People & Culture

Meet the winners of Canadian Geographic’s inaugural Live Net Zero challenge

The Loewen-Nair family from London, Ontario have won the $50,000 grand prize

  • Published Feb 27, 2023
  • Updated Mar 03
  • 642 words
  • 3 minutes
The Loewen-Nair family poses with their Live Net Zero t-shirts — a gift they received during their sixth and final challenge in December. (Photo courtesy the Loewen-Nair family)
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When Andrea Loewen-Nair received the news that her family won Canadian Geographic’s inaugural Live Net Zero challenge, she almost couldn’t believe it. 

“They said our name and I was like, ‘What?’” Andrea says with a laugh. “The way the competition was going, it was really hard to tell who was going to win. It was obviously an incredibly exciting surprise.” 

After completing six themed challenges over 10 weeks, the family of four from London, Ont. walked away with a $50,000 grand prize and an expanded knowledge of how to live more sustainably. 

The Live Net Zero challenge, which ran from September until mid-December, followed five households from across Canada as they competed in bi-weekly challenges. As more than 25 per cent of Canada’s carbon emissions come from household energy use, the challenges encouraged the families to explore ways to live with the lowest possible carbon emissions.

Some of the challenges were also designed to motivate the families to create sustainable habits they could continue well after the official challenge ended.

Andrea and her husband Vineet pose with their cargo e-bike during the commuting challenge in September. (Photo courtesy the Loewen-Nair family)
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For the Loewen-Nairs, this means continuing to focus on keeping emissions low while commuting, which was the first challenge in the competition. In September, the family aimed to go two weeks without a car and instead used a cargo e-bike to run errands. 

Since then, not only have they invested in a second e-bike, they have sold their house in the suburbs and have moved downtown to embrace a ‘15-minute city’ lifestyle in which most of their daily necessities, such as work, school and shopping, can be easily reached by a short walk or bike ride.

“We’re just going to see what it’s like to not have to drive anywhere,” Andrea says.

They’re also applying lessons from the home electricity challenge to their new home by investing in a ventless dryer and induction stove — more efficient alternatives than their counterparts — and are continuing to be mindful about ways they can save energy.

In Live Net Zero’s heating and cooling challenge in November, the Loewen-Nairs began looking into acquiring a heat pump, an efficient device which uses a small amount of electricity to transfer heat from a cool space to a warm space, making the cool space cooler and the warm space warmer. With the prize money they’ve received, they have been able to pay for this system, which will greatly reduce energy costs and related carbon emissions. 

Out of the three ‘Rs’ — reduce, reuse, recycle — the Loewen-Nairs have been focusing on the first one and have been cutting back on their carbon usage by trying to use less energy in all areas of their lives. Andrea credits their success to repeating habits until they became the “new normal.”

“Now we want everyone to stay focused so we don’t lose ground and aren’t reverting back to old ways because it’s easier and faster,” she says. “Burning less carbon sometimes takes more time. We just want to stay the course.”

For those following along with the competition, like Susannah Pierce, President and Country Chair of LNZ co-sponsor Shell Canada, it was exciting to watch the enthusiasm and dedication each family brought to the challenges. 

“Live Net Zero helps Canadian families – including my own – tackle carbon in our own households. It provides inspiration and information about how to reduce emissions through improvements in energy efficiency at home, the way we commute and travel, what we eat, and what we buy,” she says. “This is an exciting program Shell is proud to help make possible.”

Now, the Loewen-Nairs are encouraging other families to apply for Live Net Zero 2023 and embark on this journey with them.

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