Tuesday, April 1, 2008


This was a very interesting piece on NPR this morning. It describes a woman who moved from the suburbs of Atlanta to the inner city with her daughter, and in doing so greatly reduced their carbon footprint, while greatly increasing their quality of life.

They moved to a sustainable community designed so that everything is within walking distance. This means that they rarely use their car because there is no work commute, and as a result they are able to spend much more time together. They also now live in an apartment which significantly reduces heating and cooling costs.

Commuting, and the heating and cooling of our homes are probably the most significant contributors to carbon emissions, so suburban areas such as Phoenix, where so many of us live are horrible for the environment.

What does all this mean for my family and what we are trying to do? Right now most of the services that we use on a daily basis, including K’s school, are within a five mile radius. I do of course drive to most places, but I am really trying to combine all of my trips. I would love to have a grocery store within realistic walking distance, (especially one selling local, organic produce, but well of course that is a complete pipe dream!)

I work from home, R’s commute is about half an hour which isn’t too bad, but of course these things could always be a lot better.

Our house is a typical urban sprawl model, and is a cooling nightmare in the summer because we have high ceilings and a much bigger general living area than we really need for a family of four. Coming from the UK where houses are small, this house is huge, though probably not by US standards.

I know that we can manage with a lot less space, and that we need to move to achieve that. That move will happen within the next three years or so, and will for us involve a move out of state. For now though, realistically the main things we can do to reduce cooling is to keep windows covered, increase the set temperature, and of course close windows and doors during the heat, while making sure that our insulation is optimal. Our electricity provider offers earth friendly options for energy. I am not sure how it works but will look into that and see whether that might be an option for us. Of course I would love to install solar panels, and live off the grid, but for many reasons that is unfortunately not practical right now, and I can't really imagine R ever being onboard with such extreme measures! That is very much my own dream, and probably a totally unrealistic one.

The great news is that there are two CSA farms in my area, one of which is the farm we got produce from before. I already have an application for one which I will return the next couple of days. There are growing seasons pretty much year round, and I am very excited! Of course though I have been thinking as I tend to do, and this area really isn’t meant to be an area where we grow produce at all. We simply don’t have enough water, especially with our long drought right now. I wonder how the CSA farms here are irrigated, whether any consideration is given to water conservation? I have read that agriculture in Arizona uses way more water than suburban settlement, and that as a result, as agricultural lands are taken over more and more by suburban sprawl, water use is actually falling. That leads to other environment issues though of course. Is it better to get produce from out of state where it is really grown seasonally, in an area where water is not such an issue? Buying locally though does reduce carbon emissions from transportation considerably.

For now I think that if we get most of our produce from a lovely local farm, supplement it with our own produce, and farmers markets, and get a little produce that has been grown out of state, We will generally be more sustainable, at least I hope so! Another exciting thing is that we are going to Phoenix Farmers Market tomorrow. Yeah, I can hardly wait!

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