Q: In what ways do you cut your non-home carbon footprint, such as that from traveling, driving, products you purchase, etc., if at all?

A: We work hard to minimize the carbon footprint we create from all sources not just our home and swimming pool, both of which have zero carbon footprints. Any carbon footprint from air travel, selling paperback versions of Zero Carbon Home and selling the T-shirt  is offset with audited, verified-incremental, carbon offsets that we buy from Cool Effect. 

We are big recyclers. We buy only organic food in the first place. We throw out almost nothing. Any edible waste goes to our chickens. The chickens fertilize our garden making our fruit and vegetable gardens very productive. We have done a taste test of our tomatoes compared to the most expensive, local and organic tomatoes from Whole Foods Market and ours tasted far better. The same was true for our peaches, it was literally no comparison. The chickens give us eggs and meat. So, we eat very well. We are not even close to being self-sufficient and do not aspire to being so. But we do love the taste of asparagus in April, rhubarb in May, tomatoes and peas in June, cherries in July, peaches in August, just about everything in September, apples in October, pears even into November and fresh eggs year-round. Last October, I succeeded in transplanting peppers and tomatoes in pots to be grown indoors (growing under LED grow lights powered by my solar panels) and we were eating them up until Christmas. Anything the chickens won’t eat (onions and citrus for instance) gets composted as do all our used paper tissues. Almost everything else such as paper, glass, metal and plastic gets recycled and we trash only about a single 50-liter (13-gallon) kitchen waste bag each week.

I bought a Tesla this year, which I charge from my solar panels which means it costs 2c per mile compared to my old SUV which cost 15c per mile on gasoline. The Tesla, when charged by solar panels, has a zero-carbon footprint. This covers most of our local travel, but we still have two gasoline-powered cars. When they die they will be replaced with EV’s too. My wife recently drove the 400 miles to New York City and back in the Tesla. It cost $8. the Greyhound costs $26, and it emits pollution and CO2 every mile of the way. 

When we buy things, we buy almost always local and sustainable. For examples:

  • For clothing we only buy organic, mostly cotton and almost all grown and sewn in the U.S.
  • For food we buy only organic and usually U.S.-grown only though we do make a few exceptions for some rather excellent Swiss cheese and Italian balsamic vinegar. I used to drink mostly French wine but now drink mostly Californian organic wines. We have visited farms that provide many of our favorite foods like tomatoes grown at Longwind Farm in Vermont, cheese made at Gray Barn Farm on Martha’s Vineyard, and blueberries grown at D’Ottavio’s farm in New Jersey.
  • For construction products (wood, paints, door hardware and light fixtures) and furniture almost everything we buy is made in the U.S. including many made in New England. We buy a lot of construction products because we are renovating, or have renovated, three properties. The wood that will become the flooring in the extension that we are currently building on our house will come from trees that fell down on our land. We had these trees sawn into “1 by” dimensional lumber, and they are currently drying out. Recently we received the first batch of wide pine boards that will become flooring in our extension.
  • For cars, our Tesla was made in the U.S., the first American-built car we have ever bought. Before this, we bought only BMW and Mercedes.
  • We buy almost no gasoline or heating oil and we buy zero electricity as everything is powered by U.S. sunshine. The heating oil we do buy is BioHeat30 which is 30% vegetable oil.
  • For air travel, when we do travel by air (which we have not done so far this year, but not by choice) we offset the journey with carbon offsets. Any remaining purchases of gasoline, heating oil and electricity are zeroed out with certified incremental carbon offsets each year as Christmas presents from me to the other family members.