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How We Reduced Our Carbon Footprint

| 8/20/2014 9:11:00 AM

Solar Panel on Roof of House

When I retired from my faculty position at the University of Maine in 2003, I resolved that one of my retirement projects would be to greatly reduce my carbon footprint by making my home and transportation more energy efficient, and reducing my consumption of fossil fuels.  My wife, Lee, supported me in this undertaking, as we were very much aware of the terrible impacts on the environment of fossil fuel extraction, processing, and transport, and the pollution and climate change caused by the combustion of these fuels.   Our fellow humans and other living things depend on this environment, and it our responsibility to avoid harmful impact to them. We didn’t dream at the time that ten years later we would be powering our home and our local transportation largely with solar energy.

We decided to spend a substantial part of our savings and retirement income on this effort to reduce our carbon footprint. We were greatly helped by the residential energy and clean transportation income tax credits provided by the federal government, and the rebates from Efficiency Maine for purchasing and installing equipment in our home to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. I am hoping that this essay encourages readers to do some of the same things we did within their financial means.  

As one’s geographic location and living situation have much to do with energy conservation, first I’ll tell you that I live at the end of a dead end, country road in Orono, Maine. Our closest neighbor is about a half-mile away. Our 2,200 square ft, single-story home sits near the top of a gentle slope at the head of a hay field, is sheltered by a forest on one side, and by a row of trees on the other side. Behind the house is our vegetable garden. We are fortunate in being only 3 miles by road to downtown Orono, a town of about 10,000 persons, and a mile further to the University of Maine, and only 6 miles to downtown Bangor, a small city of about 33,000 persons with good shopping areas and other amenities.

Before describing the steps we took to make our transition from fossil fuel to solar energy, I must point out that our transition is not complete. Each year we have been taking one or two long trips by fossil-fuel-powered car or coach and/or airliner, and much of what we buy including most of our food (we garden-produce some) and even the energy-saving equipment we have installed in our home is produced and shipped using fossil-fuel energy. We can and will take further steps to reduce our carbon footprint, but life completely without fossil fuels may not be possible in our economy without full withdrawal from it, and a return to a pre-industrial revolution life style. 

Here are the major steps in our transition (there were also smaller steps, too numerous to mention here):

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