Embrace the green and lower your footprint
Christmas came a little late for me this year. I woke up on New Year’s Day and looked out of the window at the gas station sign. The ever slightly higher gas price was a pleasant reminder of the new carbon tax that Ontarians are now paying and I couldn’t be happier. Natural gas will be increased by about 7 cents a cubic metre, and gasoline about 4 cents a litre. This is truly a great day for our children. It’s a small but important step in the right direction.
Until we see carbon tax around the $60 to $70 a ton mark, we likely won’t see a big uptake in alternative fuels, particularly in the corporate sector where the bottom line is king and polluting is still too cheap relatively. However, having a tax infrastructure in place is hugely important to getting there.
Price signals are one of the most important things we can do in a capitalist economy. Rather than complaining about the marginal increase in costs, here are a few things we can do to lower our carbon footprint and reduce those pesky taxes we have to pay.
Turn down the thermostat
Homes in the Annex are notoriously not airtight. If you are doing a renovation, make sure you get your home well insulated (spray foam is my preference). Short of that, anything you can do to stop drafts is a good stop-gap until you do decide to renovate. In the meantime, keep the thermostat down and throw on an extra sweater. Ambient room temperatures have steadily risen over the last century as heating became easier, cheaper, and more efficient. We really don’t need to keep it as warm as most of us do. A friend of mine keeps her electrically-heated home at a brisk 14° Celsius. At 7 cents of tax per metre cubed of natural gas, turning down the thermostat will save you in 2017.
If you have a lead foot like I do, you are burning gas unnecessarily. For most cars, fuel efficiency is around 80 kilometres per hour. Taking the 401 at 120 kilometres per hour burns a lot more gas than you really need to. You would do well by accelerating gently and keeping the tire pressure up too. If you can, though, ditching the car altogether is your best bet. We haven’t looked back since doing this nearly nine years ago.
Take shorter showers
Most of us have natural gas for heating domestic hot water. The shower will start to cost a few cents more, so this is the time to implement self-discipline when enjoying the beautiful warmth wash all over us. For anyone doing a major renovation that includes plumbing work, this is a good time to consider heat recovery systems for showering. Rather than going directly out to the sewer, your already warm shower water pre-warms the cold water going up to you so you need less hot water by the time it gets to the mixer.
I wish everyone a happy 2017 and I hope we can all embrace these price signals as opportunities to make greener habits for ourselves. May this be the year we start taking real action to slow down the extinction of the human race.
Terri Chu is an engineer committed to practical environmentalism. This column is dedicated to helping the community reduce energy, and help distinguish environmental truths from myths.
READ MORE GREENINGS BY TERRI CHU
A green, meaningful Christmas (December 2016)
Force the focus (November 2016)
The school of the future (July 2016)
Taking action on climate change (June 2016)