
  • A cozy sweater, fleece, or shawl (basically a portable blanket)
  • A favorite mug for tea, coffee, or hot chocolate
  • Wool blankets and/or down comforters for the beds
  • We have been known to imitate the pioneers and send children to bed with a hot water bottle for their feet.

FOR THE FAMILY

  • Warm throw blankets for the couch
  • A place in the sun – try to situate the couches, breakfast table, etc in sunny places in the house to maximize natural solar heating
  • Beeswax candles to warm the mood
  • An upbeat playlist to get everyone dancing
  • A list of everyone’s favorite cookie and bread recipes (leave the oven door open afterward to make use of the heat)
  • Soup and casserole recipes to warm up your insides
  • A warm drink center with mugs, loose teas, hot cocoa, coffee, etc
  • Shovels, sleds, skis, snowshoes… a cool house feels warm after a fun afternoon out in the snow
  • Winter reading, listening, and watch list for those long snuggly afternoons on the couch
  • (Post-COVID, it’ll be great to visit libraries, coffee shops, and other “third places” to enjoy the shared warmth of a public space again)

FOR THE HOME

  • The most effective way to cut down on your heating, is to winterize your home. Read this article to find out how my mom winterized her home to cut down on her carbon footprint and save money.
  • Stop cold air leaks with heavy curtains, thick rugs, towels under the doors.
  • Close off any rooms you don’t need to heat. Three season rooms, garages, porches, guest bedrooms, etc can all be left cold as long as they don’t have water pipes.
  • Keep the doors and windows closed as much as possible. Heavy curtains should let in warm sunlight, but be closed at night.

Join my family as we challenge ourselves to keep the heat off as long as possible. We succeeded in staying AC free this summer, let’s see if we can keep warm without turning up the heat this winter!

– Hannah

How do you stay warm in Autumn and Winter?

Guest Post! What is your Household Carbon Footprint? And What Can You Do About It?

Today we have a guest post from our friend and fellow Concord resident Jessica Forrest! Jessica has developed tools for companies to measure and reduce their environmental impacts, and has worked with her city of Concord, New Hampshire on carbon footprinting and strategic planning relative to their ambitious 100% renewable energy and emissions reductions goals.  While spending most of the last 6 months trying to keep up with her two boys through the pandemic, she has turned her thoughts to things on the home front.

My city of Concord, New Hampshire recently completed a carbon footprint for the entire community.  The study found that just under half of the city‘s greenhouse gas emissions came from residential use, including gasoline for our vehicles (50%), the fuel used to heat our homes (38%),  and electricity to power our lights and appliances (10%).  The findings emphasized, among other things, the importance of homeowner action for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our community.

With our city’s Fellow crunching these numbers over the summer, my family of four wanted to find new ways to reduce our own household emissions, but we didn’t know where to start.  So, we decided to calculate our household carbon footprint for one year of our Concord, New Hampshire lives.  Here, I’ll tell you about how we went about it, and what we found.

The Tool

There are many carbon footprinting tools available online, including those from Carbon Footprint, The Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  My family and I selected that from Carbon Footprint for ease of use, flexibility, and ability to save results.  This tool also allowed us to easily run scenarios to determine the effect of specific lifestyle changes (such as reducing our household meat consumption, or adding one cross-country flight per year)  on our overall carbon footprint.  We chose June 2019 to May 2020 as the baseline year for electricity and heat, and 2019 as the baseline for transportation, since the COVID-19 pandemic had clear impact on our transportation use.  We pulled out our electricity and natural gas bills, which indicate the amount of kilowatt-hours (kwH) and therms we used over the course of one year.

The Results

Needless to say, my family was surprised by the results! Our family burned nearly 45 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) in 2019 to support our lifestyle, equivalent to the weight of 45 small cars. This is just about average for an American family of four.  Of this, 11.5 metric tons CO2e came from the fuel used to heat our home, power our two cars, and turn on our electric appliances.  Other major sources of emissions included that annual flight my family likes to take for vacation (releasing 4.8 tons CO2e) and our food consumption (which released 10.5 tons CO2e).  Other sources included the manufacturing of the things we buy and own such as our clothes, computers, and family cars, and our consumption of other tangible and nontangible goods that nonetheless have impact along their supply chain.  These secondary, or indirect emissions sources contributed a whopping 18 metric tons CO2e to our family footprint.

Figure 1. Our total household carbon footprint.The sources of emissions that we have the most control over – fuel, flights, and food – are shown in color.   Fuel and flights are considered direct emissions sources, while food consumption is an indirect source with emissions throughout the supply chain.  Additional indirect or secondary emissions are shown in grey.  The emissions estimated from our fuel consumption and flights are most accurate to our lifestyle.  The emissions estimated from secondary sources such as food consumption, manufactured items, activities, home and insurance, and education are less customized, based on general assumptions on average supply chain emissions (CO2e/$) from consumption of these goods and services (Carbon Footprint 2020, DEFRA 2012).  

Electricity A surprise for us was that we had expected our electricity usage to be a large driver of our annual emissions – in fact, it comprised only 10% of our fuel-related emissions (or 1.21 CO2e), and an even smaller portion of our total carbon footprint.  One reason for this is that Northern New England’s energy mix is already somewhat clean compared with typical heating and transportation fuels, comprised of 30% nuclear and 20% renewable. The remaining 50% of the electricity energy mix is natural gas, coal and oil.  At this point, all but three of New England’s remaining coal plants have been phased out – but two of these remain in New Hampshire – degrading our air quality in addition to producing emissions! Importantly, the Carbon Footprint calculator enables you to enter New England’s conversion factor for electricity to represent our unique grid energy mix.*

My household’s electricity-based emissions were reduced somewhat by measures we had already taken  to improve energy efficiency, such as replacing worn out appliances with EPA Energy Star alternatives,  replacing incandescent light bulbs with LED’s, and refraining from using our electric heat fixtures and air conditioners when possible.  We decided to further reduce our electricity-based emissions moving forward by switching to a competitive electricity provider that was building new wind power in New England.  A list of such providers is available from the Public Utility Commission and Unitil (be sure to select one that provides renewable power).  Another popular option is to install solar power to eliminate your electricity bill completely!

Heating Fuel

The largest perpetrator of our carbon emissions was the natural gas used to heat our home and cook with.  These sources contributed 60% of our household fuel related carbon emissions!  This is a tough one for us, as we have an old home and we live in New England where winters are cold!  We had already undertaken the process of weatherizing our home in 2012 with assistance from NH Saves, replacing our old boiler and hot water tank with the most efficient natural gas versions available at the time, replacing old windows, and reducing our thermostat a couple degrees in winter.  These steps had already reduced our energy use and natural gas bill substantially.  However, we clearly have a lot more to do to phase out our use of natural gas!  Next steps include using less hot water in our shower and washer, further weatherizing the remaining leaky areas of our home, replacing our cooking stove and gas fireplace with electric alternatives, and installing air source heat pumps and solar hot water.  This process is going to take some time!

Transportation

Another huge emissions source for my family are our cars, contributing 30% of our fuel related emissions.  We already drive one hybrid car, using this car for longer trips and commutes.  We use a small All-Wheel Drive car around town and on snowy days.  This result shows that we need to redouble our efforts to drive less and carpool, bike and walk more.  Eventually, we plan to replace our existing cars with electric vehicles (EVs), which are becoming more available and affordable each year.  In fact, some economies plan to ban the sale of gasoline vehicles entirely.  So, we need to get with the program and buy EV’s!

Other Emissions Sources

Other common sources of household emissions included air travel, food, and material good consumption.  If we cut out that annual family air trip per year and stay local, we would knock 4.8 CO2e metric tons (>10%) off our total carbon footprint, more than our total gasoline emissions from driving for an entire year!  Food made up over 20% of our total carbon footprint!  Indeed, our family members eat meat – but becoming vegetarian would reduce our food-related emissions by 5 metric tons CO2e annually (that’s 5 cars worth in weight)!  Buying local and minimally packaged food where possible also helps to decrease food transportation and manufacturing emissions.In most American households, the purchase of manufactured items such as clothes, cars and furniture contributes more than 10% of the average U.S. carbon footprint.  Reducing this element includes buying only what we really need, buying used, and buying local.  Other strategies my family identified moving forward to reduce our secondary emissions include divesting from fossil fuels, planting trees, and offsetting our carbon footprints by investing in renewable energy infrastructure, energy efficiency, and forest conservation and reforestation projects around the world.

Moving Forward

Completing this household carbon footprint gave us some real data about our biggest emissions sources, and tangible strategies for reducing our emissions.  Scientists warn that to avoid the worst effects of climate change, global emissions need to be reduced by 45% by 2030 compared with 2010 levels. By 2050, we need to move towards <2 metric tons GHG emissions per person per yearIf we adopt the 2030 global target for our household, we will need to reduce our most direct and measurable emissions (from fuel, flights and food) from 27 to 15 metric tons CO2e by 2030.  Beyond the consumer choices that we have at the moment, reducing our direct and indirect emissions substantially can be best accomplished with collective action (beyond our household) and company or political leadership that make more reduced and zero net carbon options and technologies available.

My advisor used to tell me that “you can’t change what you can’t measure.”  I tend to agree that measuring certainly helps us to make the best and most efficient decisions.  Now that our household measurements are done (for now), we have some hard work ahead.  Check back with us next year as we recalculate our footprint and see how we are doing!

*In the Carbon Footprint tool, I accounted for the specifics of Northern New England’s energy mix by using the conversion factor of 0.2671 kg CO2e/kwH.  This was calculated by using the northern New England (NEWE) conversion factor of 0.56372 lbs CO2e/kwH increased by the by the grid loss factor of 4.49% and converted to kilograms) (USEPA eGrid 2018).  If not in New England, you can get your electricity conversion factor from your utility.

Scenes From Our Fall Weekend

Before our big nationwide “stay-in” began, I was ironically working on staying home more often and making less plans. I used to be someone who ran around A LOT. I packed our schedule and was always rushing from point a to point b. For me, no plans meant boredom, especially when I had very small kids and no idea how to entertain them. About a year ago, I was talking to a friend whom I admire and she joked about how she never made plans; she was the opposite of me. I don’t know why (maybe some type of permission from another person?), but something clicked and I started slowing down. Not to mention, I couldn’t keep ignoring the countless articles being written about how kids need free time and boredom to play, grow and thrive. I decided to take a step back and breathe.

I realize how ironic that is to say now that we’re all (possibly reluctantly) staying home a lot more often. However some of our best family times are often in our kitchen and backyard, where we bake, create and play. Here are a few things we did this weekend.

Started off on Friday with a trip to my favorite farm stand for a bunch of pumpkins. Like my kids, I get really excited too, and love using pumpkins to decorate my house. I am drawn to the “odd shaped” ones and anything with imperfections

Used solid wooden table that is completely scratched but I love nonetheless. Candlesticks are passed down from my mother-in-law.
Runner from Ikea (hey, keeping it real!)

On Saturday morning, we started off slowly and made a bunch of nature based crafts.

The leaves and flowers eventually became an awesome “person”, while the pumpkins now adorn our home. The paint basket was thrifted, the paint mat is an old place mat turned over and the silver bowl is a baby food item that we now use for art. The kids were so happy to stay in their pajamas and just make stuff.

Next we moved on to baking:

The recipe was from my tried and true “Joy of Cooking” cookbook that I’ve loved and used for over a decade. It’s falling apart but I refuse to buy a new one because it’s full of my notes and lots of food stains/memories. In the first photo, you’ll catch a glimpse of the compost container that sits on the counter for scraps and gets emptied into our backyard tumbler every other day or so. You’ll also notice a bunch of plastic spice containers. As I finish them, I’m working on either filling by bulk (which I’m honestly doing less often lately due to Covid) or replacing it with a spice that’s housed in glass. When the big bag of chocolate chips is done, I’ll repurpose it, as shown in the third photo. There I use an empty Mitchell’s Fresh chips bag (thank you husband for polishing those off a few minutes before this photo was taken) to save half of the muffins for a rainy day. That little gesture prevents food waste (not sure we will be able to finish them all before they mold) and saves some future energy when kids need a snack! After all of that work, I needed a little rest and enjoyed one of the muffins on a used plate purchased via eBay.

In the afternoon, I pushed my three girls outside for some fresh New Hampshire air. (My kids have heard me use that phrase ad nauseum, but I really do feel so grateful to live in this beautiful state.)

It was a really wonderful day that ended with take-out. Not zero-waste, but this family needed a cooking break and I think it’s important to support local restaurants during this time. Plus, progress, not perfection. Hope you had a good weekend as well! – Rachel