Personal sustainability practices, or "what we do at our house"

Woohoo! A new refrigerator

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 When the energy auditor came, years ago, he told us we could save $60 a year if we switched refrigerators; we'd been using the one that came with the house since we moved in five-and-a-half years ago. But we never pulled the trigger.

But now, for a pretty short period, we can get $200 in rebate from Mass Save, a state program whose wind-power program we supported for better than a year, if we buy an Energy Star model, and of course we'd do that anyway.

Sustaining ourselves

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Over at Pragerblog, which I'm going to rename soon into something that reflects the topic matter better, I posted about the small veggie plot we started at our house. On the level of personal sustainability actions, growing one's own food is about as self-sustaining as one can get, on a par with sewing clothing or building shelter. 


I have written previously (perhaps approaching cliche by now; you decide) about having two blogs and wanting to have one — not by jettisoning one by having them merge organically. Here's another post that fits in both places — about sustainable living (no link; you're reading it) and food issues, at; in fact, I starting writing this at the other one.

Your mileage may vary; ours has

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My life with cars has been driven by a combination of bonehead purchases, lazy stewardship, and just plain bad luck. I've tried to improve with age, but I still feel snake-bitten. (The next-to-last car I bought was a VW Passat, based on the strong recommendation of Consumer Reports, but the car was an unreliable, high-cost, high-maintenance disappointment.)

Which brings me to our Prius, which we purchased about 22 months ago. I'm writing from our dealership, where I've come to try to learn why its mileage performance has substantially declined. I've just had my consult, and the news is not good. That is, there is no news, no mechanical flaw.


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So we had our energy audit on Friday, and it was worthwhile. A three-person team led by Dave Boettcher of Next Step Living spent better than three hours at our house, investigating, assessing, counseling, and repairing, and both Georgie and I enjoyed the experience, in addition to the knowledge and savings we gained.

Long-time readers will know that we've been working on lowering our energy use practically since we moved in: our friend and contractor Harry Chehames of Cedar Builders replaced the windows on our first floor, I wrapped (some of) the pipes in our basement in insulation and applied expanding foam to crevices in our basement, and we installed as many CFLs as we could, changed both our shower heads to low-flow and both our toilets to one-gallon-per-flush, installed programmable thermostats, etc.

So, perhaps it wasn't a surprise that Dave said our house was tighter than 90 percent of the houses he's seen, not only working for Next Step but in similar positions previously. Part of that is testament to our work, but I suspect a larger part is testament to the generally breezy state of our housing stock.

A few words about hypocrisy

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One of the points of my continuing series, "What We Do At Home," has been its subset, "What We Don't Do At Home." We're trying, but we're far from achieving a perfectly sustainable lifestyle, even within the bounds of what any two suburbanites can do without moving to the tropics and growing/shooting/foraging for everything we eat.

Don't wait for the gift of necessity

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The first stop on our personal version of the Green Buildings Open House tour on Saturday was off the beaten path, if not the grid, to the several buildings of the Sirius Community in Shutesbury. Even before we arrived, the last dot of the Prius's gas gauge was blinking, with no gas stations in sight for several miles back.


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