Hard NOT to drive in Northern Virginia

7 01 2010

As for the upcoming Driving Challenge, we learned in Challenge Two that it is really hard NOT to drive in Northern Virginia.  (During a video conference last month with one of our Climate Pilot Coaches she mentioned that she had only driven 3 times that month.)  Therefore, learning to driving more efficiently will be a big help for us.  One of the easiest things I did was to spend a day during the December holiday getting my home office set-up with an identical set of equipment as my “real” office, and now I probably work from my home office two days a week and never drive anywhere.  Now that’s efficient driving.

We are really looking forward to learning more.

By Climate Pilot Nolan Stokes


Reflections on the challenge on Energy

6 01 2010

We had the insulation guys here today for seven hours pumping blown cellulose (basically recycled, shredded, and treated newspaper) into the ceiling between the two floors of our house.  They focused on the perimeter and must have drilled 100 holes in the ceiling through which they pumped the insulation.  I can already feel the difference.  The floors used to be freezing cold, but NOT ANY MORE!

We had already blown-in this cellulose insulation into the attic two winters ago, but because of the Climate Pilot challenge we went back and reassessed the effectiveness of everything we had done.  We have been fundamentally challenging our most basic daily habits in an attempt to critically evaluate our current behavior and look for energy reducing opportunities. 

An example of this related to everyday activities is just doing the dishes. 

To save on water heating costs, we use cold water to rinse dishes and run the garbage disposal. 

We got out the dishwasher manual and reviewed the best settings for our dishwasher.  Our “Normal Cycle” runs for 65 minutes and according to the manual: “This cycle is for medium/heavily soiled dishes and glassware.”  It turns out that a better fit for our everyday needs is actually the “Speed Cycle” which runs for only 35 minutes –about ½ the normal time!  According to the manual: “This cycle is for everyday soiled dishes and glassware.”  So, by challenging the status quo and doing a bit of research we have been able to reduce the time the dishwasher runs on average by about 45%. 

This is just a quick example of an easy, painless change that simply required us to challenge our daily habits.  We did the same with the laundry and now wash most clothes in cold water AND on the “quick wash” cycle.  Now the kids take short showers and not baths.  Again, it was an easy and painless behavioral change, yet statistically significant in terms of reducing energy consumption and saving money.

I ordered from Amazon a Black & Decker EM100B Energy Saver Series Power Monitor  (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001ELJKLE/ref=ox_ya_oh_product  ) along with a Black & Decker TLD100 Energy Series Thermal Leak Detector (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001LMTW2S/ref=ox_ya_oh_product  ). The Power Monitor attaches to the external meter and transmits a signal to a handheld device in the house and allows us to see power usage and costs in real-time.  The Thermal Leak Detector uses an infrared sensor to highlight temperature differences which can indicate leaks around doors and windows or inadequate insulation around wall and ceiling fixtures.  These have been very helpful.  In fact, this weekend I’m going over to the neighbor’s house across the street with the leak detector and a roll of weather stripping to help her cut down on cold air leaking in through the front door.

We are more than halfway through replacing nearly all of the windows in the house.  Last weekend we literally had ice on the INSIDE of some of the windows at night.  One doesn’t need a thermal leak detector to see that we needed to fix that.

By Climate Pilot Nolan Stokes

Challenge 4 on Traveling has now started

9 12 2009

Challenge4In the fourth and last challenge the Climate Pilots will look into how we transport ourselves. Transportation plays a significant role in carbon dioxide emissions.

Planes, trains and automobiles are more than just means of transportation. They are necessities of any advanced economy. Unfortunately, this freedom to go wherever we wish and get things from wherever we want is 95-percent reliant on burning oil.

Fortunately there are many things the Climate Pilots can do to decrease their impact on the environment when it comes to traveling. During the challenge they will keep a transport diary and later on learn EcoDriving.

Read more about the fourth challenge >>

Questions for our Coaches

23 11 2009

At this point in the process, I’m really looking back and reflecting upon my old habits vs. new habits. I’m trying to figure out which habits will make it into my permanent repertoire, and which habits may need to be tweaked to become truly climate-friendly. As I do so, I realize that I’ve got a few questions for our Climate Coaches, but I thought I’d also open them up to any readers. I welcome the input from all sources!

1. We’ve learned that recycling isn’t the only piece in the ecological puzzle. We’re also trying to reduce our consumption and reuse what we have. To that end, what are your thoughts on holiday energy consumption? Specifically, I’ve read that LED Christmas light strands are much more energy efficient, but I do own plenty of serviceable traditional lights. How do I determine whether it’s better to discard old (but working) lights and buy new (energy-efficient) ones?  I suppose that this question could extend to other appliances and items as well: When is it best to replace old (but working) appliances with newer, more “green” models?

2. Walking our dog, and hiking with our dog, is one of our preferred forms of recreation.  We scoop up dog waste and dispose of it in trash bins per local laws. In the interest of being climate-friendly, we’ve been purchasing biodegradable dog waste bags.  However, I recently realized that the plastic bags we put our grocery produce in (fresh veggies and fruits) are really not being used past the purpose of packaging produce and taking it out of the store.  So I thought I might use those bags as doggy waste bags, but then I realized that these are NOT green bags, so perhaps reusing them defeats the purpose. Is it better to reuse these produce bags in a way that’s perhaps not so eco-friendly, or best to simply return them to a recycling facility?

(I realized as I wrote this that perhaps the real answer is to not use the grocer-provided plastic bags for produce. I have seen a few reusable mesh bags that I can purchase online. But then, is it better to purchase a new product or to reuse an existing one?) Can anyone weigh in on this topic?

by Climate Pilot Mya Akin

From White House to green house

6 11 2009

Photo: Gunnar Seijbold/RegeringskanslietJust a few hours after Minister for Enterprise and Environment Maud Olofsson ended the first Energy Council meeting within the framework of the Washington Summit between the Euopean Union and the U.S., the Minister headed to the Washington, DC suburb of Falls Church, Virginia to visit the American families who are participating in the Climate Pilots project.

The day before Maud Olofsson had met US President Barack Obama and the US Minister of Energy Steven Chu regarding the climate negotiations on a global level – the day after she met ordinary American families about what can be done in the everyday life.

– My reflection was that we need politics and climate agreements on a global level, but we also need this. We need this knowledge and inspiration, how we as individuals can change our behavior both when it comes to big and small things, says Maud Olofsson in a telephone interview from Washington to the local newspaper Östra Småland in Kalmar.

Read more on the Climate Pilots wesbite >>

Read the article on the website of the Swedish Presidency of the European Union >>

Photo: Gunnar Seijbold/Regeringskansliet

Greetings from the Mayors in Kalmar

5 11 2009

greetingsfromkalmarDear Climate Pilots,
We are very impressed and thankful for your great engagement and all the concrete measures you already have made and are planning.

What you are doing for the climate is good for the inhabitants in the City of Kalmar and vice versa. We are fully convinced that the citizens are worried about the climate and would like to act. What and how are key issues. The Climate Pilots in Kalmar are role models and have proved that a climate smart life is also a good life.

It is very exciting that the concept of Climate Pilots, developed in the City of Kalmar, seems to be a success in Washington DC as well. We like to continue learning from your experiences and of course do our best in supporting you.

Johan Persson, Mayor of Kalmar and Malin Petersson Vice Mayor of Kalmar


Sweden’s Deputy Prime Minister Maud Olofsson visited the Climate Pilots today

4 11 2009

Maud Olofsson, photo by: Pawel FlatoSweden’s Deputy Prime Minister Maud Olofsson visited the home of one of the Climate Pilots families in Washington D.C. on the Wednesday.

Maud Olofsson learned more about the project between the families in D.C. who are coached by four climate coaches in the city of Kalmar in Sweden. Maud brought as well greetings from the climate coaches in Kalmar.

Read the greetings from the climate coaches >>