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HOW TO DECARBONIZE YOUR HOME

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

Many people have started to look around their homes and realize how many things produce carbon emissions, and they are considering making some changes to help reduce their own carbon footprint.

There are many changes you can make in your day-to-day life that can help with this project and many of these changes can start in your home.



Why Does Carbon-Conscious Building Matter? Buildings and construction account for 39% of carbon emissions globally. This is composed of both the “embodied carbon” which goes into the construction and the ongoing operational energy needed to run it. Net zero emissions” refers to eliminating human-caused carbon emissions as much as possible and “balancing” remaining emissions through carbon sequestration and/or carbon-free credits. Ultimately, the goal is to arrive at carbon neutrality or “zero carbon.” Some cities even mandate zero and low-emission building. However, combatting the climate crisis will require going beyond carbon neutrality to more innovatively remove carbon from the atmosphere. Carbon positive building presents the perfect opportunity to push building standards. For homeowners, it offers a host of benefits — financial, environmental and even health-related.


So, What Exactly are Carbon Positive Homes? Carbon positive homes take the concept of carbon-neutral design one step further by producing more energy on-site than the building requires to operate — sending energy back to the grid and setting a new standard of sustainable living. We achieve carbon positive homes by building with low embodied carbon materials and creating an energy surplus under operation.


Tackling Embodied Carbon Carbon positive design begins with the use of sustainable building materials, which reduce “embodied carbon” — all greenhouse gas emissions that result from producing, transporting, and installing the building materials. Many materials actually sequester carbon — removing it from the atmosphere as it is created and effectively storing it for the life of the building. Choosing bamboo, cork, straw, hempcrete, cellulose fiber, and wool insulation, and even timber products sourced from sustainably managed forests are all good choices. You can find more by using the Building Transparency’s Embodied Carbon in Construction Calculator which allows you to assess the embodied carbon associated with different building materials. Offsite construction whether prefab homes or pre-building walls or trusses is also a great option to reduce construction waste.


What Does It Mean to Decarbonize Your Home?

Energy production from fossil fuel-based sources leads to carbon emissions, so if you want to decarbonize your home as fully as you can, a big step is to make a switch from fossil-fuel based energy sources to renewable ones. Some of us in Canada will have an easier time doing that than others. People who live in places powered by hydroelectricity or wind, for example, have a sizeable leg up over those whose utility companies provide energy from oil, gas or coal.

But those who live in regions dominated by fossil fuels can still work towards decarbonization.

Some of the world’s top culprits in terms of carbon emissions include transportation, electricity and heat. You can help decarbonize your home by reducing or eliminating things that are wasting energy in these departments, switching to items that were made using less energy and finding ways to produce your own energy. These are the most effective ways to lower your consumption of fossil fuels, and they are fantastic ways to reduce the carbon emissions associated with your home.


01 Decarbonize Your Energy Supply

In some places in Canada, it’s possible to choose your own energy provider. Choosing one that doesn’t rely on fossil fuels is a straightforward way to decarbonize your home. Some providers supply their customers with a percentage of power that comes from renewable sources, so choosing one of those providers would make a dent in your home’s footprint, although it wouldn’t decarbonize you completely.


02 Make Your Own Energy

For those who don’t have a choice of energy providers and have to rely on fossil fuel companies to heat and power their homes, installing renewable energy systems has become a cost-effective and feasible way to get off of carbon fuel sources.

If you have thought about making your own energy, have a look at what it would take to install solar panels onto your roof. Wind power is another great option that many people have been using for large properties.

Geothermal is a third option that’s become more common and less expensive over the past decade. There are many choices for renewable energy systems, and the payback period might be shorter than you think.


03 Electrify What You Can

Ditch the gas by switching to electric stoves and heating. Air source heat pumps are at the point where they can minimize or even eliminate the need for a traditional furnace in many places. This might be a large investment, but it is worth it when it comes to keeping your home as environmentally friendly as possible.

Of course, this will be most useful in places where electricity comes from a clean source of power. If your electricity comes from coal, a gas stove might actually produce fewer emissions.


04 Use Natural Lighting

Installing skylights, light shelves or larger windows is a great way to bring in some extra lighting in the daytime and reduce your daily energy consumption. It also makes the room look much larger and gives you plenty of fantastic health benefits when compared to electric interior lights.


05 Consider Automating Appliances

Smart home additions can be helpful for those who can’t decarbonize completely, but want to make sure their appliances are only using energy in their home when it’s necessary.

Timed appliances have been around for a long time (like your old automatic drip coffee maker), but they have become far more advanced, and many of them are wi-fi enabled, so you can see when it is running and turn it off if nobody is using it.

“Energy-saving appliances are in high demand, and the investment will be worthwhile if you decide to sell your home in the future,” says Forever Homes co-founder Richard Fung. If you don’t have the funds to upgrade all of your household items, have a look at doing some energy saving with the ones you already have.

Many items come with an energy-saving setting that will turn the device off after a certain amount of time with no usage, and this is a great way to make sure you don’t have a house full of running televisions when nobody is home.


06 Consider Lifestyle Changes

Let’s have a look at a few changes you can make to use less energy in your home;

- If you’re purchasing a home, think about size and location. Smaller homes will consume less energy than larger homes, and homes closer to amenities and public transportation will give you more options to ditch the car and the emissions associated with it.

- Look for plastic-free alternatives. Plastic production produces tons of carbon emissions, and many companies have started creating plastic-free versions of their products to make it easier for consumers. Look for household products that are free of extra plastic packaging.

- Get thrifty by looking for household items at thrift stores instead of buying them brand new. - -- - Support local - That amazing sustainably-made bamboo hutch looks great online, but it will require a large amount of packaging and travel to get to your front door. Consider reducing landfill waste by buying something locally instead. Eat locally. One way you can reduce your carbon emissions every day is by paying close attention to what you eat and where it is coming from. Some countries import food at a lower price, but this food travels a long way, and it is often packaged multiple times to ensure it stays fresh while it is travelling. All of this extra packaging and fuel adds up over time, and that is why people have started to consider local produce over buying from the supermarket.

- Grow your own sustainable food chain - If you want to reduce your emissions even more by eliminating a trip to the grocery store, you can look into growing your own fruits and vegetables in your yard. Do some research into what grows best in your area and use natural methods (like natural pesticides and compost) to get yourself a great harvest.


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