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Earth Day takes place this week on Thursday, April 22. To celebrate, we're asking folks to share something they did during the past year that contributed to the goal of Sustainable Living:

Some examples could be:

  • A project you completed
  • A lifestyle choice you made
  • An activity you participated in
  • A skill you learned

The goal is to share what we've done, so that we can inspire and encourage one another, and show our appreciation.

What have you done in the past year that contributes to Sustainable Living?

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This year our ambitions went beyond our wallet and current technology, but we did make a few changes at home to prepare for the future.

EV "ready" garage

Electric panel

We built a garage this year, and opted to bring in a 100 amp, 240 V electrical service (instead of a more typical 60 amp service) so that we could eventually install a level two EV charger. We had hoped our next car would be an EV, but unfortunately they're still out of our price range for the time being.

Furnace and water heater upgrade

Furnace and water heater

Late last winter our furnace started making the wrong kind of noises. We looked into upgrading to a heat pump, but given our climate (in Wisconsin, USA) we still would have needed a back-up heat source. Since we currently don't need whole-home air conditioning, we decided to stick with a natural-gas burning furnace. However, we upgraded from an 80% efficient unit to one that is 95% efficient. We also got a multi-stage blower, which would be required later if we were to add a heat pump, and is more efficient than a standard blower. This furnace should last long enough for heat pump technology to improve, and prices to come down.

At the same time, we decided to upgrade our 80% efficient, 10 year old water heater to a 95% efficient unit. Doing both at the same time allowed us to seal off our chimney, improving the air-tightness of the house.

Turning lawn into garden

Gardens

Since moving into our house about three years ago, we've been converting lawn areas into gardens -- some for annual vegetables, and some for perennials and wildflowers. By doing so we're creating a more diverse ecosystem in our yard, making a portion of our diet more sustainable, and helping support root systems that reduce soil runoff.

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At home, we joined a project from a local energy cooperation that placed solar panels on a large building nearby. We bought shares of the installed PVs and since they are located close to our home, local tax and energy regulations allow us to treat the panels as if they are on our own house, so it's reducing our energy bill.

We also got rid of our diesel car and switched to car sharing and public transport.

At work, I raised my concern about the environmental impact of everything we do online and of the digital services we offer to others. Our director agreed with my proposal to setup a carbon footprint cross-team that investigates how we can reduce the carbon footprint of our organization. I'm currently working on setting up that cross-team.

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  • Nice! How many homes/businesses are on the solar project? – LShaver Apr 19 at 16:02
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    @LShaver AFAIK participation in the cooperation is restricted to households. In the 3 projects the cooperation is running right now 192 households are participating in total. There are 2 more projects planned. – THelper Apr 20 at 7:15
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Come to think of it, quite a lot actually:

  • Continued work-from-home - COVID has kinda forced everyone to re-evaluate how (and where) we are able to work. In Australia (at least, where I'm based), we haven't been as heavily affected by lockdowns, but even as the majority of the work force is slowly trickling back into offices, I'm (luckily) still able to work from home as a conscious choice, to save on transport costs and pollution.

  • Installed Solar Panels - A long-time goal of mine - after a lot of consideration and a few setbacks to contest with, my family and I were able to finally get solar panels put on our home late last year. This is especially relevant as the majority of Australia's grid electricity is still generated by Coal.

    Here's some stats about my total generation since November 2020 (we've just gone through the summer months here):

    Generation: 3673kWh, CO2 avoided: 2.4 tonnes

    Plus, having my electricity bill arrive with an $11 credit is a great feeling!

  • Installed a Heat Pump Hot Water system - Despite some hesitation to this type of heater in our SE community, it really is the best choice for my temperate, coastal location in which the summer temperatures regularly hit 30+°C and the winter months rarely get lower than 8°C. Plus, with it's timer set to 11am, it uses the solar power we generate for running the heat pump anyway. Leagues better than my old failed solar hot water system that was permanently running on it's resistive heating element backup!

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