The family sustainability “index” – redux

Back on November 12th I wrote about the desire to chronicle the journey my family is on while we move to a more sustainable life. I said I’d write the next day about where we were starting and what we were already doing to ease the burden we are placing on the planet. Well, I never made that post. Several months later I’m starting.

I think my wife and I are doing well so far. The choices we’ve made for upgrades to our house have been the best we could possibly afford, not unlike many other people, but I think for different reasons.

The Furnace Replacement

As an example when we had to choose a new furnace the first Fall that we lived in our current home we chose a 90%+ efficient furnace. I’ve talked to quite a few people since then and most, given the same choice, would have chosen the cheaper 80%+ efficient model because it was cheaper and there wouldn’t be enough of a return on the investment on the more expensive, but more efficient model. Simply put the dollars saved in energy bills wouldn’t be worth the difference in price.

In our case I chose the higher efficiency model because I think that, regardless of the money saved, it is my obligation to use less energy. I could afford the higher price and the natural resources saved was enough of a reason to make the purchase decision I did.

This is not to say that I think I am better than anyone else for having done so. I also believe that is is very important that people need to live within their means and not overstretch themselves. The lower-cost models are still far more efficient than what they would be replacing (in my case the furnace in this house was from the 1960s!) so in most cases any choice would be a win. Someone living within their means and watching what they consume is just as big of a win, if not a bigger one, for the planet.

The Windows

Another upgrade to the house we made was replacing all (well…mostly anyhow. The basement windows weren’t replaced.) of the windows on the first and second floor of the house. The old windows were the original windows from when the house was constructed in 1943. The glazing on most of them was in bad shape and they were single pane glass. They leaked air so badly that we always put the shrink-plastic over them in the winter and during really bad winds you’d see the plastic bowing out into the room every time a gust of wind came through (and the windows all had storm windows over them too.). The upstairs windows were simply just too dangerous.

They were all replace with the highest end vinyl window we could find. We got the low-e glass, argon gas filling, etc. Was vinyl the best choice from an environmental standpoint? Probably not but it was the trade-off we had to make. We couldn’t afford anything more expensive and the heat loss in winter that was cut down, plus the lower heat gain in the summer, were wins no matter how you look at it. There are no perfect choices in this type of situation but I think we made the right choice.

To be continued…

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