• Commuting
  • Electricity
  • Heating and Cooling
  • Holidays
  • Home Envelope
  • Home Improvement

Challenge Update

By The Proulx-Coll Household

Now that Canadian Geographic’s Live Net Zero is almost over, we figured we’d write up an update. We also had the opportunity to speak to a group of Montrealers over the weekend and you can watch some highlights in this video

Live Net Zero is designed to inspire and teach Canadians to reduce their household emissions through improvements in energy efficiency at home, the way they commute, what they eat, and what they buy. Canada has set an aggressive climate target. With more than 25 per cent of the country’s carbon emissions coming from household energy use, achieving it will require us all to start making carbon reductions at the household level.

This whole process started because I saw the challenge go by in my emails and I simply thought it would be a fun project if we were selected. We weren’t paying that much attention to our carbon footprint at all before this challenge. What was a small fun project came to touch me to my core, as I realized how important making changes to our lifestyle was so important. We hadn’t prioritized this enough until this challenge. 

Here are some highlights from each challenge:

Challenge #1: Commuting 

This was our favourite challenge where we took a hard look at our commuting habits. For the duration of this challenge, we didn’t even use any of our vehicles at all, except for a camping trip with our 10 year old electric car in a tent, with 5 people. We used the train, bus, bikes and walked more. Kids used the school electric bus. We talked about EVs, lots of fears about those! We finally made the final decision to sell our 2nd vehicle and camping trailer to go down to only one electric vehicle. This was a huge decision! We had lots of very interesting discussions online with others families who say it’s impossible to live without 2 cars in Montreal. Our carbon emissions signfificantly went down in this first challenge for us. 

Challenge #2: Home Envelope

Space heating makes up 63.6% of household energy use, and the air tightness of your home plays a vital role in its energy efficiency. In this challenge we explored options to improve our home’s seal to increase energy efficiency and reduce related emissions.

Our first step was the energy evaluation which is free in Quebec. We did a lot of small changes to improve our home envelope during this challenge like adding shrink window film to our windows and adding caulking. One surprise: we found a big hole in a window in our basement! It was about 4 inches diameter. We added insulation to it and insulated both windows in basement because we don’t need them. We did research about bigger projects we would need to do to improve our home envelope like insulating our main walls and our basement. 

Challenge #3: Heating & Cooling

Space heating and cooling represents almost 2/3 of your home energy use and home heating alone accounts for 16% of carbon emissions in Canada. So reducing the amount of energy the households use for heating and cooling saves them money while they help save the environment.

Here are some changes we made: 

  • New heat pump (a while back we switched from an oil furnace to an electric one so we were already all electric) – our furnace was old so changed it to a more performing one
  • What made the biggest difference: keeping the house cooler in the day and night (set a schedule) – asked kids if they felt it colder at night (no!)
  • Put on more layers in the house
  • Heavy blankets at night
  • Changed HVAC filters
  • Added a jacket to our water heater
  • Hilo challenges

Challenge #4: Electricity

Residential consumption of electricity is associated with approximately 4% of Canadian GHG emissions. In this challenge families will find ways to eliminate unnecessary electricity use and increase their household’s energy efficiency. 

Here are some highlights for this challenge:

  • First step was to measure how much electricity each appliance used (inexpensive device 20$ that we ended up sharing with other families after the challenge was over)
  • Before putting dishes in the dishwasher, instead of rinsing them in hot water which uses a lot of electricity, we started just scraping them
  • Our 11 year old tested the air fryer versus the oven to see how much electricity each used. Found out that the air fryer uses twice less electricity with similar results so we are prioritizing using smaller appliances when we can
  • We did some crowd sourcing because we needed more ideas to decrease electricity consumption (got many many tips!)
  • Didn’t use our dryer for the whole challenge and using it much less now (hang clothes outside even in winter when it’s sunny and also on racks in house)
  • Shared info about phantom power so the electricity devices draw out when plugged in (like our phone) – so will just charge our phones when needed for small amounts of time
  • Compared to last year, our electricity consumption went from us being energy hungry (in the orange) to in the green!

Challenge #5: Holidays

The holidays can add to a household’s carbon footprint. Household waste can increase more than 25% in the holiday season! We examined our own traditions to see how we can reduce emissions. We looked at the food we chose to eat, gifts and travel. Highlights included:

  • 12 days of Christmas net zero gift ideas (gifting used gifts, homemade play dough, coupons for activities
  • Shared recipes like cookies in a jar by Cedric our 5 year old
  • Explored other gift wrapping options like wrapping with fabric (Canadians use 6 million rolls of tape to wrap up Christmas presents every year)
  • Learned a lot about sustainable food choices with Fork Ranger (our food cuases one third of all emissions!)
  • Created videos about reducing food waste
  • Shared recipes to inspire people to use lentils because they have a small carbon footprint

Challenge #6: Home Improvement

We are knee deep in this challenge right now! 

We are exploring and planning for more cost-intensive measures to get to net zero:

  • Small changes = already a 20% improvement home envelope!
  • Insulate foundation and basement
  • Insulate exterior walls
  • Applied for grants and loans 

What do we want to say to others who want to care for our planet?

The participants asked us what we would say to anyone who wants to decrease their carbon footprint. We encouraged them to book their energy evaluation! This is a great starting point.

It started with a simple application video because we are passionate about the outdoors and we wanted our kid’s kids to continue to enjoy it. We then realized that there was more to it. After participating in the live net zero challenge, we realize that we are coming out of this completely changed. We didn’t expect to go down to one vehicle, get back to our roots – camping in a tent – sell our trailer, insulate our basement and main walls and renovation projects weren’t in the plans at all! Let alone hang our clothes outside in the winter and stop using our dryer! We didn’t even know how important it is to make changes to our habits NOW. 

So, conclusion is: Book your energy evaluation!

Written by The Proulx-Coll Household

Read more of their stories as they vie with the other seven households to reduce their carbon footprint.

Meet the The Proulx-Coll Household
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