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The Seattle Times Climate challenge
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Weathering Change

A family from Bothell, a TV host and a high school sophomore take a shot at cutting greenhouse gas emissions. See how they're doing.


April 30, 2007

Prius lust

Posted by The Fraleys at 01:25 PM

For more than two years now we've lusted for a Toyota Prius, but the circumstances have not yet been right — until last week. Mid-April we finished a very satisfying refinance while John was busy signing up three new piano students to completely fill his schedule. So after a few minutes of research online, we began our hybrid shopping at Magic Toyota in Edmonds, which turned out very well. Kevin and Tyson were extremely helpful at the dealership: we test-drove one Prius, predictably fell in love with it, got a favorable deal on it, bought it, and drove off that same afternoon with giddy grins.

That act alone will probably slash our emissions by 15 percent — our household's gas mileage just shot from 27-28 mpg to 45 mpg or above, since we'll use the Prius for at least 80 percent of our trips. So now we set ourselves a new goal: Can we still cut 15 percent from our CO2 output EXCLUDING vehicle use? Almost all our lightbulbs are changed, our heating habits are re-programmed, and we're better about managing waste. Let's see where that gets us. Game on.

(Oh, and anybody want to buy a perfectly OK '97 Taurus, whose only fault is not being a gas-electric hybrid?)

I can only start where I am

Posted by Nancy Guppy at 01:20 PM

I think it's safe to say that, by the end of this experience, I won't be living in a yurt, or collecting my showering and drinking water through a homemade system of pipes and troughs that funnel the rain into a large stone cistern placed strategically on my Queen Anne condominium deck. In fact, it's quite possible that my eco-efforts will result in such a small, petty pile of nothing, that everyone reading this will hate me. Oh well. I can only start where I am — small, and yes, petty. So, with the bar set on the low'ish side, here's what's happening today:

During my morning shower, I turned off the water while I shampooed my hair. This saved at least 90 seconds worth of water. I felt cold during the 90-second break, but that's a sacrifice I am willing to make... at least for one month. As I was drying my hair it occurred to me that I could turn the water off while I'm soaping myself up as well. This would probably save another 2 or so minutes of water. I'll try that tomorrow, if I remember.

It's now 1:10 in the afternoon and my friend, Keri Learned, is holding a jewelry trunk show at a store on Queen Anne avenue. I sooooo want to drive, partly because I'm lazy and partly because I'm still feeling that not-needed third glass of wine from last night, but I'm going to walk because it's a beautiful day and this blog-thingy makes me accountable for my actions. Plus, a hangover isn't a good excuse for getting out of anything.

April 27, 2007

Energy conservation does NOT mean shivering in the dark ...

Posted by The Fraleys at 12:34 PM

Feedback from friends and family about the Climate Challenge has been very encouraging. Thanks to everyone who has our back! But a small clarification seems in order... when we (meaning John, it's entirely his fault) made the comment about keeping the thermostat in the 50s, we didn't mean to imply that we'd freeze our family all month long in the name of "winning" this challenge. Everyone who comments on the story says something along the lines of "gonna set the heat to 50, huh?" and that's not really our strategy.

A good line I read recently goes something like this: Energy conservation does NOT mean shivering in the dark or wearing parkas all day long.

So maybe we'll keep the down comforter on the bed, but we certainly will not be freezing our children overnight, defrosting them in the morning, and putting on five sweaters and a flannel to get through the day if this May turns out to be a chilly one. We will use the heat if it's needed. It's just that we'll redefine our idea of "needed." And we won't heat an empty house. Maybe there will be three weeks during which the thermostat stays untouched at 58. But if it's cold and the heat is on a lot out of necessity, we'll conserve somewhere else. Maybe we won't turn any lights on.

Just kidding.

April 26, 2007

Earth Day

Posted by The Fraleys at 12:54 PM

We spent a lot of Earth Day doing research - found some "going green" tips on Oprah's website, miraculously located a stash of energy efficient lightbulbs under a pile of kid toys in the garage, set up a composting system, and surfed some Toyota dealerships' websites to see how much a Prius would cost. We've been wanting to buy a hybrid for quite a while now... maybe this is as good a time as any. Is it cheating if we buy one during the month of May? Just curious.

Hanging on our kitchen wall is the graphic from last week's Times that shows how to reduce your carbon footprint by doing little things around the house. It's now impossible to miss, and it gets us motivated every morning. That's a terrific tool.

Thought we should mention that Aaron, our oldest son, turned 4 on Earth Day. It's a happy coincidence.

P.S. Good luck Nancy and Kimberly.

April 15, 2007

A chance to be part of something bigger

Posted by The Fraleys at 07:10 PM

We've always wanted to do something positive about climate change, but what can you really accomplish on your own? Sure, we can think globally and act locally, we can recycle, we can resist the urge to buy a 3-miles-to-the-gallon suburban assault vehicle, and we can even support politicians who appear to care about the environment. But will our single family's attempt to minimize our carbon footprint have any measurable effect on the planet? Hard to buy into that. That's why we jumped at the chance to be a part of something bigger. Thanks, Seattle Times, for providing us with that chance.

A tiny bit about us: We're a fairly typical family in many aspects. Cori is 30, I'm 32. Our boys are almost 4 and almost 2. We live in a mid-size home in a ferociously middle-class subdivision in a mostly non-swanky town. We're politically independent (although I admit we lean to the left), she teaches in the public school system, I'm a piano instructor, we pay most our bills on time, we love our adorable boys, and we're pretty sick of receiving 14 offers each day to refinance our mortgage at historic low rates.

It'll be an interesting challenge to cut down on our emissions significantly, since I'm pretty much locked in to driving 350 miles a week to give lessons in people's homes. But we can heat less, we can recycle even more diligently, we can make a couple lifestyle choices to reduce our footprint, we can cut down a car trip here and there, and we can accomplish something. Probably not without some effort and a hint of sacrifice, but then again, when is the easy road the right road?

Let the games begin

Posted by Nancy Guppy at 06:05 PM

Hi, my name is Nancy Guppy. I've always considered myself to be an enlightened, earth-friendly type citizen — I compulsively save worms that are stranded on city sidewalks. However, the following personal facts may point in a different direction: I often take way too long of showers; I am occasionally lazy about recycling; and I've been known to take spur-of-the-moment driving trips in search of those chocolate mint medallions called UFO's that are only to be found at Trader Joes. (In my defense, we are a 2-Prius family, so my UFO adventures don't pollute like some cars, but still.)

So, I'm taking part in this project as a wake-up call, to get to the facts about my real behavior and its consequences. It's kind of like saying "you know". It doesn't seem like you say it that often, you know, but if you start, you know, noticing and counting, you know, then it turns out, you know, to be a lot more than you know. You know?

Let the games begin.

April 10, 2007

Why I'm taking the Climate Challenge

Posted by Kimberly Roberts at 10:06 AM

As an active member in my school's Earth Service Corps, I know what I can do to better the earth and reduce my contribution to global warming. Being in the debate team has taught me the economic, political, social, and, of course environmental, implications of humankind's excessive carbon emissions. I am compassionate about our planet and those who inhabit it, but thus far in my life, I have not taken initiative in putting actions to my words and ideas regarding global warming. By participating in this climate challenge, I hope to create habits that will reduce my contribution to global warming and influence others to do the same.

Because teenagers such as me are the future legislators, lawyers, writers and everyday workers of the world, it is crucial that the environment is made an issue for us now. Currently, affairs other than global warming occupy our attention. This climate challenge will hopefully make minding the environment a more prominent part of my life. Giving my input and perspective, as a teen, will hopefully inspire my peers to be more proactive in the fight against global warming.

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Nancy Guppy
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Kimberly
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The Fraleys
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June 2007

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