Treading Softly

For the past few years Tyema and I have been living a very minimalistic lifestyle, making a conscious effort to reduce our carbon footprint at home, and on the road. In this ever changing world it is important for all of us to do what we can to help protect our environment for future generations.

We live off the grid in Colorado, using deep cycle marine batteries for all of our lighting, entertainment and water pumping needs. Batteries and propane provide the energy to power our water heater, refrigerator, heating for our cabin and bus, stove and grill. I have been curious lately as to how much energy we use with this alternative power as compared to the average American couple. So I began crunching figures…

If we were to live full time at our cabin (currently we travel and work; we are only home approximately four months out of the year) our total energy consumption would be maximum 6 kWh per day. According to the United States Energy Information Administration, the average single residential American will use 30 kWh per day (EIA, 2017). Think this number is small? Let’s put this into perspective. That means the average single American will use approximately 10,000 kWh per year. That much electricity use by ONE individual is equivalent to powering our cabin for five years.

The world is much too reliant on fossil fuels to power our everyday lives and with our desires we are adversely affecting the planet. There are many renewable options on the market now that will greatly change the face of this electronic age, and are finally starting to become more accessible to the masses. Unfortunately, burning fossil fuels to power our cities is the cheapest option, until it runs out. But how much are we polluting our atmosphere individually with electricity, and then further with our lifestyles?

You can calculate your personal carbon footprint usage on by adding your monthly utility projections. Using propane as our primary heating source, and battery power to generate electricity, we [Tyema and I] would collectively produce on average 6500 lbs of CO2 emissions per year. This however, does not calculate in our transportation or reliance on food production, which in turn measures approximately 28,000 lbs of CO2 emissions per year (Global Footprint Network, 2018) .

As much as we strive for minimalism, it is easy to forget or misinterpret our own carbon impact through our daily lives. After calculating and getting an approximation of what Tyema and I consume, I realize that we too, need to find alternative ways of living to further decrease our yearly emissions. Once we understand the extent of our sustainability, then we can find new ways to approach and change our lifestyles.

Every watt of energy created, used and expelled, adds up quickly. It is extremely important to be conscientious at all times if we want this world to thrive forevermore. But it is not just our footprint through energy consumption that terrorizes our planet. There is another spectrum of sustainability that greatly impacts everything on Earth, our consumption of fresh water.

Water is our most valued resource, and without it life on this planet would vanish. With a massive population burst over the last 50 years, it is important to understand our own individual water consumption and how to reduce our usage. When water is not readily available and you have to go out of your way to acquire it, it puts into perspective how needs vary. We do not have a well on our property nor is there a possibility of tapping into the town’s water supply. We have a 325 gallon water tank in the back of our truck that we use to gravity feed our cistern behind the house. We are able to drive to town and buy our water at a rate of $0.01 per gallon. We can fill our 250 gallon cistern for $2.50. At maximum output we collectively use 40 gallons a day. Our estimated yearly water consumption is 13,500 gallons. When we live in our RV we use about 15 gallons of water a day. The United States national average for a typical couple is 60,000 gallons a year (USGS, 2016)! Can you picture that? That is equivalent to using three full size swimming pools a year for the average American couple. Or, for that matter, draining a tank like this every year…

Pumping water at 2.1 gallons a minute uses quite a bit of battery power; water saving techniques not only save battery capacity, but also save on our water consumption. From personal experience, restricting the water flow and turning off the faucet in between dishes can save an average of 3 gallons of fresh water a day. This may not seem like much, but on an annual basis, we just saved another thousand gallons of water. Our hot water heater only heats six gallons at a time, which helps us shorten the length of our showers to around five minutes.

Whenever we are done using the sink, shower or toilet we turn off our water pump. When we first built our cabin, throughout the night our pump would run, pumping water back into the system constantly, replacing water in the lines that may drip from the sink or shower head. Turning it off saves water and electricity. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “the average household can waste 180 gallons a week, or 9,400 gallons annually, from household leaks” (EPA, 2017). We have made sure now that all our water lines are fully leak free, no drips from the shower, sink or a constantly running toilet.

Although some of these simple techniques may not be applicable in every home, it is important to do what YOU can to reduce your own water consumption and carbon footprint.

Ways that YOU can help the environment from home:

1. Eat less beef.

When we take into consideration the amount of water consumption, land usage and the excruciating amounts of methane released from livestock in the Meat production, we find, the production of beef is one of the leading causes for greenhouse gas emissions. Studies have shown that the production of meat contributes to global warming much more than the cultivation of let’s say, fruits and vegetables. Animal agriculture leads to the destruction of ecosystems, deforestation and depletion of our freshwater resources. A slight change in diet can have a huge impact on our environment’s health.

2. Save The Water.

There are many simple ways to conserve water, from turning off the tap while you’re brushing your teeth, to taking shorter showers, and restricting water flow when washing dishes.

When we conserve water, it helps minimize the energy needed to pump, heat and treat water. Conserving also helps to protect the freshwater resources that are crucial to the sustainability of humans, wildlife and plants. The average person uses 80-100 gallons of water per day, if we were all to cut back even a tiny bit it would contribute immensely to the conservation of water, our most vital resource.

3. Unplugging and Turning off lights.

When we reduce the amount of energy we use at home, it helps to reduce the amount of toxin and waste releases from power plants into the atmosphere. Most power plants use fossil fuels such as coal or crude oil because it is a cheaper method. However, with fossil fuels comes the byproduct emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulphuric dioxide. Carbon dioxide contributes to the majority of pollution in the air we breathe. If each household were to cut back on the energy they used, power plants would produce less electricity which in turn reduces the amount of fossil fuels burning up into our atmosphere, causing climate change. Even turned off, many appliances still draw power when they are plugged in. It helps to take a minute of your day to just unplug before leaving your house.

4. Recyclable bags.

Plastic bags do not biodegrade, they photo-degrade, which means they break down into smaller pieces of plastic. Pieces that marine life confuse for food, ingest and die from. Plastic bags are a major contribution to pollution, from production to disposal, polluting both land and water. Is the convenience of plastic bags in all of our stores worth the negative impact they cause to our environment? Recyclable bags are a small sacrifice that can make a big difference to our planet.

5. Sharing your knowledge of environmental issues.

Many people lack interest in the environmental issues because they believe, “Why should I care, it doesn’t directly affect me.” Does the air that you breathe, that we all breathe, not affect you too?

The conditions of the planet we live on affects each and every walk of life existent. From the air we breathe, to the water we drink. Knowledge is the key to a healthier environment. The more awareness that is raised, the greater the chance that we, as a collective, can work together in reducing our impact to our planet.

There are hundreds of resources online today in relation to climate change and how we as a species alter our environment. It is important to educate ourselves and to take action, even if our actions are as small as switching to recyclable bags.

Let’s be mindful and save our planet!

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