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Music, live and on foot, for the socially just... or just social.

Our Band and Climate Change

Background

We take our fun seriously. Several of our gigs have been related to climate change.

This got us thinking: could we have a conversation among ourselves, measuring our own carbon footprint and discuss ways to minimize it? We decided it was worth a try.

We committed ourselves to these discussions on June 26, 2010, eight weeks after an explosion at the Deepwater Horizon oil well set in motion the worst oil spill in history. We began our halting discussions in July, as millions of gallons of oil bled into the fragile ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico.

The typical U.S. household directly produces about 55,000 lbs of carbon per year. By contrast, the typical German and Swedish households produce 27,000 pounds and 15,000 respectively. Roughly 8 % of the planet's carbon dioxide emissions come from U.S. households

We structured our conversations loosely around the Low Carbon Diet: a 30 Day Program to Lose 5000 Pounds by David Gershon and published by the Empowerment Institute in 2006. For roughly 10 minutes after every rehearsal, one band member reported on their carbon footprint (using the calculator at www.empowermentinstitute.net ) and shared what they learned about their energy usage and ways they might reduce it, based on things from the book and other ideas. This usually generated ideas and experiences shared by others in the band.

Results of our conversations

  • Different people have different needs, tolerances, and demands on their lives which will make one strategy or choice good for some but not for others. The point was not to assert what's right or wrong but to encourage each person to figure out what works for them.
  • It's hard to know one's footprint when they're in a group household, and it's hard to make changes in that context. And yet, some of us found we had great influence in starting the conversation in the household, and could draw on the energy of fellow housemates, with some measurable results.
  • Hot water is typically around 20% of a household's carbon emissions. Ideas abound for lowering this: setting your water heater temperature at a level which is no higher than what is comfortable; washing clothes in cold water for some or all of the time; not using hot water in other circumstances where cold would do fine; shower 5 minutes or less.
  • We had information vacuums as to what technologies are most cost effective. E.g. are on-demand systems better more energy efficient in certain circumstances? Do you wait until your old heater conks out or should one switch before that happens?
  • We talked about our own behavioral barriers to change. People spoke reframing how we see things, e.g. change "I should ride with others" to "I want to be in the party car,"; recognize that with just a little pre-planning, a bike can often be a preferable way to go; think of hanging something on a clothesline as a way of sending up a simple prayer.
  • We were briefly media darlings by virtue of simply having these conversations.
  • Given that American households are the biggest household emitters on the planet, we realized we have a disproportionate influence in actually making change.
  • We understand that plugging things like computers, TV's, etc into power strips stops energy "leaks" which collectively represent pretty substantial savings.
  • Lots of interest in drying clothes on a line or even inside on a rack. Just reducing one dryer load a week collectively adds up to a lot of reduced carbon.
  • Planting trees is important. Different trees sequester different amounts of carbon.
  • For more substantial improvements, like adding insulation or weather stripping, there are local resources that can help; even work parties can be organized for this, with the expertise from Thurston Energy. Rebates and tax incentives abound for energy efficient this and that.

Several of us were already living in ways that conserve resources, often (or always) eating meatless meals, using public transportation, recycling, drying clothes on lines. Four out of thirteen of us quantified the amount of carbon shed by tightening up our efforts and using the calculations from Low Carbon Diet: a 30 Day Program to Lose 5000 Pounds.

So far, we have shed almost 15,000, with lots of potential to declare more.

Please email us if you'd like to initiate these conversations in your group. We'd love to share our experience with you.

Our conversation in the news

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