Lightspark Software and Canadian Geographic have partnered to create Live Net Zero, a bundle of five stories about five families and their push to reduce their emissions. Each of the stories chronicles the families’ progress over 10 weeks and a series of themed challenges to reduce their carbon footprints and energy spending.
The Loewen-Nair Family
Andrea and Vineet moved their family to London, Ontario to live a more sustainable lifestyle. In their new home, they were able to stop commuting by car. Now, Vineet and Andrea walk to work, their children walk to school and they are regular and avid cyclists. However, the family does maintain one car for longer treks.
The family renovated a smaller home from the 1920s with new modern energy efficiency upgrades such as radiant floor heating, ductless mini-split air conditioners and foam insulation. As a result, they’ve reduced their natural gas consumption—their home gas bills are normally under $100.
The Loewen-Nair family has already made big strides toward changing its lifestyle. However, they have big plans on the horizon, such as installing solar panels, replacing their car with an electric vehicle and installing an EV charge station in their garage.
The Leung Family
Based in Vancouver, B.C., John and Nancy Leung are on a quest to live greener. Along with their two teenage children, they have made big changes to how they live. For instance, John and Nancy purchased a home from the 1930s 21 years ago, and have been diligent in keeping up with draft-proofing and keeping the home well-insulated.
They’ve also installed smart thermostats, take showers instead of baths and regularly turn down their thermostats to save on power and reduce their carbon footprint. Vancouver offers several rebates for energy efficiency, which can help the Leungs achieve and afford their goals.
Beyond energy efficiency, the Leungs have other green household policies on the go. These include a dedication to reducing, reusing and recycling—the family says it usually takes them more than a month to fill their garbage bin. They’ve also joined a local buy nothing group, enabling them to rescue used items from the dump, and find new owners for things they no longer need. They’ve also had an organic vegetable garden that they first planted two decades ago.
Going forward, the family hopes to continue making improvements to their home to increase its energy efficiency, and replace its gas-powered SUV with an electric vehicle.
The Richmond Family
The Richmond family built the Alberta’s first certified passive house in Calgary in 2016. Kit and Ania Richmond were proud of their home, which was designed to consume up to 90 percent less power for heating and cooling than a traditional home. They took this passion for sustainability with them when they moved to their new home in Red Deer, Alberta.
Kit, Ania and their two kids enjoy hiking, camping biking and other outdoor activities—this is one of the reasons why they are dedicated to doing what they can to protect the environment. The parents hope to lead by example for their two boys, and show them how the household’s choices can have a positive impact.
To do their part, the Richmonds have been replacing their appliances with high-efficiency appliances like an induction stove and LEDs. In the future, they want to electrify their hot water system, replace their furnace with an electric heat pump and install solar panels on their roof.
The Lai Family
Calvin and Janet of Stouffville, Ontario, want to bring sustainability to their suburban home and lifestyle, and strive towards net-zero. Living and raising a new family sustainably isn’t always the easiest in the suburbs, but the two is actively seeking ways to reduce their home’s carbon footprint.
Right now, Calvin’s commute to work would take one hour and 45 minutes by public transit, meaning he opts to take his fuel-efficient compact car on the 16-minute drive instead. However, he is currently thinking of ways to cut down his transportation emissions, like using an e-bike or an electric vehicle.
The family’s home currently has a high-efficiency gas furnace and air conditioner, both controlled by a smart thermostat. While their water heater uses natural gas, they are hoping to replace it with an electric model instead. They also have newer ENERGY STAR® certified appliances, but hope to replace them incrementally with newer and more efficient models to save money each month. Going forward, they hope to improve their home using triple-glaze windows and improved attic insulation, and by installing solar panels.
The Pistor Family
Jennifer and Remo Pistor and their three kids currently live in a home constructed in the 1940s in New Westminster, B.C. Their overall philosophy is to make progress and not sweat perfection, making smaller but frequent lifestyle changes to reduce their emissions.
The family of five has a strong DIY ethic, and has made several home upgrades like a kitchen renovation using energy efficient appliances. As they both work from home, they don’t drive very much, and prefer to shop in their own community. They also have a large garden that they use to grow their own produce, but will shop local and buy in-season goods as much as possible.
Jennifer is an advocate of the slow fashion movement, and is an avid second-hand shopper. She even blogs on the topics. By doing this, she hopes to find ways to be stylish while also avoiding buying new products that have an environmental footprint, and highlight the benefits of these approaches to inform her readers. The family writ-large is also committed to reducing, reusing and recycling.
The family wants to do more to achieve a net-zero life, however. They plan to install new high-efficiency windows, replace their furnace with an electric heat pump and install rain chains to collect water for their garden.