opening the carbon footprint can of worms…

We’ve been suuuuuper bizzy the last few months, bought a house, dismantled the garage, played some festivals, etc. So the blog has sadly ended up a tad neglected, but I’m happy to get things rolling again now that life has (somewhat) settled down.

It’s been about a year since Cass and I started looking at building sustainability into our daily existence. It was about this time a year ago that we first got our compost bin, and started recycling more seriously. It’s pretty staggering to think about how much the WasteNot project has impacted my ways of looking at the world, but more on that in the coming weeks.

Looking at things a year later, and I see that the compost bin is now full. We’re planning the garden for next year and how we can start producing as much food on site as possible. For the last week or two we’ve been pumping out mad home made apple sauce from fruit that we’ve been gifted or helped friends harvest. We’ve also just made the decision to scrap our Bulk Barn bags and attempt to convince Nutter’s to let us use our own cloth bags in their bulk section*. We’ve made a lot of little changes in reducing what we throw away, and those have added up to some BIG changes in how we live. There are still a good handful of little things that we haven’t tackled yet (yes that’s a plastic pen sitting on the table beside my laptop as I type this… yes toilet paper is still on the grocery list… sadly yes, a lot of the garage tear down ended up at the dump), but over the last few months I’ve been feeling the itch to start looking at another big issue… namely: our carbon footprint and how we’re impacting climate change.

One of the big advantages of the move to the Mayfair neighbourhood is that we’re now a LOT closer to the places we need to go. Both Cass’s job and her gym are a 5 minute bike ride away, and my work is no more than 20. We have a bunch of friends within a few blocks, and we can walk for a lot of our groceries. After having discovered the Bridge City Bike Co-op and getting our rides up to ship-shape condition, we’re already a heck of a lot less reliant on burning fossil fuels to get around. That being said there’s still a lot more to tackle. So in the spirit of “start before you’re ready” we’re muddling out into reducing our carbon footprint and seeing what we learn.

One of the first things we did was sign up for Bullfrog Power. This is a company that produces sustainable electricity and sustainable natural gas (derived from decaying plant matter), and injects it onto the grid on your behalf. You still pay your regular power and energy bills, and then you pay an additional premium to Bullfrog who makes an approximation of your household usage and produces that much clean power/energy which then gets placed onto the public grid (ostensibly reducing the overall demand for fossil fuels). They’re audited yearly by a third party whose job it is to make sure they’re actually doing what they say they are, and there are some big industrial players that use their service. I don’t know a huge tonne about it, but from the research that I’ve done they seem legit. If any of our readers have any more information or experience with the company we’d love to hear about it 🙂

The second thing that I’ve been thinking about a lot has been vehicle emissions. We’re already reducing how much city driving we do pretty significantly, but part of my career in music means a fair bit of long haul travelling, both to summer festivals and to club gigs around Western Canada, as well as the occasional flight to further destinations. I feel pretty conflicted about the “need” to play shows in other cities, versus the very real need to stop pumping a bunch of garbage into the atmosphere. So, for the moment I’ve come to the following conclusions. Firstly, I’m going to focus on continuing to develop my fanbase in Western Canada, and not focus on traditional extended touring doing multiple gigs per week in different cities across a huge geographic area. Instead I envision the possibility of offering more to each city that I do play. I’d like to spend at least a week in each specific destination, doing multiple different types of performance (a club gig, a downtempo house concert, maybe a children’s show, a production/development workshop, etc.), and making better connections with fans in the process. The fuel that I do burn in the process of doing these types of excursions, as well as playing a limited number of summer festivals, AND my day-to-day city driving, I plan to offset by donating to a tree planting/carbon capture charity… Which is where things get a little more complex.

I want to make sure that the money that I’m giving out to offset my fossil fuel usage is actually going to be effective in getting the carbon out of the atmosphere, rather than paying an intern to make feel-good Facebook posts. One of the most informative articles I’ve come across can be found here, where it talks about the a wide range of factors that play into planting trees with the intention of capturing carbon, as well as some of the pitfalls that donors may fall into when choosing an organization to support. After doing some very rough calculations (unfortunately there is no easy formula, the environment is a chaotic system, different trees absorb different amounts of carbon, etc. etc.) I’ve decided to invest half of what I spend on fuel in up-taking the carbon that the fuel produces. If applied effectively the trees that this investment plants should come close to absorbing the carbon within 1-5 years and then go on to chip away at my existing “carbon mortgage”. SO… I went ahead and donated $250.00 from Sleepwreck’s bank account to an organization called Plant It 2020, to offset the $500.00 in fuel that was spent doing gigs and festivals this summer, and I plan to do the same thing to cover my limited city driving as well. As of now this is a very rough system, so again I’m very happy to have any input that our readers can offer on how to effectively offset fossil fuel usage through planting trees.

So there it is! Just gonna keep putting one foot in front of the other. I hope your sustainability journey is going well (tell us about it!), and we’ll be back in a week or two with another post!

*More on that as it develops, the plastic bags were getting fairly unsanitary after several months of use, and they’re  a huge pain in the butt to clean. So into the recycling bin they go!

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