Energized, over carbonated and gassy?

Sounds painful… like something should be cut out of our diet?

Energy Diet Challenge

Today we look forward to a countrywide challenge, a diet of sorts.  A diet that even Ann and I feel the need to participate in.  Lets challenge your imagination… picture Gord, using some electrical extension cords to act as suspenders to hold up his pants over his fictional CO2 beer belly, or better yet, one of those same electrical cords used as a belt cutting into Ann’s carbon bulging belly (no laughing…. Just consider this a mental exercise).  Over the next three months Ann and I will be helping six families across Canada try to slim their energy and water consumption and trying to cut down their carbon footprint in the Canadian Geographic and Shell Canada Energy Diet Challenge.

Eco-Sense as Mentors

As mentors, for these six families, we will be guest blogging on the Canadian Geographic Energy Diet Website; (http://energydiet.canadiangeographic.ca/home/landing ).  In addition we’ll be sharing technical “how to” and “why”, and we’ll participate alongside these families by trying to cut our own carbon bulge.   If you would like to follow our Eco-Sense Canadian Geographic blog, vote for the families, participate in the dialogue, share your stories, learn some technical how to, or even go on your own personal energy diet, this adventure is for you.  The challenge will also be covered in the print version of Canadian Geographic with a feature on Eco-Sense in the October 2011 issue.

When it comes to transportation, we still have a BIG footprint.  For us this means going multimodal (multiple combined methods of transport for one trip).  Gord has taken on the task of teaching the kids and himself how to get around on transit… seems it is easier for the 11 and 13 year old than for Dad.  The first lesson Gord learned… was he needed to get an updated eye prescription as he jumped on the #14 only to realize that his blurred 42 year old eyes placed him upon the #4 going the wrong direction.

As he headed off to his optometrist appointment one week later, to get drops in his  eyes, and using transit once again, he walked into the office, only to have receptionist say “You have to go home right away.  Your neighbour’s house is on fire!”.  So as Gord spun around and walked out of the office he looked towards the west and 17 kms away was a horrible black smoke trailing through the sky.  His first thought, “Ahh Shit!    Then a second thought, “what’s is the fastest bus home?”.  Total travel time from leaving the home in the morning, driving to the park-n-ride, catching the bus in, and returning home… a total time of 70 minutes… quicker than if he had brought the car into town and found parking.

Sadly, the neighbour’s cedar house was lost, but thankfully all safely escaped.   The hot embers that landed around the neighbourhood were either put out or did not ignite, and we are so lucky the whole tinder dry forest did not ignite.  It was very frightening, however there was some comfort in knowing that our earthen home is not flammable.  A fire and a scare really puts into perspective what’s important, our lives, our pets, and the beauty of our shared land…fire (or climate change) doesn’t stop at fences.

So, what else has Gord learned in this effort to become more responsible in his fossil fuel indulgence… he’s become increasingly aware of parenting!  It really was time for the kids to be learning more independence.  Having them taking on responsibility for their own mobility is part of preparing them for the future we envision.  Most agree that energy use and transportation will be very different in the kids’ future, so it only makes sense to raise our kids in this reality.  Gord must admit that he also appreciates not having to spend the time sitting in a car doing this most mundane of tasks.  With our goal of reducing our energy footprint and striving to have more time to spend doing things that are important… dropping the kids off at the bus achieves this in spades.

For the kids… well they quite enjoyed the transition as it means they are no longer a captive audience in the ride to and from school and don’t have to listen to dad’s rants and lectures about the future.

Affordable, Sustainable Homes: Eco-Sense and The Future of Green building

Quite separate from the Energy Diet Challenge, but tied directly to energy usage, we have just finished 18 months of research on the home, a year of data logging, 3 months of procrastination of how to digest the 721,000 data points, and 3 months of analyzing and writing several reports; we have real data of our energy footprint.  Part of this research focused strictly on the cob walls, and their functioning (moisture and thermal properties), and the rest was tied to the energy use of the house.  Obviously the house is one big interconnected system so the trick was to separate the pepper from the flyshit and see what energy was used for what purpose.  No easy task.

Of interest was the variable of solar insolation, (the energy provided by the sunshine); the research period from June 2010 to June 2011 served us a year of cloud.  Using data acquired from 3 UVic weather stations surrounding us, we found this period to have the equivalent of 2 months short of sunshine.  This equates to 15% less solar gain, and a 14% increase in the number of Heating Degree Days… and consequently more energy used for heating the home than in an average year.


A comparison of our energy usage can be found on our wordpress blog at https://ecosenseliving.wordpress.com/research/.  The full science report can also be found there.  We would also like to extend a big THANKYOU to Christina Goodvin for all of her amazing help to Gord in setting up the research, analyzing the data, and report writing.  Gord and Christina were truly amazing in their dedication to this project.  Cascadia has used this science report to write the summary report just completed today.  Affordable, Sustainable Homes: Eco-Sense and The Future of Green building.  Link coming later this week!  Thanks to Vancity and the Real Estate Foundation for funding this research and of course our research partner Cascadia Green Building Council.

As we look at energy and we look at learning the new language, we have had to learn how to conceptually picture what different units of energy look like.  Imagine what a Kilowatt looks like.  No, not on your hydro bill… go a little deeper.  Imagine a calorie, a BTU, a joule.  Energy units can be very abstract and confusing.

Its easy to picture a litre of gas, and to understand how far it gets you in your car or scooter; But what’s a kilowatt (kW)?  Think of food or a daily dietary intake of 2500 calories… the energy to power our bodies for a day.  Now lets compare the food for our bodies to a single litre of gas and the total household energy use for the average BC person per day.

2500 calories is about 3 kWhrs

One litre of gas is about 9 kWhrs

The average person in a house in BC uses 35 kWhrs of energy per day (and this does not include our transportation…or the transportation of everything we buy…or the energy to make everything we buy)

At Eco-Sense the energy used per person per day in our home is 16.5 kWhrs.  This energy comes from wood used to heat the home, Solar Thermal to heat the hot water, Solar PV  for electricity, and propane for cooking.  We consume half the total energy of the average resident, and much of our energy is from renewable energy.

But we can do better, especially when it comes to transportation… and have some laughs doing it even if they are at Gord’s expense…which is why we are now drinking a low carbon footprint local beer…made right here.  It’s covertly known as CSIS…Carbon Sequestering Imperial Stout.   Problem is that we now need to conserve energy, water, and BEER.  All this done to tighten up our energy bulge and make lifestyle changes that will last…for generations to come.

And what about the energized, over carbonated, and gassy feeling?  We’ll see at the end of three months if Gord is feeling better.

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