Personal Steps Toward NetZero We Can Take Right Now

This post was also shared by USGBC-CA.

The climate crisis has become part of our reality as we experience extreme heat, flooding, fires, rising insurance and energy costs. We mourn over the human loss of entire countries reduced to rubble and may not even comprehend the carbon cost to rebuild them. It may feel discouraging to think, as a single person, that we can make a meaningful impact. I believe we can. Our choices create a ripple effect, small at first but larger as they influence the people and communities around us. We can start small, but we must start somewhere.

This post is an imagined diary of a homeowner committed to living lightly on the Earth. Not everyone will be able to take all the steps described, yet we all can take some of them.

01 WindUpClock
02 GreywaterSign

5:45 a.m. Smart thermostat turns the electric heat pump to 69 degrees Fahrenheit.

6 a.m. The wind-up alarm (or an I-Phone powered by a Solar Powered Charging Station) rings. Put on slippers and a sweater, grateful for under-floor insulation. Make drip coffee (with a compostable filter) using an Energy Star induction cooktop. Open drapes and watch sunrise through fruiting olive tree. Appreciate the UV film on the windows.

6:15 a.m. Hot (low-flow) shower provided by the electric tankless water heater powered by rooftop solar photovoltaic arrays; followed by washing the bedsheets in cold water, with the wastewater directed to the laundry to landscape irrigation, which was inexpensively re-piped to mulch pits watering trees in the yard.

6:30 a.m. Hang sheets on the clothesline (or use a heat-pump driven dryer) and check the tomatoes irrigated by the drip system from rain barrels at downspouts that captured last week’s rain. Sand-set brick (pervious) paths and driveway are still cool underfoot, bordered by lush, bee-loving, drought-resistant gardens.

8 a.m. Smart thermostat turns the electric heat pump off. Add coffee grounds, food scraps from last night’s dinner and today’s packed lunch into an on-counter compost bin. Water the potted plants and dampen the outside compost bin.

04 Biking
05 Bluebeam

9 a.m. – 5 p.m. At work, use light-filtering blinds to control sunlight and daylight sensors to turn off the LED lights when unneeded.  Use Zoom, Teams, Webex, or other meeting formats to reduce site meeting travel time and pollution.

Use paper with 85% recycled content. Use Bluebeam, Adobe PDF and other tools to edit documents digitally instead of printing. Tally and record the number of paper-printed documents.

Recycle packaging. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Use shredded documents as packing for samples to be shipped. Unplug devices at end of day. Close east-facing blinds. Place the office compost bin in bike pannier.

5 p.m. Bike home from work, stopping at the local market. Replenish stock of locally grown organic produce and low-chloride shampoo and detergent (powder based or strip based to reduce plastics).

5:30 p.m. Arrive home, open drapes and windows (including the highest window for chimney effect). Bring in and fold the sheets. Empty the compost bins into the yard frame and spade-turn it.

Take one final look at email, returning friends’ messages, signing an on-line petition for more protected bike lanes. Plug devices into chargers.

6 p.m. Enjoy a glass of organic wine on west-facing terrace shaded by apricot tree. Pick tomatoes for dinner. Refill bird bath.

06 SolarLandscape

7 p.m. Solar-charged landscape lights turn on. Potluck dinner with friends, using borrowed serving platters and ladles, cloth napkins and linens (no paper – no straws).

9 p.m. Run dishwasher (full), recycle wine bottle, junk mail, and plastic food containers. Consult home maintenance almanac and find reminder to replace filter on heat pump this weekend.

9:30 p.m. Brush teeth (turning off the running water), unplug all devices, including chargers plugged into a single surge protector to make it simple. Even the refrigerator and microwave can be unplugged overnight. Close drapes. Set wind-up alarm (or iPhone alarm). Sweet dreams.

Climate change is right now. We can take many of these steps toward NetZero right now. It is our responsibility to defend the Earth and its resources. The present requires a rethink right now if we (and our progeny) hope to remain safe and healthy in our longstanding homes and communities in the future.