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Can our family of six be carbon neutral? I'm about to find out...

On our way to the climate strike on Montreal, QC on March 15, 2019

On Friday March 15, 2019, my two oldest kids and I headed out to the climate strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg. This was my first protest as well as my kids. It was an inspiring experience. Over 150,000 people here in Montreal alone protested and there were well over 1.6 million people around the world. I was so inspired in fact, that I have decided to change. On March 18, 2019, after thinking about what I could do to take action and after listening to Greta's TedX talk and COP24 speeches, I had made my mind up. My family and I were going to reduce our carbon emissions to net-zero within six years.

So what is net-zero you might ask?

I had recently learned about net-zero homes that generate as much power as they use. Usually this is through things like solar panels and wind turbines, etc. It's connected to the electrical grid and draws on the grid when needed, supplying the energy it generates back to the grid when produced. A tally is taken (e.g. 100 KWH of energy generated) and compared to how much you used (e.g. 99 KWH of energy consumed). 100-99=+1, net positive. The aim is at least "net zero" (e.g. you generate at least what you consume) (hence the name).

This frames my newest goal. I’m aiming to reduce the carbon emissions my lifestyle generates and offset these with other initiatives so that the overall effect of my lifestyle nets out to zero impact from a carbon emissions perspective. Like a net-zero home but applied to my life.

But here's the thing, I have four kids. Yes, four kids. And one of the first pieces of scientific information I received upon announcing my lofty goal, was that the number one way to reduce your carbon footprint was to have one less child. The thing is, I love my kids and they are here to stay so I need to find a way to make all of our lifestyles net-zero. I believe this is possible. I don't think it's the number of kids you have but the lifestyle you live that makes the difference.

Why six years?

Greta talks about the rapid change that is necessary to avoid the most severe of consequences. Those of us in industrialized nations must make these changes faster so that those in poorer nations have a better chance. I research sustainability accounting and incentive plans so I believe that sustainability is important and I know that setting hard targets is one of the best ways to achieve good performance. So, six years, net-zero.

What's my plan?

This is a work in progress. The first step is to analyze where we are at, figure out what the current emissions are for our family. It's not going to be easy. It's not like the labels on the food we buy tell us this information. There are some calculators that will help but this step is going to take a little time. I'm aiming to first get a handle on our everyday lifestyle to understand what we are generating, like a carbon budget income statement if you will (forgive me, remember, I am an accountant!) Once we know where we are at, we can start targeting areas for reduction and find out how we can offset any remaining carbon emissions. Do you have some tools that you use? Tips from those of you who have done this before? Do you want to join me in reducing our carbon emissions together?

I can't promise this will be an easy journey, but I do think it will be worthwhile. My children will learn about budgeting in a different way, other than just dollars and cents, and we will all learn to live more sustainably on the only planet we have. Remember, there is no Planet B.

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