Cut Your Carbon - 8 Summer Actions for Dramatic Results

Tomato SeedlingsBelieve it or not, you can drastically reduce your carbon emissions this summer without having to afford a several hundred dollar appliance purchase. These 8 carbon-cutting actions offer fun and easy choices you can make to fight climate change.

1. Grow something tastier than grass

According to, one hour of gardening will take care of 280 calories - about one grande Starbucks whole milk latte. Plus, New Brunswick’s Fallsbrook Centre tells us that the average meal travels 2400 Km to reach our plates. That’s roughly the distance between Montreal and Winnipeg - every meal!

Not only does gardening save us fuel and cash while melting off the calories, it’s ridiculously rewarding and a great way to connect with nature - literally. Three nights ago, I proudly made a scrumptious casserole with my own home-grown home-canned tomatoes. It doesn’t get much better than that.

And with all the current hype and hoopla about gardening, resources and supports are easy to come by:

Home Grown Tomatoes

Got no yard? Container gardening is a great way to bring healthy snacks to your balcony.
No time to garden? Farmers markets are brimming with the next freshest produce you’ll find in town, meaning you’re still saving on transport-related carbon emissions.

2. These boots were made for walking

You may wish this summer’s itinerary kept you on the beach or in the hammock, but Cycling Gearchances are, you have a few more places you’ll need to get to. Luckily the elements will be a little kinder this season to those who walk and cycle to their daily destinations.

Take in the fresh air and the stress-busting benefits that your two legs and two wheels can provide. You’ll save money on gas, parking and exercise class fees while taking a carbon-emitting car off the road. By the time the blisters and saddle sores are gone, your rear end will have shrunk, and you’ll never look back.

Nervous about braving traffic on two wheels? Wear protective and reflective gear, and use bike paths and side roads whenever possible.
Need a little extra convincing? Walk or bike with a friend, or find someone at work who will bike to work three days a week while holding you to do the same.
Don’t want to sweat it? Give yourself more than enough time to arrive so your body doesn’t have to work (sweat) so hard to get there. Or, bring a towel to wipe down and an extra change of clothes.
Have a rare phobia of bikes and running shoes? Taking transit will give you time to devour that novel everyone’s talking about. Or, with a touch of organizing, a car pool could take 3-4 cars off the road a day!
Need a more laid back solution? Ask your employer about working from home - imagine staying in your PJs all day!

Calculate your benefits with Prevention Magazine’s walking calorie calculator.

3. Get a superautomatic solar clothes dryer (clothes line)

Solar power’s all the rage these days, even your Grandma has it. While puttering in my own yard this past weekend, it was hard to ignore the neighbour’s artificial dryer sheet fragrance - at least until the wind picked up. So catch up to Grandma this summer by using a clothes line rather than your dryer or even a simple laundry rack. You’ll save on fabric softener while enjoying nature’s free ‘fresh air’ fragrance. There’s really nothing else like it.Clothes Line & Rack

According to the Light House, the dryer is the biggest power user in the home after the refrigerator. Find more facts from their handy Clothes Dryer Fact Sheet.

The best part is, it’s so easy! Choose from all manners of clothes lines, hardware, racks and kits at a store near you.

Can’t find a locally owned company that supplies them? Canadian Tire offers a good selection. You’ll find many options at less than $30, guaranteed.

4. Don’t just stand by while hungry appliances eat up your electricity

Power BarYou wouldn’t let someone pilfer $5 from your piggy bank every day. So it’s time to stand up to your electronics equipment, by rationing only the electricity they require. You’ve delayed doing this all winter, so Spring into action today!

Equip yourself with some power strips that can be switched on and off, and eliminate power vampires (gadgets that use power even when they’re not in use) like sneaky gadget chargers,Remember to Turn off the Power deceiving entertainment units, and covert computer equipment. Learn about the culprits lurking in your own home, and calculate their drain on your power bill.

Can’t remember to turn the power bar off? Program your brain to remember by putting a happy face sticker on your alarm clock. Each time you set it at night to wake up in the morning, you’ll be reminded to turn off all your power bars.

5. Freshen up your diet

One thing I like about Spring, is that things start growing again. So why on Earth do we put so much effort into boiling the life out of fresh produce, especially in the summer heat?Fresh Raw Food

I like to think it’s out of habit. Where I live anyway, the winter lasts for half the year. By the time April comes it’s hard to get out of steamy soup and casserole mode. But it’s worth it when we do.

By eating more fresh, raw, and unprocessed foods we cut our risk of developing diseases like cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. On top of that, you will shrink your carbon footprint in two ways:

You’ll save gas and electricity when you opt not to steam your broccoli till it’s wilted and yellow. Every time you save energy, you prevent the release of carbon emissions.

You’ll cut down on cooling costs when you bypass the oven for a serving of fresh Mango Lime Parfait since you didn’t heat up the house in the first place. Challenge yourself to ‘unplug’ one or more meals a day by choosing meals that don’t require cooking or the use of an electric or gas appliance.

Sunspot Parabolic Solar CookerNo clue how to cook without cooking? Try cereal with fresh fruit and yogurt for breakfast, and veggies with bean dip and pita chips for lunch or dinner. Find more ideas courtesy of ‘From Sad to Raw’.

Too simple for you? Tech it up by making a solar cooker or dehydrator. Here’s the one I plan to make this season. Find many other plans at

6. Make your window coverings work hard for your money

Don’t let your drapes just hang out! They have a job to do. On cool days, they should be letting sun in the windows to heat up the house (drapes open), or keeping the heat in when the sun’s MIA (drapes closed). Then in the steamy heat of summer, keep those shades down to keep the heat out during the day, and then up at night to cool down the house.

I’d do the whole ‘wax on - wax off’ metaphor for you, but I think this is pretty straight forward. When you make your windowMake Your Window Coverings Work coverings work properly, you can retire your air conditioner on hot days and take a load off your furnace or boiler on cooler days.

Have a mind like a sieve? Put another sticker on your alarm clock. It’ll remind you to open or close the blinds depending on the weather.

Don’t have window coverings? Buy some! Your neighbours are getting quite the show! Or, if you want to go all out and get creative, make a window quilt to keep heat in or out.

7. Mud pies are fun but composting is better

What helps you in the garden can also trim your carbon footprint. When you mix last year’s veggies with this year’s pumpkin patch you not only nourish healthier plants, but you also fast-track the creation of new soil too, which nature normally takes 500-1000 years to do.

How does this relate to carbon emissions you ask? When plant scraps ditch the waste bin for the compostCompost Aerator (Yard Butler) heap, the volume of waste that garbage trucks collect is reduced, meaning fewer trips to the dump and back.

Think it’s a waste of your time? According to Alberta Environment, 30% or so of what we toss could be composted. That’s more than just a drop in the bucket.

No time or space to garden? Your compost will be graciously welcomed by any gardener you offer it to. It’s black gold I tell ya.

Too messy or stinky for you? You probably need a quick lesson in composting, which when done properly, stinks not. In the short term, delegate the task to your young son. He’ll talk to his buddies about the slime for days!

My dirty little secret is that I’ve learned to enjoy turning the compost pile. That is, once I got myself one of these. Beats a pitch fork hands down. You can find one at a Lee Valley Tools near you.

8. Unplug your workout

“Quit your gym membership” isn’t something you’ll hear too often. With the summer months comes many an opportunity to pump and flex, sans electrical equipment. Or, you could just stay inside where the familiar scent of ‘eau de bodybuilder’ Human-powered Workouts Save Energylingers in the breezeless gym.

What better opportunity to enjoy quality time with the family than on a regular bike, hike, or river paddle? Or, discover adult for-fun or competitive league sports like beach volleyball, slow-pitch, or soccer.

Much invigorating exercise also awaits you in the yard and garden, especially if you own a push mower! Or for the adrenaline junkie there’s always kite-boarding, rock-climbing, and river-kayaking.

Whichever you choose, you can breathe easier knowing that you’ve saved 1.5 Kwh and 2 Lbs of CO2 for each hour that you trade the treadmill for the bike trail. See Saving Energy In Exercise Habits for more on this. Chances are, you’ll have more fun this way!

Married to machines? Build a pedal-powered generator- and make a refreshing power smoothie while you work out.

Climate Change - What you can do

The Good Life - Tracks your carbon emission reductions with each simple action you take while allowing you to challenge your friends to some friendly carbon cutting fun.

Consumption Reduction - This student-made resource challenges you to reduce your carbon emissions with weekly Wednesday challenges, reporting, and carbon calculations.

Carbon Footprint Calculators - Find a carbon calculator that works for you!

(Cross-posted at

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Apparently (at least according to a CBC article I read a little while back), composting also helps trim emissions because when organic materials are composted they produce less methane during decomposition than if they were rotting in a landfill. Who knew?

Hey, those tomatoes look great. I hope you take some pictures when you do your canning in the fall - I'd love to learn how to do that.

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