Energy Diet

A little over a year ago, we moved to a sleepy little town 45 minutes east of Toronto, Ontario, where we had been living for 2 years. We sort of got burnt out on the city, and at the same time, crowded out of our two-bedroom bungalow with the arrival of our third child. Though we already considered ourselves to be living simply, we further refined our resourcefulness, even though our new home is quite a bit bigger and even though we’ve added yet another child (#4!!) into the mix.

First of all, we purchased a century-old home that had already been updated with some energy-saving features such as storm windows and a high-efficiency furnace. Then we added some of our own updates like installing a thermostat on the gas fireplace and dimmer switches on every possible light fixture, gradually replacing the front yard grass with perennial groundcover plants, and exchanging our electric lawnmower for a manual push mower for the backyard, where we’ve also planted a small food garden.

When we purchased a washer and dryer, we bought HE appliances, and even though our new home came equipped with central air, we may have only used it once or twice, opting instead to open windows at night to let in the cool air and closing drapes and blinds in the daytime to keep hot air out.

Three years ago we traded in our vehicle for a hybrid — but even in this respect, we have become more radical. Most recently, we gave up our hybrid and are making good use of skateboards and bicycles or borrowing our grandmother’s little Toyota whenever we need to run larger errands. We walk the kids to school and to the grocery store and commute on the train to the city to work. Besides, we have yet to find a fuel-efficient vehicle that will hold all six of us!

We decided to go on the 360º Energy Diet to push our comfort zone a little further and to inspire our children to live an eco-conscious lifestyle that will become their ‘normal.’ Our community is not an energy-conscious one — most homes have two or more cars in the driveway, and people drive everywhere because most the amenities that have mass appeal are in the big-box centers at the far reaches of town; and judging by the amount of garbage at the curbside every week, it also seems to be a town of high consumption and waste.

At home, we are fortunate to have quite a bit of environmental savvy — especially the kids, who reuse everything and enjoy being creative with what they have. Over the next eight weeks, we as a family hope to achieve even more freedom from being dependent on energy use: We will collect rain water to water the garden, we will hang a clothesline to dry the clothes, we will expand our garden so our harvest is bigger, we will plant a mature tree to provide shade to our home from the hot sun, and even though our meat consumption is next to nil, we will forego the occasional weekend-brunch bacon and summer night BBQ burgers. Yay for all the local farms and fast-approaching picking season!