Four areas to focus on as you consider your personal carbon footprint: 1) how you move around, 2) what you eat and how it is grown, 3) how you use natural resources in your home, and 4) what stuff you buy and how you get rid of it.
How You Use Natural Resources in Your Home — I am defining natural resources as fossil fuels (and their derivatives), water, wood, minerals, etc. It is a loose definition, but it makes it easy for me to remember. First let’s talk electricity. In my area coal is what most power plants use and therefore it is what you are using when you plug something into the wall. My part of Indiana is 38° north. That means we have four true seasons. I am also in a hilly area with inconsistent winds. Passive solar works pretty well on sunny winter days in the rooms with south facing windows. Solar panels on the roof should, theoretically give you sufficient power on the sunny days. The key to that being true is to minimize the amount of power you require. I read a report that there is enough “power” for each person to use 48 kWh per day.
Our family uses an average of 300-500 kWh per month and we buy green energy that comes from a cooperative of solar fields, wind turbines, and methane burning from landfills. At this time we don’t have solar panels on our home. The start up investment is just a bit much for us right now. Our biggest electric users are hot water, the refrigerator, and in winter the heater (when we use it). Our hot water heater is on a timer so that it runs during non-peak hours and that really helps lower the amount we use. The tank is very efficient and will keep the water hot for 12-15 hours. To keep our usage low we do things like: keep the lights off when not in a room, use smaller & more efficient appliances, got rid of most of our electric appliances (like the washer, dryer, air conditioner, dishwasher, etc), hung insulating curtains in all the rooms (closed during summer days, closed during winter nights, open during winter days, open during summer nights). These are just a few examples. We don’t use any natural gas, propane, kerosene, etc to cook or heat our home. In the winter our favorite spot in the house is beside the wood stove. We burn down/dead wood and never take down a living tree. Our woods typically have 3 or 4 down trees a year and that is sufficient for our heating needs. This year we are not using the chainsaw at all and are carrying up all the branches we can find. So far we haven’t used the wood stove at all, but we have had to run the heater on days when the high is only in the 30s (about 10 days so far). We must decide what to do about getting a new chainsaw for next year.
Let’s see, water usage has already been chatted about a few times. So I guess that is about it for natural resources. Although in some respects, what we buy
What you buy and how you get rid of it — For me, I try to choose natural materials first. I want everything to either be reusable (to infinity . . . ) or compostable. This eliminates a lot of stuff.