Monday, September 9, 2013

Net Zero

Is it possible to completely remove our impact on the environment around us? Net Zero is the concept of having zero impact.

Even though the concept is simple there are differing definitions commonly used. Each with a different view of what it takes to reduce our impact. 

Energy consumed = energy produced
For each type of energy, consumed = produced
Carbon neutral: the carbon footprint = 0

For our purposes we will be using the concept of energy consumed = energy produced. To me this definition says that atleast in theory its possible to live off the grid even within an urban, on grid location. 

There are many different areas where this equation of balancing resources can be applied. 

Energy consumed = energy produced
Water consumed = water acquired onsite
Food consumed = food produced

When trying to balance out the net zero equation there are really only two variables, either produce more, or reduce the amount used. In general the later is your best option. There are many simple ways to reduce the resources we use. Sometimes it becomes very difficult to produce more. Lets use electricity as our example. It's simple to just turn off the lights, but more costly to add another photovoltaic panel. 

In my families case we are using a house that is attached to the grid, but also are producing energy. At times we are taking from the grid, other times we are contributing to the grid. We have a net metering agreement with the power company. If we can balance our equation then the power bill will be only $5, the fee for being attached to the grid. 

That's our goal, to be completely net zero. For now we constantly monitor the resources we use compared to what we produce. From this we find ways balance our Net Zero equation by first, using less, and second, producing more. 

Please comment with your ideas. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Do you know why the order of these three simple words is important?


Step one is to reduce waste at its source by taking steps to eliminate its production completely. It takes energy and resources to produce everything.  The best way to eliminate waste is to not produce it in the first place. This can be done by:

Understand the difference between needs an wants.  This simple understanding when followed can be the biggest key to reducing waste.

Avoid disposable goods, such as paper plates, cups, napkins, and razors. Throwaways contribute to the problem, and cost more because they must be replaced again and again.
Buy durable goods - ones that are well-built or that carry good warranties. They will last longer, save money in the long run and save landfill space.


There are some things that we just can't eliminate there need completely. In this case we can work to get multiple uses out of it. The same energy is used to produce the item, but the much more use is received.

Reuse products for the same purpose the were originally created for. 
Reuse products for a different purpose than their original creation. Be creative. The more creative you can be the better your chances of keeping resources out of the landfill. 


I consider this actually to be a last resort. Recycling does help keep resources from going to the landfill, but energy will again need to be used to turn it into a usable product. Each time a material is recycled the material becomes less and less of quality. Down cycle is term often used for this process of a material loosing quality through recycling.

Recycle everything you can. Check with collection centers and curbside pickup services to see what they accept, and begin collecting those materials. These can include metal cans, newspapers, paper products, glass, plastics and oil.
Buy products made from recycled material.

By following the three steps of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, not only are resources beong diverted from the landfill, but resources are used more efficiently. There are limited resources at our disposal, and the better they can be used the more sustainable our future is.