Simply by existing we impact the environment. Our activity level, attitude and finances are some of the factors that determine how much we effect the environment. By simply buying and doing less we lessen our impact on the environment.
But in reality we need clean water, wholesome food, clothing, shelter and entertainment. Ultimately most of us follow the footsteps of our parents in our lives. Even though many of us are sensitive to environmental issues we make our decisions in the context of all the other things that matter to us. If we have significant others and/or families our decisions are negotiated with the others and we try to make the best outcomes possible for all of us.
Using our household expenses we can see where the biggest changes to our lives will have the most impact on our environmental impact. For my family our four biggest expenses are taxes, food, transportation, and housing. Taxes take about half our income and don’t really reflect our impact on the environment, although choices we make elsewhere impact them. Food costs are our next largest expense and to control them I went to the Culinary Institute of America, using the skills learned there we cook in a way that little flavor or nutrition is left in anything leaving our kitchen. And what gets disposed of is saved for our daughter’s pigs. From a transportation standpoint last year I walked an average of 35 miles per week and biked 15 miles: saving about 2 gallons of gas per week compared to driving. Additionally, we insist that each new car gets better gas mileage than the one that we get rid of. Right now we have a hybrid and a plug in, so one care runs mostly on electric.
It is hard to measure the impact of a home on the environment, since much of what we do isn’t measured. But the water, sewer, electric and gas we use are metered, so there are good proxies over time to gauge if our lifestyle has an increasing or decreasing impact on the environment. We have lived in our 45 year old house for the past 20 years and have made a conscientious effort to reduce the impact of our lifestyle on the environment. When we bought the house, the previous homeowners were paying $185 per month for gas and electric. The utility bill we received last week was for $72 with $58 of it for fixed connection fees, delivery changes and riders.
So, over the last month we spent $14 on metered gas and electric which includes fueling one of our vehicles. And our reduction in the cost of household energy is in spite of 20 years of rate increases, family growth, a rising standard of living and a 35% increase in the size of our house.
According to Duke Energy we use about 25% of the electric of the most efficient comparably sized home.
A long term, well thought out plan of how to reduce your impact on the environment can work over time. Economists tell us that in the long run all demand is flexible. Please take a moment, this what direction you want your life to move and make and implement a plan. Every dollar we spend now is a vote for what the future will be like.