This is a remarkable story about one neighborhood of 30 homes which came together and pledged to uphold the conditions of the Kyoto Protocol. Their goal: to reduce their carbon footprint by 25% within one year.
Did they succeed?
Within just 4 months, the 30 self proclaimed Carbon Cutters reduced their carbon footprint by 20%. They are now coming up to the end of their first year and the unofficial results show they dropped their collective carbon footprint by 30%.
Where did they start?
First, they collected data from one year’s worth of utility bills to understand their baseline carbon footprint. Second, each household received an eco audit. The audit included electricity and natural gas, and fuel consumption – both automobile and air travel. Graphical data showed the family how they compared to the average household of similar size in each of these categories. The families were then able to track their carbon reductions each month through a software tracking program provided by the non profit organization the Green Heart Institute.
How did they do it?
The accumulation of several small changes added up to big results. Insulating their homes, swapping out incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescents, conserving energy, commuting via bus, bicycle, or telecommuting, and reducing the amount of air travel all contributed toward their 30% reduction. Several home also invested in solar panels which significantly lowered their carbon footprint. All of their solutions are within reach of the average family.
What was their secret?
These Carbon Cutters cited their number one success strategy as the accountability they all felt towards each other. Community spirit is at large. Neighbors previously anonymous to each other, met at informal house parties to collectively brainstorm, to share success stories, to educate themselves on global warming, and to reinforce the importance of their efforts. Some meetings centered on watching educational movies such as “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Who Stole the Electric Car”. Some meetings centered on lectures from local sustainability experts eager to speak to a proactive audience.
I am encouraged by the ‘can do’ spirit of these neighbors. They have put into practice simple lifestyle changes which prove that can, in fact, work together and fulfill their part of a global initiative. Many cities throughout the U.S. have taken on the Kyoto Protocol challenge themselves. These cities, I believe, are slow to engage their corporate and residential citizens. The ‘Carbon Cutters’ group is a refreshing reminder that we all have immediate contributions to offer to our neighbors, our cities, our country and to our global compatriots.