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Posted at 7:00 PM ET, 01/ 6/2010

Living the low-carbon life

By editors

By Elizabeth H. Singer

We read with great interest Juliet Eilperin’s front-page article [“Beyond recycling and light bulbs,” Jan. 2] about the Swedes coming to Northern Virginia to help local families adopt a low-carbon lifestyle.

My husband and I live in Howard County; we have friends who’ve installed geothermal heat pumps or solar panels, and we know lots of people with hybrid cars.

We’ve cut way back on driving and cut our kilowatt hours dramatically by adding insulation to the roof and sealing leaky ductwork.

When we needed a new roof this fall, a local company installed reflective asphalt that comes with an energy tax credit that cut the slightly higher cost. We saved money when we went to 50 percent wind-generated energy through BGE.

I would argue that there is a grass-roots effort in my community, and we even have discussion circles about energy saving, alternative energy and local and sustainable food consumption. Our kids are “greening” their schools through Green School certification, and many people are seeking a model for the future.

So it’s great to see the Swedes come to the rescue and help us to speed up, but as Americans with a can-do spirit, many of us are taking action now.

By editors  | January 6, 2010; 7:00 PM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Maryland, environment  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Congrats! The bag tax has changed my behavior.
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That's awesome about your conservation techniques, if only we could get more of these options available to everyone across the US. I'm glad that the Swedes are spreading the word as well.

Posted by: nefinnegan87 | January 7, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the concrete ideas for making environmentally wise changes without busting the budget. Many homeowners in our Bethesda neighborhood would like to know more about low-cost steps they can take to reduce carbon emissions and save energy. We just replaced our old washer with a high-efficiency one and had some insulation added in the fall. We’re thinking of having a fan installed in the attic, which should reduce AC costs in the summer. We're pleased to see that the trees we planted a decade ago now shade part of the house in the summer.

Posted by: JoannaC | January 7, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Efforts to live a lower carbon lifestyle such as the ones suggested by the Swedes and practiced by a small group in Howard County and other places are commendable but are they sufficient to make much of an impact in the future? Considering that the US population is expected to increase possibly by another 40 % by 2050, we would have to decrease our collective carbon footprint by 40% just to stay even. Maybe we should stabilize our population first, it just might make the job of reducing our carbon emissions easier.

Posted by: wolfger1 | January 7, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Howard County residents are conserving energy, and switching to cheaper wind energy (via Clean Currents and other wind options) as I have. Within our Climate Change Initiative ( some of us want to explore a solar coop. And we are regularly meeting with our county, State and Federal representatives to advocate for clean renewal energy. There are many things individuals can do, AND we need systemic change to get the economies of scale necessary to reverse climate change and assure cheap renewable energy. The Chesapeake Climate Action Network,, is our ally in our advocacy efforts.

Posted by: RuthAlice | January 7, 2010 8:58 PM | Report abuse

If you think reducing energy use is difficult, then stabilizing the population will be impossible. Despite China's one-child policy, its population has grown from 975 million when adopted in 1979 to well over 1.3 billion today. Of course, Americans would never accept the government's imposition of such a policy.

People saving energy in Howard County should be commended as innovative consumers. We can't reduce greenhouse gas emissions without energy conservation strategies. As more people buy into energy-saving technologies, we will discover which ones are the most effective and economical, and those will catch on.

Posted by: hungrypug | January 7, 2010 10:48 PM | Report abuse

The challenge is to inspire everyone to start taking steps to get us back in balance with our environment. In fact there is a widespread movement of people who care. We just have to keep asking our selves what is the impact of our actions. For those who are interested there are a whole series of suggestions of what we can do in the DC area in the book "The Chesapeake Watershed: A sense of place and a call to action" available on Amazon.

Posted by: nedtillman | January 8, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

As educated human beings, we are obligated to do what we can to take care of those around us and do the right thing for the future rather than throw up our hands and claim that the problem is too large to solve as some of the comments before me have indicated.

I encourage all to see how they can live healthier lives, beginning with themselves, their families, and their communities. Our schools and homes are too often overheated in the winter. We can live with temperatures closer to the great outdoors. We have way more electronics than we really need or use productively. And so on. Why not start by walking and carpooling? It is a great way to reduce our waste line, and increase our sense of community.

There are many things we can do nationally, and internationally, but we have to start with ourselves and our communities if we are to move forward -- toward greater human health and the health of our planet for they are so intricately tied together. Start by committing to reduced care use. I did, and was able to go from more than 12,000 miles per year to less than 5,000 miles/year. There are many many things we can do, but start with something that is good for you and our planet and is in your power to do -- walk and carpool.

Sabrina S. Fu

Posted by: rousfu | January 8, 2010 10:04 AM | Report abuse

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