Sustainable Life and Household Investments

The world has seen lot’s of opportunity to take action and make a difference in the world over the last few weeks. The protests on racial inequality, coupled with the pandemic the last few months, create a lot of anxiety. However, it also represents a potential turning point on more activism to make the world a better place including on climate change.

This is the third in my series on Newton’s new “Take Action” which is being promoted by Green Newton. The first two posts covered daily activities, as well as energy usage. Today I will cover my self-assessment on bigger investments in the home including

  • Buy or Lease an Electric Car
  • Get a Home Energy Assessment
  • Put Solar on Your Rooftop
  • Use Energy Efficiency Appliances
  • Take Fossil Fuels Out of Your Heating
  • Insulate and Air Seal Your Home
  • Go for High Efficiency Renovations

A few years ago, my college-age son told me he needed a car for his summer job. At the time he didn’t have a job, so I told him – “get a job and we will assess whether you need at car.” I was very resistant to buying another car. To his credit, he got a summer job in his field of study. It was basically door-to-door sales for a graphics printing business. He needed a car. This lead us into owning a Chevy Volt, which has turned out to be an excellent car, and although also can use gas, we rarely fill it. This satisfied my goals since we also use 100% renewal electricity. This last point is critical. Buying or leasing an electric car is a good first step, however, if your electricity is getting generate from a coal fired plant, that somewhat defeats the purpose.

A number of years ago we has an Eversource home energy assessment, and I recommend everyone do this as it is a fantastic way to get a free assessment of where you can conserve energy, and move to more sustainable options. You can also get free LED light bulbs, eligibility insulation grants, etc. If you are a home owner, you can start with an assessment here. Over the years, we have invested in insulation, new windows through-out the house. When we renovated our kitchen, we updated the insulation, and my wife was extremely happy it went from the coldest room in the house to the warmest.

A couple open projects we could tackle are home heating and solar panels. We currently heat with oil, which is not great. However, my current big expenses include three kids at college, and a new garage from a tree falling on the old one, so a new furnace will have to wait a few years. I did look into solar panels a few years ago, but the technology at the time, plus the dormers and the roof of my house made the investment not really feasible. I will re-visit this over the next few years, the innovation is accelerating, making solar more and more efficient. Here is a good article on the innovations that could increase solar efficiency to over 40%.

It definitely takes more planning and upfront investment to make these bigger changes. We have been chipping away for a few years and are making good progress.

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