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

From Ground Zero to Net Zero

By The Foreman Household

Looking back, I never understood the importance of the bell curve, except its importance in enabling me (and my peers) to pass Calculus.  A small shift enabled all (ok most-it was a tough class!) of us to receive a passing grade.  Behaviour change is similar in that a small shift by many makes a big difference.  I find this interesting as 68% of individuals are considered average, or regular people like us! 

Regular people on an incredible journey.  Yet, our Live Net Zero journey started on a whim.  We had always been conscious of the need to change but not sure how or where to start.  Enter an email from Canadian Geographic, a last-minute submission, and ultimately being selected as one of eight families across Canada to undertake the Live Net Zero challenge. 

Yet, we were still not sure where to start.  Shane and I walked around the house after being selected and completed a list of retrofits we “thought” we should tackle.  We talked about solar being a someday thing but really had not given it much thought…at first.  At that time, we also never really considered that our behaviour changes were likely the most important changes to make! 

Thank goodness for our pre-energy audit, and our digital audit by Lightspark.  Both audits gave us suggestions for what to change to decrease and/or supplement our energy usage.  Lightspark broke down changes into options which helped us understand the benefit of doing certain actions vs others, especially in consideration of how we could impact our carbon footprint. 


How would we tackle everything?  Ok.  The changes needed sounded easy enough.  Yet we still were not sure where to start.  The great thing about Live Net Zero was the challenges.  Albeit a two-week time span for each was intense, it was the push we needed to make changes that had paralyzed us for years.  With many a late-night researching and with guidance from Canadian Geographic and Lightspark, we quickly learned that behaviour changes were the easiest thing to change.  Turning lights off, shorter showers, active transportation, hanging our clothes to dry.  Easy, no-cost changes that pack an energy conservation punch. 

Our home envelope and electricity challenges were the forcing factors we needed to make some much needed changes to our house and to improve our energy efficiency.  We insulated outlets, installed ceiling fans in the kids’ rooms and changed 5 light fixtures and 29 lightbulbs just to name a few.  Yet, even after the challenges ended, we have continued to tackle things with the same fervor as when we did the two-week challenges.  For example, Shane has gap filled, gap filled, and gap filled some more to ensure our home envelope is air sealed (air sealing your home is the single most important retrofit you can make to improve energy efficiency and it should be considered first in any retrofit strategy).

The interesting thing about energy efficiency is although there are costs associated, there are also ways around those costs.  Instead of just buying items (too expensive!) for our challenges or contracting out all retrofits (much too expensive!), we changed our spending behaviours.  Behaviour changes within behaviour changes.  Behaviour changes that also contribute to a circular economy, which positively impacts our carbon footprint.    We utilized buy-nothing sites, the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, and did most of the work ourselves to save costs.  Another creative way to save money is by trading skills!  We might have to consider this for our next retrofits! 

With more and more behaviour changes sticking and becoming habit (ok, the kids still leave their lights on sometimes!), we started tackling some bigger retrofits.  By digging deeper into the suggestions in our audits, our eyes were opened time and time again on how much we needed to make changes.  For example, when filming a video about signs your windows needing replaced, I was mortified when I realized our windows had ALL the signs of needing replaced.  Again, the home improvement challenge proved to be a forcing factor for getting some much-needed changes made to the house, mind you it’s been a busy process, and all the work is not yet done!  After insulating the floor, we still do not have a toilet in our bathroom downstairs.  Not all love is lost though, we turfed the toilet as we plan to get a more energy efficient model!

That someday thing?  Well, solar quickly evolved into something we would do down the road to something that just made sense.  From pre-audit to post-audit, in our province (New Brunswick) we have nine months to complete retrofits to be eligible for grants (check your province for eligibility requirements as they all differ!).  With our behaviour changes, retrofits to our windows, and added insulation reducing our energy use, it only made sense to take on renewable energy to offset some of our remaining energy usage, and take advantage of provincial and federal grants.  Thank goodness for our Canada Greener Home Loan, a no interest loan, that enabled us to take the solar plunge, as well as guidance from Carl Duivenvoorden along the way showcasing us that regular people can strive for net zero.

Regular people, like you and like me.  Regular people making simple, easy changes for their own benefit (think lower energy bills!) that help mitigate climate change.   Imagine for a moment that 68% of the population did simple things such as taking shorter showers, turning the lights off or even switching the lights to LED’s, and completing air sealing in their homes.  Easy, simple things that do not take much effort, yet cause a shift and make a huge difference.  For all of us. 

It’s been quite a journey.  Lots of lessons along the way, but I shall leave you with words of wisdom from my friend’s dad John;” There’s nothing to it but to do it!”


Written by The Foreman Household

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

Meet the The Foreman Household
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