A New West family is up for the challenge of finding ways to try and live a net-zero lifestyle.
The Pistor family — Jen and Remo and their daughters Madelyn, Sabrina, and Lily — is one of five Canadian households taking part in the Live Net Zero Challenge, which hopes to inspire Canadians to reduce their carbon emissions at home. Live Net Zero will follow five households from across the country as they compete in challenges aimed at drastically reducing their carbon emissions and trying to live a net-zero lifestyle.
"Participating in the Live Net Zero program is an opportunity for our family to learn how we can do more,” said Jen Pistor. “Sustainable living is about progress over perfection for us, and we're excited to share what we learn along our journey."
The Loewen-Nair family from London, Ont., the Leung family from Vancouver, the Richmond family from Red Deer, Alta. and the Lai family from Stouffville, Ont. are also taking part in the challenge. Each household will be documenting their efforts along the way and using social media to share their journeys to inspire and teach fellow Canadians what they can do within their own households to reduce energy consumption, shrink their carbon footprint and lower their spending on energy.
“Hopefully, people will follow along, not just with our journey but with all the families,” Pistor said. “I'm excited for it; I think it's going to be a really cool experience.”
Canadian Geographic, which is hosting the challenge, said more than 25 per cent of the country’s carbon emissions come from household energy use, so carbon reductions must be made at the household level to help Canada meet its climate targets.
The Live Net Zero Challenge is providing each household with $10,000 to help them reduce their carbon footprint. They’ll be taking part in themed bi-weekly challenges, starting Sept. 19.
“That ($10,000) will be something we'll be using throughout the challenges,” Pistor said. “They have laid out the five areas which are commuting, electricity use, home envelope, heating and cooling, and a holiday challenge. And we definitely have some ideas of those areas based on our home and our lifestyle. But as each challenge comes up, we'll definitely be pushed into really working to figuring out exactly how to allocate those funds for each challenge.”
Challenges are designed to help the participants identify their greatest sources of carbon emissions, prioritize retrofits and educate them on behavioural changes that can reduce emissions.
"Getting Canada to net-zero will be a huge challenge for us all, and that's why we've created this challenge,” said Aran O'Carroll, Canadian Geographic's national director, government relations and environment. “It is designed to help participating families significantly lower their household's carbon footprint while inspiring fellow Canadians to join the journey to net-zero."
The Live Net Zero Challenge kicks off with the commuter challenge that encourages families to explore different strategies and ways to get around with the lowest carbon emissions impact.
The Pistors have already taken steps to reduce automobile trips. They've scheduled their kids' activities, such as soccer and dance, in a way that reduces back-and-forth travel. They've gotten rid of their second vehicle. But Pistor said they're looking forward to finding even more ways to cut down on car travel.
Subsequent challenges include: the electricity challenge (finding ways to reduce electricity use, exploring options for lower-carbon sources of energy and evaluating various appliance upgrades); the home envelope challenge (consulting with experts to conduct a home energy audit and identify retrofits and upgrades to improve the air-tightness of their homes); and the heating and cooling challenge (consulting with experts to conduct an audit of their home heating and hot water systems and evaluate greener solutions such as heat pumps and tankless water heaters.)
“For us, I think our home is definitely a big one,” Pistor said. “I think there's a lot of good things we're doing lifestyle-wise, but I think there will be things that we will learn.”
The Pistors have done work to their 1940 home through the years and know there’s always more work to be done.
“We still have drafts in our house, we still have windows that make rooms a little cold, and we have rooms that are a little too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter,” Pistor said. “So this will be a good way to push us into doing some of the things that we just haven't dove into yet with the house.”
The Live Net Zero challenge wraps up with the holiday challenge, which asks families to evaluate the environmental footprint of their gift-giving and travel and explore less carbon-intensive options.
“I'm excited for the holiday challenge,” Pistor said. “That was the first one where my wheels were already spinning, and I already have lots of ideas for that one.”
Pistor’s full-time gig is as a stay-at-home mom to an eight-year-old daughter and twin five-year-old daughters, and her part-time gig is as a fashion blogger, who focuses on slow-fashion and sustainable fashion.
Pistor’s kids already enjoy helping out with recycling and shopping at thrift stores with mommy, so she hopes to involve her kids in the challenges as much as possible. She thinks it’s important to instill good environmental practices in children from a young age, so those good habits will be normal for them as they grow up.
“We all play a part. We all live on this lovely planet, and we all need to be finding those tangible things that we can be doing,” she said. “No matter where we live or what our circumstances, there's always things that we can all be doing.”