Why we’re challenging Canadian families to “live net zero

Live Net Zero will follow five households from across the country this fall as they compete in bi-weekly challenges to lower their carbon emissions and spending on energy

  • Published Sep 28, 2022
  • Updated Oct 21
  • 577 words
  • 3 minutes
The Richmond family enjoying a family paddling trip. (Photo courtesy Richmond family)
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Close your eyes and take in the sounds: The low rumbling of your car as it crawls along the highway, the soft buzz of incandescent bulbs illuminating your foyer, and the faint hum of your furnace dispersing heat throughout your hallways.

These are sounds that have become background noise for many Canadians—so entrenched in our busy lives that most people have learned to tune them out. While these seemingly mundane sounds provide comfort, familiarity and a sense of routine, the source of their existence has significant environmental consequences.

The average daily work commute—17.4 kilometres round-trip—produces 3.6 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions, and that’s without accounting for idling. Powering our homes generates almost 20 per cent of Canada’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. And with winter holidays fast approaching, travellers will be eagerly booking airfare to far-flung destinations, perhaps without considering their impact on global emissions.

It’s hard to make changes in our lives. But this fall, Canadian Geographic is launching a new national challenge inspiring Canadians to pay closer attention to our daily routines and consider how the low rumbles, soft buzzes, and faint hums we hear throughout the day contribute to our carbon footprints.

Live Net Zero will follow five households from across the country as they compete in bi-weekly challenges to reduce their carbon emissions and lower their spending on energy. These challenges will encourage the families to identify their greatest sources of carbon emissions and make retrofits and behavioural changes that can reduce emissions. Most importantly, these challenges will demonstrate that the only way we can change is if we learn and take action.

Time and again, scientists have warned about the consequences of inaction, calling for rapid and deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, which have far-ranging environmental and health effects. Climate change, driven significantly by emissions, has resulted in a rise in global sea levels, an increase in extreme drought, heat and wildfires in some areas and catastrophic flooding in others, and a reduction in agricultural yields. Ensuring the planet does not exceed 1.5°C of warming above pre-industrial levels is a vital threshold for our planet that cannot be negotiated.

To achieve that target, Canada has set a bold and ambitious climate goal—meeting its Paris Agreement commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 45 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030, and ultimately committing to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. But with more than 25 per cent of the country’s carbon emissions coming from household energy use, achieving this net-zero target will require Canadians to reduce their carbon emissions at home.

Through the commuting challenge, electricity challenge, home envelope challenge, heating and cooling challenge and holiday challenge, our Live Net Zero families will explore different strategies and ways to live their lives with the lowest possible carbon emissions impact. They will document their efforts along the way, sharing their journey with fellow Canadians and inspiring others to think about how they can also shrink their carbon footprint. The winning family will not only learn that living sustainably can be an attainable reality, but will also be gifted with an electric vehicle.

As world-renowned ethologist, environmentalist and foremost expert on chimpanzees Dr. Jane Goodall famously suggests, it’s up to humans to determine what impression their actions truly have on planet Earth and the living creatures that inhabit it.

Are you up for the challenge?


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